Worship Order for
Lord, you are not a distant God who keeps us guessing about your
love. No, you come to us in flesh and blood in the person of your
Son, Jesus Christ. May our hearts be filled with praise like the
shepherds, who could not wait till morning. Stir us to a life of
praise and gratitude. Amen.
Ed Poling, pastor and spiritual
Hagerstown, MD Church of the Brethren
Church of the Brethren Living Word Bulletin
Anchor/Wallace, Sleepy Eye MN 56085, "The Living Word
Time of Preparation
(Sharon K., who pulled together this service)
We spend a
great deal of time preparing for events in the future. We plan our
vacations, our children’s birthday parties, and surprises for
our friends. We know that to share fully in an important event, we
must plan and prepare for it. Yet somehow, we don’t always act
on what we know. We neglect to intentionally set aside time to
prepare ourselves spiritually for hearing and receiving the good
news of Christmas.
learn the art of parachuting they learn how to pack their own
chute as well as how to jump and land without becoming entrapped.
Why? Because their life depends on the parachute that is strapped
to their back. They take time to make sure that they are properly
prepared for the big jump.
one of the greatest gifts that we have is the twenty-four hours
that lie just ahead of us. Time is a precious commodity. We can
choose to set aside a portion of each day to prepare ourselves for
the journey to Bethlehem. We can choose to take time to read the
Bible and pray as if our very lives depend upon it, because they
are preparing for an important event—Jesus’ birth. Even as we
look ahead with anticipation, we also need to look back, and look
around. Our theme tonight is "Celebrating Christmas Around
the World " I encourage you to listen with an open heart to
how some of our friends celebrate Christmas. Join with us in
worship, and wait with bated breath for our Savior’s birth.
(as shared by Nancy Rosas, read by Rebekah)
Even though it’s
part of the United States, spending many of our Christmases in
south Texas is like living in another culture! Early on Christmas
Eve, the ladies in Israel’s family gather to make about 150
dozen tamales—a cornmeal and meat mixture wrapped in a corn husk
that is steamed. This is done in an assembly line fashion while
others clean pinto beans. We cook a big pot of them, usually in a
big black kettle over an open fire.
The men are in
charge of the meat—which is Bar-B-Que. If you are invited to
dinner in Texas, chances are it will be Bar- B-Que, and NOT on a
Weber grill! We barbeque over open pits in the ground with
mesquite wood or in an oil drum cut in half. The meat is beef,
steak, ribs, chicken, or deer. A favorite dessert we eat is a
small rich cookie called pan de palvo. It’s so delicious because
it’s rolled in sugar and cinnamon.
Texas is usually warm, and by late afternoon a large crowd
gathers. There is a pińata
hanging from a tree for the children. They take turns trying to
break it to get the candy inside. Afterwards, the children go
inside to see Santa Claus dressed in a very old, well-used suit.
Santa gives each one an orange and a small bag of candy. The
grandparents usually open their gifts at this time, too. One year,
Israel dressed as Santa, because the kids didn’t know him.
There is lots
of food and conversation (90% of it in Spanish) all evening.
Around 10:00 p.m., families head back to their own homes. We look
forward to future trips and the fellowship of all of the relatives
as we continue this wonderful tradition. They make us "snow
birds" (their term for the Northerners who travel south for
the winter) feel very welcome!
(as shared by Eugenia Eze, read by Lydia &
the time when Christians all over the world, including those in
Nigeria, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. During the time
before Christmas, families and friends gather together in towns
and villages. But Christmas Eve is not as big a celebration as it
is in America. Customs, like Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gift
giving are not really part of the Nigerian Christmas celebration.
But, of course, there has been some influence—children are
bought new clothes and shoes, but no toys.
not nearly as commercial as it is in America. The emphasis is on
the religious aspect of celebrating the birth of Jesus. On
Christmas Day, Christians go to church to worship and sing.
Afterwards, most people celebrate with dancing, wrestling,
parades, drumming, and feasting with friends and family.
The African boy listened carefully as the teacher
explained why people give presents to each other on
Christmas Day. "The gift is an expression of our joy
over the birth of Jesus and our friendship with each
other," she said.
Christmas Day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell
of lustrous beauty. "Where did you ever find such a
beautiful shell?" the teacher exclaimed. The youth
named the spot—a bay several miles away. The teacher was
touched. "Why. . .why, it’s gorgeous. . .
wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to
get a gift for me."
eyes brightening, the boy answered, "Long walk part
–Gerald Horton Bath
(read by Chris W.)
St. Francis of
Assisi was born in 1181, the son of a wealthy merchant. Growing
up, he had all that he needed and enjoyed many things that only
wealth could afford. When he turned 20, Francis became a soldier
and he was captured. During his imprisonment, Francis became sick
and believed he heard voices. Those voices told him to give up all
of his worldly possessions and travel the world to share the word
of Christ. Francis obeyed and devoted the rest of his life to
helping outcasts and lepers, restoring ruined churches, and
preaching about Christ.
