Prayer for Christmas Eve

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.Amen.

Angels and Shepherds

Christmas Eve | December 24, 2018

Isaiah 62:6-12  •  Psalm 97  •  Titus 3:4-7  •  Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 2:8-20 New Living Translation (NLT)


Earlier today, we looked at Luke’s account of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and how Jesus was born. This evening we look at the 2nd half of Luke’s nativity account.

I can only imagine being out in the fields at night. When we think of angels – we think of the word “angelic.” However, I believe that angels were quite scary – after all – in the accounts of angels meeting humans, their first words are “Do not be afraid!” I guess I think of angels looking like the angels in “The Bible” miniseries – Ninja Angels. I mean after all angels are part of God’s army. Angels were and still are scary creatures. Most shepherds were young – like David – and they were the lowest of the low on the social scale. And yet, God chooses to announce the birth of God with us to the shepherds first – and they are the first ones to go see Jesus.

As we concluded this morning we looked at the last thing the angels departed from the shepherds. When the angels leave, the shepherds decide to go check out the birth of the baby. They are the most socialized people, so I sure they go stumbling into town – waking all the people – looking for a baby. When they finally find him, they are amazed…As they leave the manger – the leave town and tell everyone about the birth of Jesus and the people are amazed. What a great story. Several weeks ago, I talked about the shepherds in my message. Were the people amazed at the shepherd’s story because it was a great story – after all, who doesn’t like a great story- – or were they amazed because they believed what the shepherds said. Christ the Savior of the world is born this night. He desires to have a relationship with you.

What does the Christmas story mean to you? Are you amazed because it is a great story, or because Jesus really is the Savior of the world? Think about it.

50 Years Ago Today

The year 1968 was a turbulent year in the United States. MLK, Jr. was assassinated, as was Bobby Kennedy. It was the year of the riots during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. As the year came to a close there was a wonderful bright spot. Apollo 8 when to the moon and orbited. It was the furthest distance any human had traveled in space and the first time any human had orbited another celestial body besides the earth. On Christmas Eve 1968 the crew of Apollo 8 gave this Christmas Eve message.

Silent Night! Holy Night

December 24, 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the song Silent Night. It was first performed at mass on this day in 1818. Here is some of the backstory to Silent Night. From The United Methodist Church Discipleship site:


The story of “Stille Nacht” is one of the most endearing and enduring in Christian hymnody, though highly romanticized. Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) was an Austrian cathedral chorister in Salzburg as a boy. He was ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1815. He spent most of his life ministering in parishes near Salzburg. Living a simple life, he died in poverty after giving away what little he had to the poor.

In 1816, Mohr penned the original six stanzas of the poem that would make him famous around the world. He was serving as an assistant priest in Oberndorf, now a skiing area in the Austrian Alps. Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863) was an Austrian cantor and school teacher, holding church positions near Salzburg including Oberndorf. While a prolific composer, little was published and none known now save this Weihnachtslied (Christmas carol). Tradition has it that the carol was composed for a text by his assistant priest Joseph Mohr on short notice for the Christmas Eve Mass in Oberndorf in 1818. While it was first accompanied on guitar, it may not have been because the organ didn’t work. As Carl Daw Jr. notes, “the organ at St. Nicholas Church was in chronic need of attention.” (Daw, 126) That this was due to mice eating the bellows cannot be verified and probably is closer to apocryphal romanticism than fact. We do know, however, that Joseph Mohr had a guitar it use seems to have been for aesthetic reasons rather than an organ emergency: the guitar was more appropriate for accompanying this folk-like melody than an organ. Though this was not the normal instrument for the Mass, it was used in this case to great effect.


Silent Night is in my top 5 favorite carols. The other 4 would be Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus; O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and Of the Father’s Love Begotten. 

We will be concluding our service tonight at McCrae Brook by singing this wonderful Christmas carol, complete with guitar accompaniment.

Prayer for Christmas Eve Morning

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jesus Is Born

Christmas Eve (Morning) | December 24, 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7  •  Psalm 96  •  Titus 2:11-14  •  Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:1-14 New Living Translation (NLT)


This morning we have the first half of the nativity story as Luke tells it. We learn that Mary and Joseph have taken the journey to Bethlehem, the city of Joseph’s ancestors. Mary and Joseph were poor, so more than likely they made the journey by foot. It is here in Bethlehem that Jesus is born. It was a humble birth and as my niece posted on Facebook yesterday, it was probably anything but a silent night – even thought that is one of my favorite carols. Jesus was a normal newborn. He cried when he was hungry – or needed his diaper change. Jesus was God in the flesh – more on that in tomorrow’s devotional based on John 1.

Jesus’ arrival here on earth was not announced to kings and other important people, but was announced to some shepherds who were tending to their sheep outside of Bethlehem. The angels announce the birth and they tell the shepherds to go see the baby. Just before the angels leave they give these wonderful words:

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:14

This season we have been anticipating the arrival of hope, peace, joy, and love – and he has now arrived!

Sunday Night Thoughts

We are in the middle of our church Christmas services. However, this evening we are able to relax. Friday night we had our Blue Christmas Service. It was a wonderful service of hope and inspiration. We had around 15 attend. One of the things I did differently this year was that several of the songs came to us via video. I used Advent Hymn by Christy Nockels, You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli, and It Is Well by Bethel Music. In addition we sang with live accompaniment Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus; In the Bleak Midwinter; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; and Silent Night.

This morning we had a good service at McCrae Brook. Several of our regulars were out but because of the holidays, several guests were here. Tomorrow we have our Christmas Eve service. We are doing something called A Service of the Nativity. It is similar to our Lessons and Carols Service but slightly different. I am looking forward to this service of songs and scripture.

On Friday night we also had a Christmas party with the local clergy. It was tough because we had to fit it in with the other activities. At church today we exchanged Christmas cards and the church gave us a wonderful Christmas gift. After church we took a poinsettia to one of our shut-ins and took her cards to her as well.

We are looking forward to not driving and riding vans this week as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ – God with us. Have a great week and…

Merry Christmas!