night is born Jesus, Son of God, King of glory.
People:This night is born to us the root of our joy.
lowly, how gracious is His coming to earth.
People:His love kindles my love in the joy of his
Unison:This night was born Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Fum, Fum"CATALONIAN CAROL
The Story of Christmas
was the night,
darkness had covered the face of the Earth.
cloud of Sin had hidden God’s light,
the eyes of His people,
we had gotten lost in the wilderness.
had promised, through the prophets,
send His anointed, a Messiah,
Light to shine through the darkness,(Lift
Single Candle from behind pulpit)
the Light to our eyes,
show us the way out of the wilderness
our home with Him,
God does not forget His promises.
the time has finally come,
For the light of Hope, (Light
the purple candle)
The light of Peace,(Light
the purple candle)
The Light of Joy,(Light the
And the Light of Love,(Light
the purple candle)
shine again in our world,
that time, the Emperor Augustus,
forth a decree stating that a census was to be taken,
people in the Empire must return to their towns to be registered.
Betrothed, Joseph, was from the line of David,
they had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem,
City of David.
they traveled, together,
that great city,
the time for the Holy birth approaching.
Carol v.1"O Little Town of Bethlehem"ST. LOUIS
Christ is Born
they got to Bethlehem,
room could they find to stay,
even in the Inn, for it was full.
were given shelter in the stable of the Inn,
the time came, and the baby was born.
no bed, nor cradle for the child,
wrapped him warmly in cloth,
laid him in a manger.
Carol v.1"Away in a Manger"AWAY IN A MANGER
and the Angels
on the hills outside of town,
shepherds were living,
the night’s watch over their flocks,
came upon them an Angel,
the glory of the Lord around them,
they were in awe of the sight.
not, for I bring to you good news,
this night was born in the city of David,
savior, a Messiah, the Lord.
this be a sign to you,
will be wrapped in cloth,
lying in a manger.”
suddenly the angel was joined
heavenly choir singing,
to God in the Highest Heaven,
peace on the Earth.”
Special Music"One Angel Sang"PROSPECT
Soloist: Coralee Atkinson
Peter T. Atkinson
angel sang a heavenly tune
Echoed 'neath the valley moon
sang of a king, born to save the world
gift to each little boy and girl.
shepherds heard the holy sound
they kept watch on rugged ground
they would be, the joy they felt
to his side, bowed low and knelt.
one then two, to all of us,
news did spread for us to trust,
hear you today, the joy we sing,
Jesus Christ the newborn king.
Run to Bethlehem
the angels had gone,
shepherds said to each other,
go to Bethlehem, immediately,
see this wonder for ourselves.”
Carol (chorus)"Go Tell It on the Mountain"GO TELL IT
they went to Bethlehem,
found Mary, Joseph, and the Child,
as they had been told.
the sky, shone a new star,
this star was observed by Wise men from the East,
came from their homes to pay homage
the new king, who had been born king of the Jews.
followed the star, leading them toward Bethlehem,
with them gifts for the Child,
Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold.
Carol v.1"We Three Kings"KINGS OF ORIENT
the star led them to the place where Jesus lay,
knelt down, paying homage,
presenting their gifts to the Child born King.
Special Music"A Christmas Secret"arr. Mackenzie
Lighting the Christ Candle
the light had come into the world, humbly in a manger, visited by Kings and
Shepherds, angels, and now each of us. Blessed be the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Carol"What Child is This?"GREENSLEEVES
The Message of Christmas
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came
into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has
come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of
all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did
not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose
name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so
that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light. 9 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. 11 He
came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But
to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become
children of God, 13 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. 
The Shepherds, the Wisemen, the Angels, and
the animals, began the Holy Christmas tradition of Gift Giving. It is now time
for us to continue this sacred tradition by presenting our own gifts to God.
May the offering be given and received.
Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
The Sacrament of
Invitation to the Table
Christmas Eve when we celebrate the birth of the child of promise, it is
important for us to also remember the great sacrifice that he made for all of
us. Therefore we come to the table, the Lord's Table to remember, and not just
to remember in our minds, but to experientially remember as Christ has invited
us to do, communing with Christ and with each other. This table is the Lord's
Table, it is Christ's Table, and any who believe in him are invited. Come not
because you must but because you may, come not because you are worthy but
because you are not. Come let us share the holy feast.
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us pray. . .
Holy God we come
to you in great thanksgiving for the wondrous works that you have done. From
the beginning of time, when you created all, bringing light filling up the
darkness with the simple speaking of Your Holy Word. And throughout History
where you have continually reached out to us, promising us, teaching us,
showing us, the amazing vastness of Your love, and especially in the gift of
Your Son, Jesus Christ, whose holy and yet humble birth we celebrate tonight.
