Welcome (Titus 2:11-14)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

It came upon the midnight clear 

Call to Worship (Isaiah 9:2-7)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Oh come, all ye faithful 


O God of Elizabeth, Mary and Shepherds,
you visited your servants with news of the world's redemption
in the coming of the Saviour.
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
that we may announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome the Christ in our midst.

As with all those who have gone before us,
we raise our voices to glorify you.
You sent your Son so that we may be yours through and beyond time.
In response to your grace, we unite our voices in praise and worship with all your children
who came before and who will come after us.

Be pleased, O God.
Receive this worship for we offer all that we are to you in your Son’s name. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 2:1-14, 15-20)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!" When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Sermon: And on earth peace among those whom God favours

This passage from Luke reads like a three act play. In Act 1 we see Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem to comply with the order to register by Quirinius. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth and put the child in a manger because there was no room in the inn. The description of what Joseph and Mary did reads like a regular everyday activity for a young couple. 

No fanfare. No dressing up or down about how wonderful this event was. There is no embellishment concerning the difficulties they had to overcome. It reads as a simple narrative. It is clear that the writer did not see any need to fill in the blanks to make the birth story as a special one. By reading this part, no one would suspect that there is a life changing event at the birth of this child.

Act 2 on the other hand is far more dramatic. There are shepherds, an angel, a multitude of heavenly host and all those lights in the dark night.It is almost as if the writer was envisioning a dramatic movie scene to show off various special effects. Sudden appearance and disappearance of an angel and the heavenly hosts, along with the glory of the Lord shining on these rag-tag shepherds and not to mention sounds of the multitude of heavenly host are filling the stage. So dazzling this scene is that we may be forgiven for not paying attention to what the angel and heavenly hosts said.

Of course, more than the visual, the powerful words linger in our ears, “Do not be afraid…” These no name shepherds had all the reasons to be terrified. They could not fully grasp what was happening to them. The sudden appearance of an ordinary person right beside them in the dark of night would be scary enough. But the angel? It is understandable to see petrified shepherds. They knew they were outmatched whoever this being was. Things did not get any better for them in spite of the words, “Do not be afraid…” They were confronted with not just one or a few but the multitude of heavenly host. What does this mean? There was no way these shepherds had a chance to fight them off.

While these shepherds were in shock the angel delivered the good news of great joy, telling them about the birth of the messiah and what they could look for in order to find this child. All the important information was given. After the departure of the angel and the multitude of heavenly host, shepherds went to Bethlehem to find this messiah lying in a manger.

Act 3 shows us the shepherds visiting Mary, Joseph and the baby and sharing the experience they had. It is important for us to note in this scene that they made known what they were told about the baby. In other words, they were not simply sharing their experience, but were witnessing the good news of God to Mary and Joseph. As we discussed last Sunday, Elizabeth was the first to witness regarding the baby. These shepherds were the next ones to testify regarding the baby in a manger. 

Here we are told that their testimony was heard by many beside Mary and Joseph. Those hearers were amazed. Interestingly no one seemed to glorify God. They were simply amazed. In other words, they did not know what to make of it other than they heard something extraordinary from these shepherds. Only Mary treasured what she heard and pondered in her heart. Yes, Mary, not Joseph, treasured what was told by the shepherds. It appears that Joseph was never to be an active participant from the very beginning.

At the end of Act 3, the shepherds returned. They went away glorifying and praising God. The Gospels use the words, glorify and praise, to show people’s reaction to the mighty act of God. Whenever Jesus healed the sick, people witnessed healing and in response they glorified and praised God. They came and saw the child lying in a manger as the angel told them. In this sense, we are to see that these shepherds experienced God’s mighty act in history. Their fear turned into this wonderful praise.

Peace is when we are in a state of glorifying and praising God in gratitude. We often mistake peace as the state in which there is absence of violence or disturbance. It is true that for all people peace describes the time and life without wars. For Christians, however, peace is more than that. Peace is when we are with Christ. Of course we remember what Jesus said in John 14 about leaving his peace with the disciples. In this sense, we as his disciples are always carrying his presence with us. With his peace, we are not perturbed, dismayed or upset even if we face danger, extreme suffering and even death. 

