Christmas Day Worship

Welcome!


A warm welcome to everyone for joining us to worship on this very special day. May God be glorified as you praise and worship!

Hymn to prepare our hearts: Good Christian men



Call to Worship: Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
   are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
   who announces salvation,
   who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
   together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
   the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
   you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
   he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
   before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
   the salvation of our God.

Hymn: Christians Awake



Prayer


We bless you, O God. Receive this worship from our hearts on this joyful day. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, help us to come to know that by your grace and mercy, we are called to be your people witnessing and rejoicing in your good news. Amen.

Offering: See Amid The Winter’s



Offering Prayer


As in the days of old, O Lord,
We bring our gifts to you. We offer these gifts, though small they are, as show of our love for you. May you be glorified in these gifts as we promise to serve and love you and our neighbours! Grant us your blessing in ways that we may be blessings to those who need your ministry. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:18-25


Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Sermon: The Intervention


Last Sunday, we explored the topic of God-with-us and how Emmanuel (God-with-us) came into the world after being betrayed often and regularly by God’s people. We pondered on this name and what Mary did as a young woman carrying the baby within her for nine months. On this Day of Christmas, we will meditate on Angel’s action.

Gospel Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. That is, Matthew leaves no room for misinterpretation. It is the story of the Messiah. Everyone is to see that Jesus was and is the Messiah. Perhaps that is why the last two names before Jesus were recorded as Jacob and Joseph. The parallel to the story of Exodus is striking. Jacob was the father of the twelve and his name was changed to Israel. Joseph was sold to be a slave in Egypt but became powerful under Pharaoh and was able to save his family. After many generations, a new pharaoh who did not know Joseph enslaved Hebrews. Eventually, Moses was sent to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt. Jacob is listed to be Joseph’s father. The angel instructs Joseph to name the baby Jesus who will save his people from sins.

To emphasize Jesus as the Messiah, many techniques of storytelling are involved. That is, in a very human story where Joseph as a husband to be finds out that Mary, his wife to be, is pregnant, the angel makes an appearance. Of course, Joseph knew immediately upon finding out about Mary’s pregnancy that he was not the father to be. His course of action regarding this betrayal by Mary--how else would Joseph interpret it?--must have evoked all kinds of anger in him. Joseph’s reaction to get rid of Mary is understandable no matter how this Gospel account tries to soften it by describing Joseph in his righteousness doing his best to dismiss her quietly.

Here, a very human drama is unfolding. Joseph was supposed to marry Mary. A terrible truth confronts Joseph. Mary is pregnant. What a betrayal! Joseph, on the other hand, was being good. Joseph is righteous. Mary on the other hand is no longer seen as righteous because she is pregnant out of wedlock. Mary in the eyes of the world cannot be righteous from the very moment Joseph dismisses her in righteousness. The world will see that Mary was not morally and ethically upright. How else would the world think if Joseph declares himself to be the victim of Mary’s unfaithfulness?

At least that was the way Joseph and the author of the Gospel saw the situation. Here a sense of irony upsets our normal understanding of Joseph’s righteousness. Mary was pregnant not because she was unfaithful but because she was truly faithful to her God. Her faithfulness led to God giving her a difficult task of being a mother to Jesus. In the meantime, so called righteous man, Joseph, or the righteous world for that matter, cannot see or know Mary’s faithfulness nor God’s will. They see Mary’s pregnancy only through their myopic understanding of moral righteousness. To rectify this misunderstanding, the angel intervenes. Yes, the angel interrupts Joseph’s nice and tidy life to put things right. Joseph’s righteousness is restored eventually because he follows the instructions given by the angel, but not until then.

In the interaction between the angel and Joseph we see the echo of Mary’s song in Luke 1. There, Mary says,

‘(God) has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Everything in God’s presence is opposite to what we see in a human world. Scattering of the proud, humiliation of the powerful, the rich being sent away empty, and the judgment afoot, while the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are filled with good things and the Lord remembers his mercy.

Mary was about to be dismissed as being guilty of betrayal and unrighteousness in the same way the master dismisses his slaves caught stealing, the judge dismisses the guilty, and the superior dismisses the inferior. The angel interrupts and stops this orderly way of human world. Because of this sudden interference by God, Mary is saved, Joseph discovers that the true righteousness is in God’s mercy where accepting and receiving Mary as his wife is the end result, and God’s way of salvation is revealed through this strange and awkward human drama of betrayal and faithfulness.

Think for a moment! The very God, who was betrayed many times over by the people of Israel, enters into the world in a way that Joseph would have interpreted Mary’s pregnancy as an act of betrayal against the vows of marriage. This God enters into human history and upsets the order by which humanity structured itself with the strong, the powerful and the rich at the top trampling on the weak, the powerless, and the poor at the bottom. In this context, saving his people from sin means to free/liberate the weak, the powerless, and the poor from being exploited, abused and crushed. God disrupts what humanity created--the social order--in order to bring liberty to all in ways all may enjoy God’s love. O the sweet irony, indeed!

This dramatic intervention to demonstrate how to share God’s love equitably is more necessary than ever as we witness the world filled with the weak, the powerless, and the poor being trampled, oppressed, abused, and exploited. As the poverty and hunger overpower the poor, the weak and the meek, the telling of the story of Jesus’ birth becomes necessary as warnings to the powerful and the rich and good news to God’s people who are weak, meek and poor. The story of Christmas is a reminder to all about ways God interrupts, disrupts, and re-creates humanity according to God’s love. So we celebrate God’s interference in human history to re-set our understanding and being in Jesus’ birth.

Prayer


Dear God,
On this day, we focus all our efforts on you. We have brought many of our concerns to you in our worships. Today, however, we dedicate this entire service for your glory alone. Be kind to us as we worship.

Help us to continue in loving you and our neighbours, especially the vulnerable ones. Help us to remember your grace this day as we celebrate and give thanks for your Son.

Keep everyone in your care. May the world truly come to experience your compassion and mercy this day.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: The First Nowell



Benediction


Hymn: Joy To The World