Thank you for the life of Christ, everything that each detail of his holy life
shows us about Your love. And we sing with the Angels,
holy, holy, glory to god in the Highest
Heaven and Earth
are full of Your glory,
Hosanna, in the
Blessed is He
who comes in the name of the Lord
Glory to God in
the Highest. Amen
Words of Institution
On the night
Jesus was betrayed, in the fullness of time he took bread and broke it, saying
this is my body broken for you, take, eat, in remembrance of me.
And in the same
manner he took the cup saying, this cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood,
do this in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this
cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again. These are the gifts of
God for the people of God, let us keep the feast.
Prayer after Communion
Let us pray.
God, we pray this night for the people who surround us that are hurting,
suffering, or are in need. May they find hope, love, joy, an peace on this most
holy of nights. May they find sheltering and open arms. May they find the
strength of Your holy presence. Bless those here tonight worshiping Your holy
name, fill us with the special Joy that the celebration of Christmas brings,
may the child in all of us be born anew this night in your love. These things
we pray in the name of Christ Jesus, who was born in the lowliest of human
humility, and has been raised to sit at Your right hand for all eternity, and
who taught us when praying to say. . . Our father. . .
Carol "Angels We Have Heard on High"GLORIA
The World in
started in the garden
believed the lie
themselves, and their shame,
in the darkness, choosing darkness(Begin by extinguishing the candles
on pulpit and table)
began to spread. . .
And it spread
Envy, jealousy, then murder,(Extinguish
one candle for each sin)
control. . .
Idols. . .
And God reached
Trying to bring
us out of the darkness
Again into the
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
Moses, Joshua, David.(Extinguish one
candle for each human broken promise)
All broken, for
the dark appeal of sin
Was strong in
us. . .
Love was misconstrued as hatred(Extinguish
Candle of Love)
Joy was mired in cynicism(Extinguish
Candle of Joy)
And Peace seemed impossible(Extinguish
Candle of Peace)
and all hope was dashed.(Extinguish
Candle of Hope)
And the darkness seemed impenetrable, (Spoken
in total pitch darkness)
It seemed as if
no light could pierce it, that the
darkness would suffocate the faintest
spark of light. . .
But at that time, God again showed what
his Love truly is. . .(Light Christ
Candle in Darkness)
And a light was
born in the darkness, In the small
town of Bethlehem into the world
through a virgin, betrothed to a
carpenter born in a
stable, laid in a manger, because light is
more humble than the
darkness, but stronger by far and eternal. . .
And the angels called him prince of
Candle of Peace)
for he would make peace again possible,
And they sang it to the shepherds (Light
Candle of Joy)
and they were filled with great Joy
at the wonders that they had seen
And Mary and Joseph understood (Light
the Candle of Love)
the new love that God was bringing into
And the star shown above,(Light
the Candle of Hope)
lighting up the night,
inspiring a hopeful journey
of wise men from the east.
And with the lights (Light the Candles
behind pulpit and on Communion Table)
of Peace, Joy, Love, and Hope
all burning, the light could spread.
Inspiring, teaching, sacrificing, (Light one
candle for each of Christ's actions)
sharing, giving, healing, trusting. . .
Truth, Friendship, Charity, (Light
one candle for each virtue)
Relationship, Forgiveness, Humility, and
Faith. . .
Faith in the possibility, that the
kingdom of God is at hand
light could not be stopped by the darkness again. . .(Light the Elder's Candles) And would now be spread one by one to all of the waiting world. . .(Elder's
Light Congregation candles)
Carol"Silent Night"STILLE NACHT
in darkness you have found a great light, so go out into the world and sing the
good news to the rest of the wandering world! Christmas is here, it's true, and
it's greatly needed. . . Joy to the World, the Lord has Come, let us join with
heaven and nature and sing.
Recessional"Joy to the World"ANTIOCH
May the Christmas Peace be with all of you!
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989
(Jn 1:1-14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
Luke 2: 8-15
Genesis 22: 9-18
Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
For your eyes show the way
mind knows the truth
being is the life.
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 terrified. 10 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: 11 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 bands of cloth and lying in
a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of
the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
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.” 
I'd like to start this morning, by
taking a look back at our Advent journey. It is hard to believe that Christmas
is already upon us. Once you get to the 20's it's really here, even if it is 60
degrees outside. It can catch us by surprise though. It especially jumps out at
you,if you are like me and wait until
the last minute to do all your Christmas shopping. I'm planning to face that
whirlwind tomorrow morning. DeAnna and I have been joking lately about how we
don't really focus on things until it's next. Like we focused on church last
week, then a special service at Blue Ridge, then practicing with Kane and the
bells, then finishing school, then the concert, then this morning. . . it does
seem to be one day at a time, one thing after another, busy busy busy, time of
year for so many of us. . . and so for me shopping for Christmas hasn't been
next yet, but if I waited really until it was next, it wouldn't get done. . .
so tomorrow's the day.