It is no wonder that Christians sang hymns as they were set on fire or eaten alive by animals in the Colosseums of the Roman Empire. Peace with, by, and in Christ points us beyond this worldly terrors heaping not only threats of death but also death itself on us and others. In this peace we are full of joy, always glorifying and praising God. Having seen baby Jesus and been in his presence even for a very short moment, these shepherds experienced this peace and they expressed their peace with, by and in Christ through their praises.

This Christmas is not like any other Christmas in recent memory. Our hearts are heavy as we witness incredulous killings taking place in Gaza, Ukraine and other places as well as human evil being unleashed on people all around the world. A notice came out early enough this year: Due to the violence in Palestine, there will not be any Christmas festivities in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem as well as other Christian Churches in both Israel and the West Bank will not be open to Christian pilgrims. This year, Instead of preparing for Jesus’ birth, our minds are filled with the sombre news of the church that was bombed while there were people in it in Gaza. 

Today the Holy Land is filled with atrocities and suffering. No one can hear a faint echo of the angel’s words “on earth peace among those whom God favours.” In place of rejoicing there are bitter cries of those who lost their loved ones as well as those who have been maimed and marred physically and psychologically. Peace is nowhere to be found as families are torn by deaths upon deaths. The relentless fighting between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas offers no respite from pain and anguish. There seems to be no appetite for peace.

Perhaps, this is why we desperately hope for Christ to come. Our prayers are for our Lord to come bringing relief for us. Because our hearts are heavy and sad, we hope for this Christmas to be different than any other Christmas, filling everyone with Christ who is our light. As our powerlessness sinks us deep into despair, we ask that God lifts us up with this good news of Jesus coming reminding us that we are not forgotten and that for us God sent Christ. In this prayer what is clearly missing is our own ability to seek and enjoy peace as God’s gift to us. 

Yet, all is not lost. If we follow these shepherds to Bethlehem, if we remember what Elizabeth witnessed to Mary and Mary sang as she magnified the Lord and if we are to hear through the ears of shepherds how the messiah was born to save the world, we can receive the peace of Christ that was given to all who followed and would follow him. Receiving this infant in the simple way these shepherds did, we, too, can break out into praise glorifying God. In glorifying and praising God, we walk with Christ.

No wonder in all circumstances, even in times of death or facing death, with St. Patrick we proclaim true peace in Christ:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Unto us a child is born


O God who loves the world,

We come giving you thanks for your love that manifested in the coming of Jesus Christ. We come once again to receive this gift of life you have given us by sending your son. When we were people of this world, you called us through the Son you sent and made us into your children and gave us power to love everyone including the enemies. Through your Son you showed us how to be your people in this world sharing love, bringing life to all.

On this day, we pray with all our hearts. The land to which your Son came is in shambles. People are being thrown out of their homes, being put in prisons for any small excuses and are being killed for no other reason than being in the place of their births and life. The world stands apart not knowing what to do or how to stop as the most powerful nation continues to ignore the atrocities. Out of desperation we pray. May you be with all those who suffer in wars everywhere. May you turn the hearts of leaders in the warring nations to care for the lives of their people! May your Spirit be with all who suffer.

As we celebrate Christmas, fill us with your Spirit so that we may not lose sight of the birth of your Son as the beginning point in history to institute your reign of love and hope. Make us the people of hope by loving others and helping others to love one another. Give us courage to bring your love to those who are determined to destroy others. Give us fortitude to share love with those who are being oppressed, hurt and dying.

On this Christmas we ask you to change us. Re-create us with your love that sent Jesus to save the world. Help us to reach out to all who are suffering at home or in hospitals or on streets suffering illnesses not only of bodies but also of minds. May we walk with those who experience pain and be with those who walk in darkness of minds. Shine your light through us to all those who are ill too, may enjoy life in you.

Because our words are never enough, we summarize all our prayers in the words that your Son taught us. Hear our personal and private prayers when we say together “Our Father…”

Offering/Offering Prayer


Evening Service tonight at 8 pm.

Christmas Day service tomorrow at 11 am.

Thank you.

Joy to the world