Palestine, he visited the birthplace of Christ and was so moved by
the experience. His greatest desire was to share the wonder and
miracle of Christ’s birth. He wanted new believers to witness
the story as it really happened, to show them that Christ came
from poor, humble beginnings, just as they did. Francis sent a
message to a nobleman of the region and asked him to help arrange
a special celebration. He wanted to show how the infant, Jesus,
was born in Bethlehem, how cold it was, how poor the shelter was,
and how the infant was warmed in a manger by the breath of oxen
loved the plan. He agreed to provide a manger filled with hay and
live animals. All of the people from the countryside came,
carrying torches and candles. During the service, the friars sang
hymns as Francis held a Mass under the stars on Christmas Eve and
told the story of Jesus’ birth. As he spoke, villagers arrived
and acted out the parts of shepherds, Mary and Joseph. They
brought sheep, oxen, and a donkey. The participants must have felt
like they had been transported back in time to the original manger
scene. Francis gently placed a small wax figure of Jesus into the
manger. He was so moved by the beauty of the whole experience that
he wept with joy.
in 1226 and was declared the patron saint of Italy two years
later. His humble re-enactment of Christ’s birth became a
tradition that has spread throughout the whole world. In France,
it is called a crčche
and in Spanish, a nacimiento. Our Savior came to earth as a
tiny baby to bring peace, hope, and joy to our world. This
wondrous event is cause for celebration, whether it is the year
1200 or 2006.
(read by Judy)
one of Britain’s oldest customs, dating back to the Middle Ages.
At Christmastime, beggars would wander the streets singing songs
in return for money, food, or drink. Carols were often sung
between the acts of plays. Minstrels traveled from castle to
castle singing Christmas songs. In Britain, nearly everyone goes
a-caroling during the Christmas season. They sing at schools,
civic groups, homes, on street corners, and in every church. In
London, Christmas music is shared daily in midnight services at
Westminster Abbey and at midnight mass at St. Paul’s. The
well-known songs include "The Twelve Days of Christmas",
"Good King Wenceslas", "God Rest Ye Merry
Gentlemen" and "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In".
well-known hymn from the English is "What Child is
This?" It was written as a poem by William Chatterton Dix in
1865, titled "The Manger Throne." The poem gives a
unique view of the birth of Christ, as it is written from the
point-of-view of a confused observer. Dix imagined how the
shepherds felt as they looked upon the tiny infant in the manger.
He wrote about the infant’s birth, life, death, and resurrection
and declared the infant’s divine nature.
"The Manger Throne" in England just as the U.S. Civil
War was ending. It quickly grew in popularity as a poem in both
the Northern and the Southern states. Though it was used in
newspapers and magazines, it wasn’t until it was joined with the
fragile, yet haunting melody of "Greensleeves" that it
became popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Dix lived long
enough to see his "Manger Throne" poem become the
well-loved Christmas carol "What Child is This?" Its
unique melody lends itself well to guitar and a cappella singing,
as well as to grand choirs and orchestras, making it an
in the Philippines
(read by Paula)
which captures the heart of the Filipino Christmas season is the
bamboo parol, or star lantern. The parol has its beginnings in the
Mexican pińata. The pińata
originated in Italy during the 1300’s and then spread to Spain,
Mexico, and the Philippines. The Filipinos changed the pińata
so that the inner pot holds a candle instead of sweets. The shape
became a five-pointed star to represent the star of Bethlehem.
Over the years, the lantern designs have become more elaborate—wire
has replaced the wood, lightbulbs replace the candles. Each star
has so many lanterns that they often have their own generators and
safety boxes. The lantern frame is often lined with gold or silver
foil and then wrapped with colorful cellophane which has been
crumpled to give just the right effect. Rotors in the lanterns
make 1,500 light bulbs blink to the music of brass bands. These
labors of love are paraded through the streets during festivals
before the Christmas Eve mass. Parols are on display everywhere
during the Christmas season to brighten Filipino homes. Their
warmth and spirit spread to every corner of the nation, reminding
everyone of the star of Bethlehem that guided the magi so long
Just as the
wise men brought gifts to the infant Savior, it’s our turn now
to give a portion of what God has given to us. Will you please
pray with me?
given us so much this Advent season. You have given us
joy, peace, love, and hope. Now, it is our turn to give
you the gifts and resources we have so that all people
everywhere may come to know you, our Savior and Lord,
Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ushers, will you please come forward to receive
music - "Mary did you know?"
note - the special offering
this evening will go toward purchasing items for and sending
kits through Church World Service. We assemble
these after Sunday School periodically throughout the church
(read by Daniel)
is the beautiful French word for Christmas. Meaning the
"birthday of Christ," it shows how the French celebrate
this day with deep religious devotion. Religious dramas were first
performed in France during the Middle Ages. These plays acted-out
Christ’s life and were used to teach the Bible to the French
people—most of whom could not read or write. The earliest nöels,
or Christmas songs, also appeared around this time.