Luckily for me my journey to
Bethlehem doesn't always mirror the whirlwind of Christmas. Advent often takes
us on a more intentional and focused route. For us we've looked at the
prophets. . . reminding ourselves that the key focus of their message is making
the claim that God is very much in control of this world. And those prophetic
messages trace through the entire gamut of historical situations: good times
and bad times, times of peace, times of war, times of plenty and times of lack,
times of independence and times of domination, times in that land flowing of milk
and honey, and then times of exile, and the one key component of all the
messages of all prophets is there recurring again and again. . . God's reign is
real, and His will, will be done. So that was the first Sunday of Advent where
we lit the Candle of Hope.
We were snowed out the following
week, but we had a mid week special prayer service, where a few of us gathered
after sharing soup, we sang songs that echoed the very same message. . . We
"Nothing can trouble, nothing can
frighten; Those who seek God shall never go wanting.
Nothing can trouble, nothing can
frighten; God alone fills us."
"Our darkness is never darkness in
your sight: the deepest night is clear as the daylight."
"Within our darkest night, you
kindle the fire that never dies away, never dies away.
Within our darkest night you kindle the
fire that never dies away, never dies away."
And on that day we
expressed our faith, proclaiming again that prophetic message. That even in the
darkness there is light. . . We said:
Lord you have always given bread for the
And though I am poor today I believe
Lord you have always given strength for
the coming day
And though I am weak today I believe
Lord you have always given peace for the
And though of anxious heart today I
Lord you have always kept me safe in
And now tried as I am today I believe
Lord you have always marked the road for
the coming day
And though it may be hidden today I
Lord you have always lightened this
darkness of mine
And though the night is here today I
Lord you have always spoken when time
And though you be silent now today I
And on that night of prayer we lit
the candle of peace. And then last week we were filled with Joy, lighting that
special pink candle, surrounded by the wonderful music of HARP, and I combined
two sermons into one, looking at how both the secular world and the natural
world lead us towards Bethlehem, lead us towards Christmas. We find in both the
secular world and the natural world the echo of the prophetic message, that God
is very much in control, even when we don't see it, even when we don't think
so, even around and amongst those who don't believe. The world does not have to
believe to give God his power. God's power simply is. On Monday night this
week, there was a beautiful almost full moon, a gibbon moon, it was
breathtaking and gorgeous. We talked about it for a bit at the Advent study,
Nancy Roache said, it's hard to see something like that and not believe. Oh man
she's so right, and so perfect for that night, just in time to make the point,
but it led me to a question. Is it easy to see something like that and see
God's power, can we also see it when we see the things of man, when we see what
humans do, do we see God's power there, too, working in and through us, the
best and the worst of us, our friends and even our enemies. The claim of my
advent series has been, yeah we're supposed to. Love points us that way, it
does. Love, todays, candle, are we there yet? Let me tell you it's been easy
the last two weeks with the joy of the music of the season, Harp, and then the
bells today, sharing God's gifts to us with the world. It's there we see it. .
. It's beautiful. Maybe especially today, all of the talent joining together,
yes we may just be ready to love.
And so we come to today, and we get
our final piece, the final piece of the story of who originally travelled to
Bethlehem and what compelled them each to go. The hearts and minds of our
imagination giving background to what we are looking for from the Prophets,
Mary and Joseph driven by the Census, the Wisemen following the star. . . and
finally today, the angel choir singing to the shepherds, "Glory to God in
the Highest, and Peace and Good Will unto men!" Today we talk about
miracles -- history, the secular world, the natural world, and now miracles,
angels singing in and to our faces.
If you look up miracle in the
dictionary you'll find that it says: "an extraordinary event in the
physical world, that surpasses all known human and natural powers, and is
ascribed therefore to a super natural cause." I would think that an angel
choir manifesting itself in the night sky all those years ago certainly fits
that definition. The other thing that it is, that is missing in the definition
is that it is immediate, hard to miss, in your face, like a slap, like a wake
up call, much different than the census where you plan your journey, of course
all except that all important hotel reservation, or following the star where
you have a long way to go, to journey and to ponder, charts to study, all of
that, these shepherds have the immediacy of Angels. . . there is also a Bible
Dictionary definition of miracle and it includes this immediacy, it says: an
event brought about by the immediate agency or volition of God. A miracle is
the get up and go of the story. You can't miss it, it's happening, now, Go now!
Earlier this year some of us read
Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. It
is the best book I've ever read about miracles, fiction of course, but I've
found that truth finds its way into fiction more deeply than does it into fact.
