Christmas Eve 2018 (Early Service)

Holy Night, Holy Child
Christmas Eve, 2018 ·4 pm

Welcome

On this night held sacred by so many around the world, we gather and invite into our midst, into this place, and into each individual heart, the Christmas Spirit…A spirit of generosity, and caring, of hope and of promise.

Young and old, male and female, tall and short, happy and sad, weary and excited,

we gather, knowing that everyone is worthy, and everyone is welcome here.

We gather, seeking love, faith, joy, hope and peace.

Let our hearts prepare them room.

Chalice Lighting

A chalice of light in the midst of evening’s dark,

A chalice of warmth in the midst of winter’s cold.

We kindle our chalice as a symbol of the men and women

who through the ages have gathered

As we gather now,

who have stayed faithful to the promise of peace

that lives at the heart of this season.

Opening Words

This evening’s service is built around a beautiful poem by the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker.  It’s called “You Have to Know Your Body as the Home of God” and it captures why we, as Unitarian Universalists, retell this ancient story and have a special service on Christmas Eve each year.  These are her words:

You have to know your body

as the home of God

And this is the purpose of Christmas.

 

The rose blossoming in the wilderness

is the unfolding of your pleasure

as the fingers peel an orange and sweetness buds in the mouth.

 

The bright star in the night sky

is the sudden clarity of your instinct for joy.

 

The birth cry in the night

is your child,

falling into the dark,

and your arms holding her.

 

The terror of Herod’s murderous intent

is your rage that would prefer death to change.

 

The singing angel is your voice at church,

not sure of the tune

but certain, for a moment, that there is glory.

 

The animals, breathing their warm breath

in the fragile stable are your emotions

kneeling into the body of earth

at ease in the presence of God.

Mary is you

God in your body.

Joseph is you

sheltering God in the world.

 

This is the key to the mystery,

The Word became flesh.

 

We are the dwelling place.

Isn’t that lovely?  As we move through the poem, focusing on the different pieces, our hope and prayer is that you will experience the truth at the heart of the holiday:  every family is a holy family, and every child is a holy child.

Orange Communion

We begin with the stanza that reads:

The rose blossoming in the wilderness

is the unfolding of your pleasure

as the fingers peel an orange and sweetness buds in the mouth.

We are going to pass around these orange slices.  Please take one and hold onto it.

Too often in this season, we get swept away by the hustle and bustle- parties and concerts and events. Presents to buy, houses to decorate, fancy meals to cook, cards to write and send.

Our first gift to you, this evening, is a moment of simple sweetness- a time to remember that we don’t necessarily need all the cookies and treats, the bright lights and baubles.  A simple slice of orange, eaten slowly and mindfully, is enough.

So now that everyone has their orange slice, I will ring the chime.  Hands up!

I invite you now to place your slice of orange in your mouth.  Bite down.  Feel the pop and the squirt of the juice.  Chew slowly, giving it your full attention.  Isn’t it delicious?

As you take the second bite, close your eyes.   Focus all of your attention on the taste.  Plants convert sunlight to energy, and, in this case, sugars that make the orange sweet.  Let its sweetness remind you- in these dark and cold days- that the sun will return, to bless us once again.  We don’t need to banish the dark with sparkling lights.  We don’t need to chase winter away.  The seasons turn all of their own accord, and just as people have held and helped each other during the hard times for ages immemorial, so do we- and better days will come.

Bright Stars of Joy

The next stanza in the poem is a short one.  It reads:

The bright star in the night sky

is the sudden clarity of your instinct for joy.

 

Who has the shining Star?  Would you bring it up?

 

This star symbolizes the joy that leads us to the places we need to go.  To paraphrase Frederick Beuchner, the place we are supposed to go is the place where our deep joy and the world’s deep needs meet.  The best indicator that we are on the right path as we learn and grow is that what we are doing both helps heal the world and feels easy and joyful.  We find that path when we trust our instincts, when we listen to the still, small voice in our heart that whispers, “go here,” “do that,” “help that person who is feeling sad, over there.”

 

Sometimes the voice gets drowned out by the “shoulds” and the to-dos.  One of the gifts of this season, though, is that if we go outside at night, the sky is clearer and the stars seem closer.  Poet David Whyte says,
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

 

is too small for you.

So the second gift we have for you today is an invitation to go take a moment tonight, after you get home, before you go inside.  Stand in the dark and the quiet.  Look up.  And hear the song that the stars sing just for you.

 

Baby Dedication

 

The next stanza reads:

 

The birth cry in the night

is your child,

falling into the dark,

and your arms holding her.

 

Who has the baby Jesus for our creche?  Could you bring it up?

 

And I’d also invite up Jamal, Carolyn, Brooke, and Luke.  Because our next gift is the opportunity to welcome and bless a real live baby (and his big sister) into our community.

 

As Unitarian Universalists, we don’t believe in original sin, in the need to cleanse our children, somehow.   We believe that our children are born pure, and holy. This ritual of dedication serves to name this child and to bless him.  Then this gathered community will promise to support and love him as he grows.

