URC Daily Devotions Christmas Day Service

United Reformed Church Daily Devotion Service


for Christmas Day 2020
The Rev’d Wilbert Sayimani
 
Introduction
 
Shalom, greetings to all of you friends. It is my greatest joy to be sharing the word with you today, on Christmas Day. My name is The Rev’d Wilbert Sayimani, the minister of Richmond Hill St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Bournemouth. A place known for its warmth, love and care, you are all welcome to come and join us and worship with us, should you get the chance.
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.

Carol        O Come All Ye Faithful
                 tr Frederick Oakeley
 

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant!
O come ye,
O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
 
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.
 
2: God of God,
light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God,
begotten, not created:

3: Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens
of Heaven above!
Glory to God,
glory in the highest:
 
4: Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing!
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession
 
Jesus, child of the crib,
with Mary who bore you,
with Joseph who protected you,
with the animals who watched over you,
with the Angels who sang of you-
with our brothers and sisters throughout the world,
we welcome you today and we come to you.
 
We may not have much to give you Lord,
but what we have, you can have.
We pray that you be born in our hearts today.
Gracious God, forgive us when,
as the innkeepers of our time,
we turn away those who are different from ourselves.
When there is no room in our hearts for those you love,
confront us until all the doors and windows of our souls are flung open, that, inspired by your love for us,
we might be generous to all who come near to us in need.
We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
who promised and assured us forgiveness
if we come with a repentant heart.
 
Thank you Lord for coming into our world to die in our place
and forgive all our sins.
We are forgiven and for that we give glory to God
in Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Almighty God,
in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Open our eyes today that we may see the wonders of your word,
the glory descending on us today
and the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.
 
Give us grace that we may clearly understand your word
and freely chose the way of your wisdom,
to embrace and welcome your Son born to us on today.
 
We pray and ask this in the wonderful name
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Reading:           St John 1: 1-14
 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
 
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
 
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
 
Carol        It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
                 Edmund Sears
 
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

2: Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
 

3: Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
 
4: For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

 

Sermon
 
This [John 1:1-14] is a well-known passage. We hear it almost every Christmas and it becomes so familiar that the depth of it is sometimes lost. 
 
To try and retain its depth, let me pick only one verse in this passage that is verse 11 where it says: “He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
 
At this first Christmas, the word became flesh. God walked among us full of grace and truth. But sadly, his people did not accept him. 
 
This is the greatest tragedy of human history. Not accepting or recognising Christ when he walked here on Earth. 
 
This reminds me of Isaiah 1:3 where God laments the folly of humanity. “The Ox knows it’s master, the donkey it’s owner’s manger but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
 
How tragic that his own people failed not only to accept him but even to recognise him as the son of God.
 
Right from the beginning, we see king Herod trying to kill him and he had to become a refugee in Egypt because there was no sanctuary in his own town. How tragic is this!
 
Throughout his ministry, Jesus struggled with the opposition from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 
 
This happened right through to his crucifixion on Good Friday. His own people did not accept him. 
 
It’s so sad to see here that the Christmas story becomes the story of the unwelcome Christ. “He came to what was his own, and his own did not accept him.”
 
Today we are here to celebrate the Christmas story and the question is, ‘are we going to accept him and welcome him into our hearts?
 
Welcoming Christ into the world, into the church and into our lives is what Christmas is all about.  Welcoming Christ is what is at the heart of the Christmas story. 
 
Blessed are those who will welcome and accept Christ into their lives this Christmas. Isaiah says, “They will shout for joy when the Lord returns to Zion, and they will see it with their own eyes and burst into songs of joy together.”
 
And John here says they will be called the children of God. 
 
I am encouraged that while others rejected Christ, there are those who welcomed him and this time, I will be counted amongst those.
 
Do you remember the innkeeper in the story? Even though the rooms were full, he still welcomed Christ in some way. 
 
In Palestinian culture, hospitality was taken seriously that the innkeeper could not afford seeing Mary and Joseph walk away in that condition. He had to welcome them somehow. 
 
People wrongly interpret this text to say that they were turned away but they were not. 
 
In fact there are so many myths surrounding the Christmas story that we often miss what the Bible really say and we don’t look carefully enough at the story and are in danger of missing the point. 
 
What people don’t realise is that guest houses in Palestine in Jesus’ time were on two open floors; the upper floor being bedrooms and the lower floor for cattle and horses.
 
And this is where Joseph and Mary had to be welcomed in. Even though they had to be in the downstairs part of the building. 
This gives me joy that at least Christ was welcomed by someone at his birth. He was welcomed at his birth – born into a humble, loving and caring home of Joseph and Mary. 
 
