Toorak Uniting Church

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Toorak Uniting Church
Christmas Eve
From Darkness to Light

A service of reflection and music

Leader: Rev. Anneke Oppewal
10:00 p.m. 24 December 2005

With the Church in darkness we invite you to quietly meditate and enjoy the atmosphere until the service starts.

READING:   Genesis 1: 1 – 5

Darkness and chaos,
troubled waters
and gloomy skies
is where the world began
says Scripture.
Without God,
without the light of his love
and the coming of his grace
the world would have been empty
of hope,
of peace,
of justice,
instead anguish and despair would have reigned.
But God came,
from the beginning,
with the warmth of his love
and the light of his mercy
and made it different.

READING:   Isaiah 9: 2b – 7

HYMN: TIS 269   Hark the glad sound

Love come down

I’d like to welcome you to this special Christmas eve service.
We prepared this service with a group, envisioning it as a quiet and reflective time where we can catch our breath after the busy time preceding Christmas and get ready for the joy and celebration of Christmas Day. Together we will reflect on what it means for us that the light of God has come in the darkness, that God’s love has entered the world, that in the middle of the chaos and darkness we see around us we celebrate Christmas believing that God does not leave the world to its own devices but comes and is present in our lives here and now, with love, with peace, with hope for a future where war will be no more and anguish and anxiety will have made room for joy.

The theme for our service was set by the words of Hymn 317, a hymn we will sing now:

HYMN: 317:   Love came down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
star and angels gave the sign.

What we celebrate with Christmas is the mystery of the incarnation, the mystery of God coming into the world to renew and remake that world, through the life of Jesus Christ. As Christians we believe that more than in anybody or anything else that was ever part of this world, Jesus Christ showed, in his life and death, how deep God’s love and compassion for this world is. We believe that he lived a life in which God was so apparent that we can say it was a Godly life. We believe that through him we got to know God more intimate and more directly than through anyone or anything else.
God we believe was in Christ, lived in Christ, breathed in Christ.
God we believe loved us so much he came down and shared our life,
the darkness of it and the light, the pain of it and the joy, living that life in a human being like us.
God we believe still comes down, to be with us, to share with us, to fill us with his light, his love and his compassion, so, like in Jesus Christ, love divine will live through us.

MUSICAL REFLECTION:   Trio 4 in F, Minuet & Trio op 11 #4 – Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)

HYMN: 316   O little town of Bethlehem


Worship we

Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
but wherewith for sacred sign?

A child in a manger, love incarnate.

Do we really want to worship a God who makes himself as small as that to be with us. Do we really want to worship a God who unobtrusively starts changing the world somewhere in a dark corner? Do we really want to worship love impersonated, vulnerable like a child, humble like this man Jesus? And what would it mean if we did?

READING:   John 1: 1 – 5

MUSICAL REFLECTION:   Concerto in E, 2nd Movement, Andante – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

HYMN: 299   While Sheperds watched their flock


Love our token

love be yours and love be mine
love to God and neighbours,
love for plea and gift and sign.

If we believe in Christmas, if we long to be part of that movement God started in Christ, love will have to be our token, love lived out in our lives, contagious love that spills over to our neighbours near and far. A love that is as small and vulnerable as a child, but stronger than death.

MUSICAL REFLECTION:   Concerto in D (GoldFinch), 1st Movement, Allegro Antonio Vivaldi (1676 – 1741)

HYMN:   It came upon a midnight clear

PRAYER:


You crept in beside us.

And no-one knew. Only a few
Will you do the same this Christmas Lord?

Will you come into the darkness of our world and bring light?
Will you come again and be born in us?

War has to end,
the hungry need to be fed,
governments need to change,
fear and anguish made to disappear.

Come we pray, into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair.

Come into our lives and fill them with your love.
Come and heal us where we are hurt,
bring peace where we fight,
be the friend that changes our loneliness,
fill us with the strength and power and courage,
needed to make things different.

Come into our darkness,
and do something different, like you did then,
and embrace your people.

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
you came.

You crept in beside us.

Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.
Amen.

HYMN: 304   O Come all ye faithful, v1,2,6,7

Light looked down
and saw darkness.

Peace looked down
and saw war.

Love looked down
and saw hatred.

So he,
the Lord of Light
the Prince of Peace,
the King of Love,
came down
and crept in
beside us.

Let us go out and give shape to that light and love in our lives. Amen.

POSTLUDE:   Noël – Louis Claude D’Aquin (1694 – 1772)

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005


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