Christmas Eve Service

Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date: 
Tue, 12/24/2013

Congregation: Christmas Time is Here

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all
That children call
Their favorite time of year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times
And ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Oh that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Story: The Grinch
Welcome everyone, to our annual Christmas Eve service. It is good to be together tonight.

To start us off, and in order to light our Christmas chalice, I need you guys to remember something for me. I need you to remember what happens in the story “the Grinch who stole Christmas”. Specifically, can anyone remind me of what the Grinch did to the town of Whoville?

[stole all the presents and the food to make christmas not come]

At the end, after the Grinch stole all the food and the presents and the trees and the decorations hanging on the walls and EVERYTHING, he thought he had stopped Christmas, right? And so he is waiting, up on the top of the hill, and all of a sudden he hears something.

So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low. Then it started to grow... But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry! It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes! Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, Was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Now, the story doesn’t tell us what the little bit more that Christmas means might be, does it? The story does tell us that when the Grinch learned that Christmas wasn’t just about presents and eating and decorations, his heart grew – how much bigger? -- and he gave back all the stuff he took and he even carved the roast beast for the town’s feast. That’s what we learn from the Grinch story. Maybe you heard it already this year, or watched it on TV, while you were waiting and waiting for Christmas to come.

But tonight, tonight, we’re not really here to talk about the Grinch…but we are here to talk about the thing that the Grinch learned. Tonight, we talk about the thing that is a little bit more, the thing that Christmas really means. And tonight we light our Christmas chalice in honor of that thing, that more thing, that Christmas is. May it burn bright throughout the year.

Song: The Christmas Wish (Wheetman)

I don't know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.

For I have held the precious gift that love brings
even though I've never saw a Christmas star.
But I know there is a light, I have felt it burn inside,
and I can see it shining from afar.

Christmas is a time to come together, a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.

For the truth that binds us all together, I would like to say a simple prayer.
That at this special time, you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.

And if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.

Luke 1:26-33
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The [woman’s] name was Mary. 28 And [the angel] came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But [Mary] was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Here ends the first reading.


At Christmastime we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we know that the “little bit more” that Christmas is has a lot to do with him, the fabled baby who was born in a stable so long ago.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was told by an angel before Jesus was even conceived that her baby would be a most important one, a child who would become king. But there was a twist to this story, the story of this king whose kingdom his mother was told would never end.

This baby, Jesus, was not going to be a king like the kings of his time were, where you ruled over the land and everything in it with an iron fist and told people what to do and where to send their money.

Jesus was going to be the king of the kingdom of God, the one described so beautifully in the Hebrew scriptures of his own religion. The kingdom of God was poetically described as a new kind of world where the lion would lay down with the lamb, and children would be able to play near poisonous snakes, and there would be nothing anymore harmful, or evil, anywhere. Jesus was going to be a prince, not of the country he lived in, but a Prince of Peace itself. That’s why people were so excited to hear of his birth; they expected Jesus to usher in a new reign of love.

Song: Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

Luke 2:8-20
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy… 11 [for on]to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, peace among men!" 15 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." 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Hymn: Patapan

Willie, take your little drum
Robin, take your flute and come
When we hear the tune you play
Tu-re-lu-re-lu, pata pata pan
When we hear the tune you play
How can anyone be glum?
When the men of olden days
Gave the king of kings their praise
They had pipes on which to play
Tu-re-lu-re-lu, pata pata pan
They had drums on which to play
Full of joy on Christmas day
God and man this day become
Joined as one with flute and drum
Let the happy tune play on
Tu-re-lu-re-lu, pata pata pan
Flute and drum together play
As we sing on Christmas day

The shepherds and the wise men went back to where they came from and spoke of this miracle that had come to pass, the dawning of a new world made of peace and love.

But this new world, it wasn’t just something that Jesus created and Jesus organized and Jesus made happen. If it was, then when Jesus died his dream would have died too, and we probably wouldn’t bother with celebrating his birth thousands of years later.

We celebrate Jesus’ birth even today because of what Jesus taught us to do. The baby Jesus grew into a man who spent his life teaching people how to love each other better. He taught people to treat others how they would want to be treated. He taught people to keep from hurting each other, even when they were hurt first. He taught people to make sure that everyone had enough to eat and were treated fairly. He loved people so much that they were healed from their sicknesses. He even taught people to love their worst enemies. He taught us all that if we act this way, we could see that Kingdom of God happen right here on earth. But it depends on all of us. Not just Jesus, and not just tonight. All of us. All the time.

Tonight, we have neighbors who don’t have enough to eat, and it’s our job to help make that better. We will now collect an offering dedicated to Manna Food Center of Gaithersburg, which seeks to eliminate hunger in Montgomery County. Please give generously.

Song: O Holy night

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees

O hear the angel voices
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born
O night divine!
O night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in His name, all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord!
Their name forever praise we

Noel, Noel
O night, O night divine
Noel, Noel
O night, O night divine
Noel, Noel
O night, O holy night

Tonight is a time for excited anticipation of a new world where peace is more important than war, where love is more important than indifference.

Tomorrow will be a time of showing those closest to us that we love them, maybe by giving them presents, maybe by sharing a meal, maybe by calling them on the phone, maybe by remembering them and the gifts, both welcome and unwelcome, they have brought to our lives.

And later on, when we’ve eaten the roast beast, in whatever form that comes, and the wrapping paper is put away and we’re enjoying those presents, after all that, a few days from now, it will

be our job to remember our job, the job that Jesus wanted us to do. It’s our job to remember the work of Christmas, the little bit more than presents and roast beast that Christmas is. It’s our job to remember that this world needs us to make Jesus’ hope, his kingdom, a reality. It’s our work to do now.
[The Work of Christmas]
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins,
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.[2]
So says theologian Howard Thurman, and so say we Unitarian Universalists. May it be so.

Every year we make music in our hearts and in our church by taking a few moments in darkness to re-enact the effect that Jesus’ ideas had, the effect that love has, on our world. We start
with one flame, one fire, and we spread it, like love, one to another all through the room, until we leave darkness behind and we each are holding a bright light, the sort of light that love makes when we know enough to let it shine and to spread it around.

Find your candle, take a breath, and look up here at our chalice. We’ll dim the lights, and we’ll take the time it needs to take to spread love and light through the room the way Jesus has spread love and light through the world. And after everyone’s candle is lit, we’ll sing Silent Night.
[dim lights, light candles in silence]

Hymn: Silent Night

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin , mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus Lord at thy birth

We’ve waited and watched, we’ve loved and we’ve lit, and now Christmas is upon us, and all the hopes and dreams of thousands of years are alive in us tonight. The work of Christmas can carry us through the year. May it be so. Merry Christmas!

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas
And a happy new year.

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year.