The Shepherds came from the fields; men of poverty with humble jobs and lowly status in society but they welcomed Christ. 
 
Ironically and somewhat embarrassingly, it seems that the humble and the lowly welcomed Christ. The humble and lowly shepherds welcomed Christ but the holy and religious people of the day did not welcome him. 
 
What a challenge to our comfort and complacency this story is! This is an upside-down story, it does not work the way we think it should.
 
Surely the Priests and Religious people should have been there to welcome Christ but they are the ones who rejected him and missed him.
 
It is the lowly, the poor and the marginalised who recognised the Messiah for who he truly is.  
 
Friends, God is not found in our religiosity but he meets us in our humility and poverty of spirit. Welcoming Christ is something we do out of our poverty of spirit where we say, ‘Lord, I don’t have much to give you, but what I have, you can have. 
 
I am not very righteous, in fact I get so much wrong in my life.
Lord, I don’t have much to offer you at all, but what I have, you can have. And so the manger was made available. 
 
This is the type of welcome that Jesus wants. The welcome of a lowly guest house, The welcome of a humble home, the welcome of poor shepherds and the welcome of a humble and broken spirit that we can give this morning. 
 
I pray that the Lord will help us this Christmas to recognise him as the Messiah who came and stayed with us here on Earth. Let’s embrace this and begin to shout for joy because Christ is born. 
 
May God bless you.
 
Carol        See Him Lying on a Bed of Straw
                 Michael Perry (1942 – 1996)
 
See him lying on a bed of straw:
a draughty stable with an open door;
Mary cradling the babe she bore
the prince of glory is his name.
 
O now carry me to Bethlehem
to see the Lord of love again:
just as poor as was the stable then,
the prince of glory when he came.
 
2 Star of silver, sweep across the skies,
show where Jesus in the manger lies;
shepherds, swiftly from your stupor rise
to see the saviour of the world!
 
3 Angels, sing again the song you sang,
sing the glory of God’s gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl’em’s little baby can
be the saviour of us all.
 
4 Mine are riches, from your poverty,
from your innocence, eternity;
mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
child of sorrow for my joy.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
God of Christmas, we unwrap our presents –
help us to remember those who have nothing. (pause)
 
As we eat our festive food – help us to remember those who are hungry. (pause)
 
We have fun with our friends and family – help us to remember those who are lonely. (pause)
 
We think about the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable – help us to remember all animals, and to be kind to them. (pause)
 
We reflect that Mary gave birth a long way from home – help us to remember those in refugee camps today. (pause)
 
As we enjoy being around those we love, in our happiness – help us to remember all who are sad today and entrust them to you in Jesus’ name. Amen. 
 
Our Father, who art in heaven…
 
Offertory
 
Today we celebrate the gift of God to the world. We share his love as he told us to when he said, “Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.” I encourage you friends to give your gifts and offering unto the Lord this morning.  Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”  Come, let us pray now for the offerings we bring:
 
Faithful Father, we thank you for the gift of life and the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. You are indeed a good God. You give good gifts to your children. Everything we have is a gift from you. As we bring our offerings to you, we give back to you from the abundance or from the little that you have given us already. May our gifts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, we give praise, glory and honour to your name this morning through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Carol        See Amid the Winter’s Snow
                  Edward Caswell (1814 – 1878)
 

See amid the winter’s snow
born for us on earth below.
See the tender Lamb appears
promised from eternal years.
 
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn
Sing through all Jerusalem
Christ is born in Bethlehem
 
2: Say, ye holy shepherds, say
what your joyful news today?
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?
 
3: Sacred infant, all divine
what a tender love was thine!
Thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this!



Blessing
 
May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship from the Presbyterian Church of America’s publication Call To Worship (Advent and Christmas)
Affirmation of Faith from the PCUSA’s 1967 Confession of Faith
All other prayers by Wilbert Sayimani.
 
O Come All Ye Faithful translated by Frederick Oakeley performed by The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, David, Corkhill and the Bach Choir.
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears sung by the Choir and Congregation of Kings’ College Cambridge
See Him Lying on a Bed of Straw by Michael Perry sung by BBC’s Songs of Praise
See Amid the Winter’s Snow by Edward Caswall, performed by Annie Lennox
 
Thanks to…
Wilbert Sayimani.
 
Dan Morrell, Andy Braunston, Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Rachel Harvey, Pam Carpenter, Karen Smith, Jean Stokes, Ruth Watson and Alison Jiggins for reading the spoken parts of the service.
 
A special thank you and well done to Evie Richardson, aged 5, for reading the blessing.
 
On behalf of the Daily Devotions team, we wish you all a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas.

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