One of the
most famous, and most beloved is "Minuit, Chretiens!" It
was written by Placide Cappeau, the mayor of the small town of
Roquemare. Cappeau was a wine seller who amused himself by writing
poetry. In 1847, the parish priest asked Cappeau to compose a poem
for the Christmas mass. He knew that his poem had to be religious,
focus on Christmas, and be based in scripture. Cappeau turned to
the Gospel of Luke for inspiration. He imagined witnessing the
birth of Christ in Bethlehem. These thoughts inspired him to write
the poem we now know as "Oh, Holy Night." In France, the
song is sung at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve and has
become one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever created.
(read by Nicole & Marian)
Many of our
Christmas traditions come from Germany, including Christmas trees,
Advent wreaths and calendars, gingerbread houses, the celebration
of Epiphany, and Christmas carols. The German carols originated
from Latin hymns which proclaimed the birth of Christ. Modern
carols, however, are usually more festive than the Latin hymns.
For example, Martin Luther wrote "From Heaven Above to Earth
I Come" while he was rocking his infant daughter to sleep. He
also wrote the well-known song, "O Tannenbaum" or
"O Christmas Tree." In 1599, after a plague killed many
members of his congregation, Philipp Nicola, a German pastor,
wrote another Christmas carol. In the midst of his sorrow, the
words to "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star" came to
him. Some of the German hymns in our own hymnal are "Lo, How
a Rose E’er Blooming", and "Hark! The Herald Angels
Sing!". This second song was written by Charles Wesley of
England, but it became popular after it was set to music by the
German-born composer, Felix Mendelssohn.
Our final hymn
this evening comes from one of Germany’s neighbors, the country
of Austria. It began as a poem written by Joseph Mohr, a young
pastor in the town of Oberndorf. It was the frigid winter of 1818,
and Mohr was finishing his plans for the Christmas Eve service,
one that he had been writing for months. As he was preparing the
sanctuary, he realized that the organ was broken. No matter what
he did—pressing pedals, fiddling with the stops, or crawling
behind the console… nothing worked. Mohr prayed and asked God to
show him a way to bring music to his congregation on this holy
night. Digging through his desk, he found a poem he had written
about two years earlier. He took the poem to his good friend,
Franz Gruber, and asked him to set it to music. The tune had to be
one that the choir could learn easily and one that could be
accompanied by a guitar. A few hours later, the completed song was
rushed to the waiting choir members. In the little time left
before the service, Mohr and Gruber taught the choir members the
words and the four part harmony to the last two lines of each
verse. Just after midnight, Mohr and Gruber stood in front of the
main altar and introduced this simple song to their congregation,
never realizing that "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht" would
be remembered two hundred years later, and sung around the world.
Holy ... This night we pass the light from the Christ candle
around this sanctuary. Little ones, be very careful, for a flame
is not a toy - allow your parents to help you. Big ones and little
ones alike, open your eyes and hearts, but be silent, be still as
the light is passed from one candle to the next. Listen to the
organ, which is not broken here on this evening, as it reminds us
of that "little town of Bethlehem" and a "rose e'er
blooming." Then be prepared to sing two verses of that song
written long ago by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber, the words to
which are on the banners up front. Pass on the light.
We want to hold
on to the old customs and traditions because they strengthen our
family ties, bind us to our friends, make us one with all mankind
for whom the child was born, and bring us back again to the God who
gave His only begotten Son, that "whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life."
So we will not "spend" Christmas. . .nor
We will "keep" Christmas—keep it as it is. . .in all the
loveliness of its ancient traditions.
May we keep it in our hearts, that we may be kept in its hope.
(para traducir a espańol, presione la bandera de Espańa)
Christmas in Britain. World Book, 1996 ISBN: 0-7166-0874-x
Christmas in France. World Book, 1996 ISBN: 0-7166-0876-6
Christmas in Italy and Vatican City. World Book, 2006
Christmas in the Philippines. World Book, 1998 ISBN:
Christmas in Today’s Germany. World Book, 1998 ISBN:
Christmas is. . .. Honor Books, 2006 ISBN: 6-1250-3866-1
Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas.
Zondervan, 2001 ISBN: 0-310-23926-5
England: A Portrait of the Country through its Festivals and
Traditions. Grolier, 1999
Germany: A Portrait of the Country through its Festivals and
Traditions. Grolier, 2001
Volume ISBN: 0-7172-9109-X
Showalter, Cinda, et al. Long Green Valley Church of the
Brethren Advent Booklet. 1993