In that book is the following:
Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains
unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good
citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the
grave--now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were
standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally
unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of earth. My
sister, Swede, who often sees the numb, offered this: People fear miracles
because they fear being changed--though ignoring them will change you
That's the deal right, could you have ignored it if you were
a shepherd? Could you not go? Was there one shepherd, standing out in the field
that was like, yeah umm I saw the angels, but I'm not sure we should go. Who is
going to watch these sheep? Don't you think it's best that someone should
remain back and watch the flock, you know just in case? I'll stay. . . You guys
go. I'll be good here. No you just can't imagine that. You see an angel choir,
you pretty much go.
My girls have been so excited about
the Elf of the Shelf. We have ours, his name is Quincy, he's been all over the
house. But they weren't sure about it at first, but then they watched the Elf
on the Shelf show, the Christmas special that was on tv a few weeks ago. In
that show there is this boy who doesn't believe. . . he wants the elf to prove
himself. He slowly pushes his finger toward him, saying, "Just Fly"
show me. I want you to show me. I want to see then I will believe. His two
younger sisters know that it doesn't work that way, he touches the elf, and it
falls lifeless to the ground.
How often are we like the kid? We've
read the prophets. We know in our minds that God is real, that God is in
control, that Jesus is coming. We see the truth in the world. We look at the
moon, at the beauty of a sunset, at the magic of falling snow, and we see God
there too. We see the amazing gifts of people, we see our friends, we see the
genius of music and art, the truth of God's gifts manifesting themselves all
around us. We've seen all that, but we are still in that Advent mode, not ready
for Christmas, desperately craving the one miracle to remove all doubt and strengthen
us forever. See that's the thing, miracles last, they are permanent, whereas
the truth of the Bible needs to be studied and worked at, the wonders of nature
are all around us, and we're used to people, we take them for granted, often in
our times of need we miss the wonder and the truth in them. . . and those
doubts creep in, but a miracle, now that would last. We pray please God send me
something, let me know. . . and we stick our finger out pushing towards our
faith like it's some kind of Elf on the Shelf.
We can't control a miracle, we can't
make it happen. If we could it wouldn't be a miracle. . it would break the
definition. I remember there was a Christmas special, a cartoon called,
"Twas the Night Before Christmas." We had the record of the story and
the songs when I was growing up. It was the one with the mice and the clock.
The oldest mouse boy doesn't believe in Santa, so sends letter to the editor of
a newspaper, saying:
Dear editor, Santa Claus is a
fraudulent myth rooted in unconscious fantasies. . . P.S. the reindeer are
Santa has decided he won't come to that town. Do you remember this one.
Eventually the boy has a change of heart and decides he wants to help. He does
so because he hears the humans, in whose house the mice live, the clock maker,
singing a song called, "Even a Miracle needs a hand." It inspires him
to act, and he ends up saving the clock, the clock strikes 12 and sings a song
of apology to Santa and they all live happily ever after, Santa comes. Even a
miracle needs a hand. . . no it doesn't, that song is part of that myth that we
hold to so often that we are in control. We just can't make a miracle happen,
all we can do is take a leap of faith when and if it does.
years ago I wrote the song Leap of Faith, and whether I had this idea in mind then
is doubtful. I sang it last night at the concert, and I've sung it often in the
10 years since I wrote it. It always means something different to me. Today it meant
this: It has three verses: The first is about the shepherds, how they saw the
angel choir, and didn't hesitate, they took their leap of faith, the second is
how the wisemen, like wise, saw the star and did the same. The third verse is
set up for us. It describes the cross, and the miracle of resurrection the
miracle of our salvation, the miracle of Immanuel, God with us, the incarnation,
Jesus Christ and the work that he does on our behalf, a miracle needing no hand,
completely sufficient without us doing a thing, the chorus of that verse goes:
Could a lonely
Help you forget
Would that be
Sent from God
Is that what it
For all of us to
Our own Leap of
We said that a miracle
is immediate and lasting. . . why not this one? Why is the Christmas story not miracle
enough for us? Hopefully Christmas hasn't become so normal to us that we don't see
it as miraculous any more. God with us, so loving us, that he would become one of
us, and die to be raised saving us forever. I end the song with a small coda type
thing at the end, saying:
Do we really
need a sign
To change our
Let’s take that
leap of faith
The Cross sings the song of the prophets,
it shines the light of the star, it ironically surpasses even the earthly power
of Rome, and it echoes the song of the angels: Glory to God in the Highest, and
Peace on Earth, Good will to all men. I hope you hear the song of this miracle today
and all days, for its choir is still singing. Shall we go to Bethlehem now and see?
Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Lk 2:8-15). Nashville:
Thomas Nelson Publishers.