 

Luke Jonas Lyksett and Brooke Nicole Lyksett, I will touch each of you with water, gathered by the individual members of this congregation and placed in a common vessel during our annual ingathering service.  The water is a symbol of purity and truth, and the love of this community.  I will touch you on your forehead, eyes and lips, to dedicate your thoughts, your vision and your speech for the work of all humanity.

 

I touch you with a rosebud, symbol of beauty and love, that you may see, remember, and appreciate the wondrous beauty of creation.

 

Let us read together the Congregational Blessing printed in your order of service.  (#714)

 

It is our faith that each child born is one more redeemer.

By this Service of Dedication, we commit ourselves to the nurture of this child.

Are you ready to dedicate yourselves to Luke?

We are prepared.  We dedicate our minds and hearts to these children and to their parents.

Will you strive to love and cherish them in times of struggle as well as gladness?

We will love and cherish them always.

We acknowledge the divine spark within each child.

May we be worthy guardians of these young lives.  May we build a community in which they will grow old surrounded by beauty, embraced by love, and cradled in the arms of peace.

 

Journeys and Change

 

The next stanza in the poem reads:

 

The terror of Herod’s murderous intent

is your rage that would prefer death to change.

 

We thought about skipping this part, because it’s pretty dark for kids.  But we know that you know, whether you are 3 or 93, that life isn’t all starlight and sweet oranges.  Right now, there are caravans of desperate refugees at the border of our country, asking to come in, so that they can be safe, and our government sent soldiers to keep them out, saying, “there’s no room at the inn.”

 

Why would people do that?  New people bring new ideas, new opinions, and new ways of being.  New people might take some of the resources that you think you need.  So the terrible choice to deny these refugee safety?  It grows out of fear of change.

 

Now we all fear change, or, to be more exact, we fear losing something precious to us because of the change.  But life is nothing but change.  So this next gift we are going to give you is to remember that a journey takes time.  Who has the wise men?  Could you bring them up?

 

These wise men didn’t know where they would end up when they left their home.  They followed a star, and kept going until it was time to stop.  That’s how our lives work, too.  We don’t get to know where our path will lead us.  But we can travel it together, one breath at a time.

 

I invite you to stand up.  Stretch!  And we are going to do a little mindful walking, which means timing our steps to match our breathing.  Start balanced and still, in mountain pose for those of you who practice yoga.  Breathe in, and with your exhale, take a step, rolling from heel to toe, then pausing and breathing in again.  Exhale step.  Inhale pause.  Exhale step.  Inhale pause.  Now let’s try exhaling with one step, and inhaling with the next.  Take out the pause, but still move carefully, mindfully, and in time with your own breath.

 

Meditation:  On Feelings

 

The next part of the poem reads:

 

The animals, breathing their warm breath

in the fragile stable are your emotions

kneeling into the body of earth

at ease in the presence of God.

 

So we’re going to take a moment to check in with our hearts.  How are you feeling today?

 

Happy?  Excited?  Sad?  Nervous?  Scared?  Bored?  Loving?  Thankful?

 

As you check in with your own hearts, I’d invite those of you who have animals to bring them forward- but listen for the right time in the song we are about to sing together:

 

Know that whatever you are feeling, whatever is in your heart, that you are held and loved, by this community, and by the spirit of love and life that some people call God, and some people refuse to name at all.

 

Incarnation

 

The next part of the poem is about Mary and Joseph.  Who has the baby’s Mom and Dad?

 

Mary is you

God in your body.

Joseph is you

sheltering God in the world.

 

Our Christian neighbors and friends tell this story every year because they believe that Jesus was special, THE Prince of Peace, THE Son of God.  Meanwhile, we Unitarian Universalists believe that every single one of us is a prince…or princess of peace.  Or if you’re not into royalty, you can be a zombie or a dragon or a mermaid…but of peace.  Our job is to bring peace to our hurting world.  We believe that every child born is another redeemer.  Every child born is beloved, and blessed, and capable of making a difference in the world.

 

So I want you to close your eyes again, and listen to the chime.  And place your hands over your heart.  Let it in…you are beloved.  You are blessed.  You…yes you…are on this earth for a reason.  And you are beautiful beyond all reckoning.

 

Now open your eyes.  The Hindus have a word they use to greet one another.  It’s namaste.  Loosely translated, it means “the light which is the holy within me sees and acknowledges the light which is the holy within you.  I’d invite you to turn to your neighbor, and to see them with namaste eyes, and to pass the peace.  One person says, “peace be upon you.”  And the other answers, “And also upon you.”  Now turn to someone else.  And someone else.

 

We are, each of us, a home for the holy.  And we have an obligation to care for and protect one another, because life isn’t always easy.  But love- love is easy, and love is the reason for the season.

 

Candle Lighting Ceremony

 

A candle is a small thing; but no amount of darkness can put it out.  A candle is a small thing; but one candle can light another.  As it gives its flame to another, its light increases.  Our own light becomes larger when we pass it on.  We become stronger when we share, when we give.  Light is the power to dispel the darkness.  You are such a light.  You have the power to move back the darkness within yourself — and in the world.

 

Benediction

 

You have to know your body

as the home of God

And this is the purpose of Christmas…

 

This is the key to the mystery,

The Word became flesh.

 

We are the dwelling place.

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