Introduction & Welcome
Within the gospel reading’s profound words lies the simple message that God is revealed in a human
person. Though we may try to understand how the Word existed with God from the beginning of time,
the wonder we celebrate at Christmas is that the Word continues to dwell among us. Christ comes
among us in the gathered assembly, the scriptures, the waters of new birth, and the bread and the
wine. Through these ordinary gifts we receive the fullness of God’s grace and truth.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
who was in the beginning,
who makes a dwelling among us,
who covers us with justice and mercy.
Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God of goodness and loving kindness,
we confess that we have sinned against you and our neighbors.
We have turned away from your invitation to new life.
We have turned away from the lowly and downtrodden.
In your abundant mercy, forgive us our sins,
those we know and those known only to you,
for the sake of the one who came to live among us,
Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
Hear the good news of peace and salvation!
God forgives us all our sins,
not through our own work,
but through ☩ Jesus Christ, made known to all people.
With all who come to the manger,
rejoice in this amazing gift of grace.
Prayer of the Day
O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live, and you illumine our world with your beloved Son. By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14
God promises to bring Israel back to its land from the most remote parts of exile. In Zion Israel will rejoice over God’s gifts of food and livestock. Young women will express their joy in dancing; God will give gladness instead of sorrow.
7Thus says the LORD:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
“Save, O LORD, your people,
the remnant of Israel.”
8See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
11For the LORD has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the LORD.
Psalm: Psalm 147:12-20
Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. (Ps. 147:12)
12Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion,
13who has strengthened the bars of your gates
and has blessed your children within you.
14God has established peace on your borders
and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
15God sends out a command to the earth,
a word that runs very swiftly.
16God gives snow like wool,
scattering frost like ashes.
17God scatters hail like bread crumbs.
Who can stand against God’s cold?
18The LORD sends forth the word and melts them;
the wind blows, and the waters flow.
19God declares the word to Jacob,
statutes and judgments to Israel.
20The LORD has not done so to any other nation;
they do not know God’s judgments. Hallelujah!
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
In Jesus, all of God’s plans and purposes have been made know as heaven and earth are united in Christ. Through Jesus, we have been chosen as God’s children and have been promised eternal salvation.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
Alleluia. All the ends | of the earth* have seen the victory | of our God. Alleluia. (Ps. 98:3)
Gospel: John 1:[1-9] 10-18
John begins his gospel with this prologue: a hymn to the Word through whom all things were created.
This Word became flesh and brought grace and truth to the world.
[1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All 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. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the
light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the
light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.]
10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know
him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who
received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born,
not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14And 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. 15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I
said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16From his fullness
we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth
came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the
Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Meditation by David O’Brien
On New Year’s Eve, we often look back to the things that have happened over the last year and take stock of what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve failed to accomplish. Put simply, 2020 was a rough year for both our country and the world. Our friends over in Europe have had to deal with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and with a more aggressive and assertive Russia. In Asia, the governments of India and China have seen fighting over territory along their shared border. Further to the east, as things seemed to be calming down on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea is again threatening its brother, South Korea as well as Japan. In the Middle East, Iran is causing trouble as it continues to struggle for dominance in the region against Saudi Arabia, who hasn’t been against causing trouble of its own. Here in the United States, we’ve been dealing with one of the most divisive election years in memory. Racial tensions have also reached a crescendo here as well. Across the whole world, we’ve all been dealing with a pandemic that has devastated the health and lives of many of us. The pandemic has also dealt a heavy blow to economies everywhere.
But there have been some good things happening as well. The nation of Israel appears to be making peace with some of its neighbors. The United States seems to have survived the post-election chaos and our democratic institutions have endured. International efforts to find a vaccine for the COVID 19 disease appear to have paid off. I think it shows that when we come together and work towards a common goal, that the Lord will bless our efforts. Perhaps we will look back at this crisis and see it as a time when God brought us together, just as God brought the people of Israel together. The people of Israel suffered in their exile, but God brought them back with consolation and blessed them. Perhaps the more we work together, the Lord will bless us as well.
As we begin 2021, we also look forward to what the new year can bring. Working together to fight the pandemic has hopefully shown us that we can all be brothers and sisters. We can fight against a disease together, why can’t we fight against suffering together as well? With God’s help, we can bring justice to all of our human family. We can find ways to feed the hungry. We can find ways to make everyone feel included and welcomed. Perhaps 2021 will be the year where we take a good look at each other, both nationally and internationally, and realize that we can all be God’s children.
When God came into the world and became flesh, the world didn’t recognize him. Those of us who believe in Him have been blessed as the children of God. If we are all God’s children, then we are all brothers and sisters. When Christ brought this message to the world, he brought it for the whole world. Not just Israel, nor Rome and certainly not just the United States. Christ’s grace extends to all mankind. Being those who call ourselves Christians or followers of Christ, shouldn’t we all work to spread that good news to everyone? God has blessed us in this congregation, this state, this nation and in the West in general. Let’s work to spread that blessing to everyone. Those among us and those who live in the far corners of the world.
Prayers of Intercession
Joining our voices with the song of the angels, let us pray for the church, the world, and all who are in
A brief silence.
Redeeming God, you gather together your people from the farthest parts of the earth. Protect your church from stumbling. Let it not be overcome by sorrow, division, or despair. Make us radiant with goodness, that we might live always to the praise of your glory. Bless Elizabeth and Daniel, our Bishops, and Howard, our Pastor as they lead us into Your new year. Fill them and us with wisdom and unify our proclamation of Your blessings that we may spread Your grace to all. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You bring together heaven and earth. All creation testifies to your splendor. Hold the ecosystems of this earth in delicate balance, from coast lands to farmlands, forests to wetlands, deserts to rainforests. Show us new ways to live in harmony with the world around us. Teach us to be good stewards of Your creation so that we may use it for the benefit of all and to give glory to Your name.
Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You overflow with grace upon grace. Expand the imaginations of those who serve in positions of authority. Open their hearts to the needs, not just of their nations and communities, but to the needs of all peoples. Protect all those in harm’s way and those risking danger for the sake of others, especially our police, firefighters and other first responders as well as those who serve our nation in the armed services. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You bring consolation to those who weep. Embrace those who feel far-off, excluded, or defeated, especially those confined in institutions or hospitals. Accompany those living with chronic and invisible illness. Sustain the weak and weary. Refresh those who labor under the weight of pain or sickness especially those on our prayer list and those we name in our hearts. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You come to us in the beauty of darkness and of light. Bring justice and reconciliation to communities divided by oppressions and misuse of power. Guide us to speak holy words of advocacy and truth. Help us to honor your image in one another. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You turn our mourning into joy. We give thanks for those who have died in faith, especially those we name in our hearts. With them and all the saints, give us our inheritance in Christ. In the fullness of time, gather us all together in your mercy. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of mercy come quickly to us with grace upon grace as we lift these and all our prayers to you, in the name of Jesus.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he
descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated
at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
who sent the Holy Spirit to Mary,
proclaimed joy through the angels,
sent the shepherds with good news,
and led the magi by a star,
bless you this day ☩ through the Word made flesh.
Go in peace. Share the gift of Jesus with all.
Thanks be to God.