Worship services for Christmas Eve are at 4:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 6:00 PM at Peace United Church. There will be NO WORSHIP on Sunday Christmas Day.
I wish everyone a “Happy Hanukkah”. At sunset tonight Hanukkah begins and the Festival of Lights ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 28. Hanukkah celebrates the successful overthrow of the Greek rulers of Judah in 162 BCE (BC) or 165 BCE by the Maccabees family. After the cleansing of the temple and at it’s rededication (The Hebrew word “Hanukkah” means “dedication". You can read about the cleansing and rededication at 1 Maccabees 4:36-61.) there was a small amount of oil for the Temple Lamp. It was thought that the oil would only last a day, but it miraculously lasted for eight days, hence the eight day Festival of Lights.
Of course, as Christians we are looking forward to the Celebration of the coming of the True Light, the birth of Jesus. The date of December 25 is just an arbitrarily chosen date because no one knows the actual date (it is not in the Bible). Some accuse the Christian community of choosing that date to usurp the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a celebration of the winter solstice (which is on Thursday, December 22 this year). Check this section of the Christmas article on Wikipedia: Christmas History. The first recorded account of a celebration of Christ’s birth is in 356 CE (AD). In the early church, Epiphany (January 6) was a more important celebration.
In my time as a pastor, I have celebrated Christmas worship with a “Service of Lessons and Carols”. The UMC Book of Worship lists nine lessons for this service but I cut that back to seven. The Lectionary has four lessons for Christmas Eve and four lessons for Christmas Day. So, with very little comment, here are the fifteen lessons:
Isaiah 62:6-12 – “Salvation Has Come”
Psalm 97 – “The Glory of God’s Reign”
Titus 3:4-7 – “Justified by Grace, Heirs of Eternal Life”
Luke 2: (1-7) 8-20 – “The Birth of Jesus, the Visit of Shepherds”
Isaiah 52:7-10 – “The Announcement of the Lord’s Salvation”
Psalm 98 – “Praise the Judge of the World”
Hebrew 1:1-4 (5-12) – “God Has Spoken by His Son”
John 1:1-14 – “The Word Made Flesh”
Service of Lessons and Carols
Isaiah 9:2-7 – “The Birth of a King”
Micah 5:2-5a – “The Place of Birth is Named”
Luke 1:26-38 – “The Annunciation”
Luke 2:1-7 – “The Birth of Jesus”
Luke 2:8-16 – “The Shepherds Visit”
Matthew 2:1-11 – “The Magi Visit”
John 1:1-14 – “The Light Has Come into the World”
There you go. A lot to read this week and I pray that you do the reading. You will be blessed indeed.