Lector: Genesis 2: 15-18; 3: 1-5, 8-10
Story: “Our fear – answered by God’s ‘Fear not!’”
We just heard the first conversation between God and Adam (which means “everyman”/every human), as told in the Hebrew story in Genesis, the Book of the Beginnings of the heavens and the earth.
When God comes looking for the first couple, calling out, “Where are you?” and questions why they are in hiding,
Adam answers, “I was afraid.” Fear – how we humans react, for a multitude of reasons; ongoing crises around us and within us that have us perpetuating Adam’s “I was afraid.”
All through the Bible the human cry, “I am afraid.” has been matched with “Fear not! Do not be afraid!”
spoken by God or someone carrying God’s message, to the count of being the most repetitious phrase in the Bible, what God has said or someone else has expressed for God, more times than any other words, “Do not be afraid! Fear not!”
On that night when shepherds were tending their flocks on a hillside outside of Bethlehem and suddenly the darkness was pierced with a radiant light and the quietness was broken by a choir of angels, that brilliance and noise that terrified them. They were afraid. But then they are calmed with the words: “Do not be afraid” and told were they will find a Baby Who will turn all their fears into joy and peace. Jesus, Messiah, Savior, and Lord is God’s pronouncement of peace brought near, made real, visible, so that every human fear is met with His, “Fear not! Be not afraid!” “I am with you!”
Carol #104 – Stanzas 1 and 2 - "Angels we have heard on high"
“For God so loved…He gave…”
Lector: John 1: 14; 3: 16-17
Story:“A Gold- wrapped Box filled with Love”
There is an old story about a Dad who discovered a whole roll of gold wrapping paper had been used.
They didn’t have much money and he had bought it for very special gifts. When he discovered his 3-year-old daughter had used it to wrap a large box to put under the tree, he was infuriated.
Christmas morning when the family gathered around the tree to exchange gifts, the little girl picked up the large, gold-wrapped box and said, “Daddy, this is for you.” Now the father was embarrassed; he realized he had overreacted earlier. He kept that feeling to himself as he lifted the lid of the gold-wrapped box. But when he looked inside, he saw the box was empty, and that set him off to yelling, “Don’t you know that when you give someone a present there’s supposed to be a gift? All you have given me is an empty box!”
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy it's not empty. I blew kisses into the box. I filled it with my love for you, all for you, Daddy."
The father was crushed guilt. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness.
From then on he kept that gold-wrapped box by his bed, and whenever he was discouraged, he would lift the lid and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
When Don Emmitte told this old story, he added, “In a very real sense, each of us has been given a gold
container filled with unconditional love and kisses from God.”
When it seems as though God has forgotten us, at times abandoned us, given us on us; when we can’t make it through another crisis or another minute, then it’s time to lift the lid of the gold-wrapped gift box and imagine it is not empty, for it is filled with the most valued possession of all, the heights and depths and width of the words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave…”
Carol #272 – Stanza 1 - "Love divine, all love excelling"
“About my Father’s business”
Lector: Luke 2: 41-52
Story: “Fast-forward Twelve Years”
The Gospel scheduled to be heard today – three days into the 12 days of Christmas – rushes us from the manger that cradles the Baby Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, to the temple in Jerusalem where the twelve-year-old Jesus is found by His parents listening to and asking questions of the learned
teachers of Hebrew law. It’s the only word-picture we have of Jesus after His Birth and the beginning of His ministry at the age of 30, which, from then on for the remaining three years in Jesus' life is reported in all four Gospels and described in short phrases in the Apostles’ Creed.
Cecil Frances Humphreys (1818-1895), was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1818, and began writing lyrics at an early age. By the age of 22 several of her hymn texts made it into the hymnbook of the Church of Ireland.
She married William Alexander, who was both a clergyman and a poet in his own right and later became the bishop of the Church of Ireland in Derry and then archbishop.
Aside from her prolific hymn writing, Cecil Francis Alexander devoted much of her life to charitable work and social causes, something rather rare for women of her day.
We know her best for a carol we sing: “Once in Royal David’s City” which first appeared in 1848 in her collection, Hymns for Little Children with six stanzas. We usually confine singing what she wrote to Christmas time, especially when we gather around the manger, but just as today’s Gospel takes us from Bethlehem to Jerusalem where a twelve-year old Jesus is talking with the teachers in the temple, Cecil Alexander wanted to take children beyond that time and have them see what Baby Jesus grew up to do, and she wanted to do it musically and poetically, while following the second part of the Apostles’ Creed, beginning with “Born of the Virgin Mary,” and in six stanzas take children through each of the phrases that describe Jesus’ whole life and not just His birth.
As you listen to the carol’s notes, think of the lines in the Apostles’ Creed that come between “Born of the Virgin Mary” and “to judge the quick (living) and the dead.”
Organ: “Once in Royal David’s City”
Christmas Affirmation: (Howard Thurman)
P: When the song of the angels is stilled,
C: When the star in the sky is gone,
P: When the kings and the princes are home,
C: When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
P: The work of Christmas begins:
C: To find the lost, heal the brokenhearted, feed the hungry,
P: To release the prisoner, to rebuild nations, to bring peace among all,
C: To make music in the heart – with songs to God!
Carol: "Joy to the World"