Tidings of Great Joy: A Prayer Service for Christmas Eve

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Opening Hymn: Northern Advent ( From: Spinning Blue Planet)

November feels so final, the trees so bleak and stark, the land so cold and silent, our hearts November dark.
Like land that waits for sunrise, shiv'ring 'til the dawn,
keeping watch this Northern Advent, we sing out life's true song.
Refrain: We are not the morning, we are not the dawn,
We are just the land that waits, the first light of the sun.

Winter holds us in her pocket, snow covers life in drifts,
the frost shapes patterns on the glass, showing every human rift.
The poor, the frail, the lonely, wait in winter's deep despair,
keeping watch this Northern Advent, for the birth-cry of Your care. Refrain.

In our November endings, winter fears of grief and loss,
keep all that's human, holy, through your Advent Birth, and Cross.
Sun's low on the horizon, our nights outlast our days, keeping watch this Northern Advent, we await your coming Grace. Refrain.

Opening Prayer:

Loving Father, You have loved us without limit or condition, in our greatness and in our misery. May Your hand be always upon us and may Your Heart be within us, so that we may 'be on earth the Heart of God', through our presence, our listening, our acceptance, our compassion for all those whom we encounter. We ask this through Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

LaBelle, FLA
Muriel Cameron rscj

First Reading: The Joy of Promise (Alternate Readers)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them a light has shone.

For to us a child is born; to us a son is given.

And the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called Wonderful-Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Shout to God with songs of joy!

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Clap your hands, all you people!

Prayer:
Lord, God, from the beginning, You promised salvation to a world
darkened by sin, to a people expectant and hopeful. We live in this
world. We are these people - waiting with joy, open to receiving You.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Pause

Second Reading: The Joy of Mary and Joseph (excerpts from: A Woman Wrapped in Silence, by John Lynch)

A little girl had wandered in the night, and now within
The shadows of a broken stall, was waiting,
while the night winds and breath of time
were moving over her....

What happened here until
a cry came that had not been heard before?
The beat of pulses and hush of heart
had made a silence more intent within
Surrounding silence. Deepening of night... The drift of time.
And then a moment's fall.... A sigh, unheard within the dark, and then....
She wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.
Her first gift then to Him, and His first witness
to the ways of earth, the first of tribute,
and the gesture that began the long
fulfillment - was a simple care she brought
to Him, not as a creature comes to stoop,
but as a mother bends to love. We know
no more than this, and what exchange beyond
lies gathered to the spaces of her heart
to turn forever there, inviolate...

And then
she knelt and held Him close against her heart,
and in the midnight, adoration fused
with human love, and was not separate.

Silent Reflection

Third Reading:

And very near, the man named Joseph came.
He was not tired now, nor worn, nor sad,
His step was gentle, and a lightness soared
within him till the memory of angel
voices heard in dreams was now less a
remembrance for him than the sight of hands
that held a sleeping Child.

He was the first
to find her thus, the first of all the world
And when her faint smile called for him to take
Him for a breathless moment, he was first
to know there is no other blessedness.

Silent Reflection.

Fourth Reading:

The crunch of steps and voices from the dark
were faint at first, but then the sounds grew clear
and separate until he knew that in
the starlight somewhere many shadows fell.
Louder voices spoke more quickly now.
A single step, then others following.
And Joseph stirred in answer, rising up,
but hardly had he moved, when suddenly
the voices hushed and footsteps too were held,
A first dim figure, dark against the wall,
Then swiftly, others clustering to kneel
in tangled shadow, and he turned to her,
to find the same faint smile that he had seen
when first he came to look upon the Child.

Tall men were these, the shepherds come from flocks
and wearing sheephides with the dew still wet
upon the wool, with gourds and staffs, and one
with torches in his hands, and there was that
upon each face that he might recognize.
And he no longer feared.

No further movement,
till the youngest, kneeling still, moved on
from out the rest, and when his eyes had marked
the swaddling bands, and lingered for a moment
at a place where He was laid, he looked
to her, and did not shrink at what he saw.

The full words spilled to her in eagerness.
of quiet flocks, the brightness in the sky,
the fear, protesting disbelief, and then
the greater fear: the music that had sifted
down, more fragile than the light of stars,
and from a distance out beyond the farthest
star. The pierce of it, the sweetness drawn
in the long, clear caroling of silver sound,
the mingling of the bells and echoing,
the upswift choirs and surge and flight of wings:
'O, fear not... fear not.' Joseph's mind was quick
to understand. 'O fear not, but behold.'

Fifth Reading:

I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people;
for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,
in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you.
You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying
in a manger... Glory to God in the highest: and on earth,
peace to (those) of good will.

Sixth Reading:

And still was here a woman
wrapped in silence, and the words were closed
within her spacious heart for pondering.
It was not strange. These songs were of design,

just as His breathing, or the straw. Not strange
his cherubim be jubilant, and sing
for Him across the coasts of time. She seemed
as one who hears what is already told.
Elizabeth and Zachary... And Joseph ...
Now these men. His world was widening...

She smiled again, and the light was radiant.
Her hands were raising Him that they might see.
Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...

Silent Reflection. (Instrumental Music, if desirable)

Intercessions (Alternate Readers )
God has filled the earth with his love!
From the morning sun to the fading moon, there is beauty everywhere.
Lord, let us not be so filled with twenty-first century problems
that we forget to notice the stars.

Lord, let us not be so preoccupied with yesterday's tragedy
that we cannot touch today's tenderness.

Lord, let us not have such deaf ears, dulled by the sounds of death,
that we can no longer hear the sounds of life.

Lord, open the eyes of our hope, that we may see the
unobstrusive gesture of mercy, the heroism of an ordinary day.

Lord, give us a sixth sense for your Presence;
Tune us to the music of your blessings.
There is 'Good News' of great joy!

Love Poem: Our Joy

Write a five-line 'love poem' expressing who the Christ-Child is for us this Christmas.
How to write our poem:
1. Our first line (one word) will be the name we choose for Him. (The Title)
2. The second line is two words which we would use to 'describe' Him.
3. The third line is three action words expressing 'action' characteristic of
Him.
4. The fourth line contains four words expressing our 'feeling' about Him.
5. The fifth line is one word that tells 'who He is' for us this Christmas.
1.________________________________________________________________

2.________________________________________________________________

3.________________________________________________________________

4.________________________________________________________________

5.________________________________________________________________

Sharing of 'Love Poem':

Closing Litany of Joy:

Together:We praise you, Lord, for all the joys of Christmas:
for the wonder and mystery of your creation, of your Incarnation.

We thank you, Lord:
for the joy of your salvation,
for your eternal promises,
for your word of peace and hope.

We bless you, Lord, for the love which sent Jesus to be one of us:
The Saviour who forgives us,
The Redeemer who saves us,
The Brother who loves us.

Glory be to God in heaven,
Who to us his Son has given.
We rejoice with the Saints;
We sing with the angels;
We kneel with the shepherds.
With all creation we shout:

'Joy to the world, the Lord is come!'

Maureen Currie rscj
Province of Canada

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