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For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.
– Luke 2:11
WELCOME & ANNOUNCEMENTS
*CALL TO WORSHIP (Isaiah 9:2,6) Pastor Melissa
We gather together to hear once more a story that is both ancient
and current, about how God seemed so distant and yet was so near.
We come to hear the story of God coming to us.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
and the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
We have come to worship Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God with us.
SONG “O Come, All Ye Faithful” Verses 1 & 2 Hymn 182
SONG “Joy to the World” Verses 1 & 2 Hymn 179
SCRIPTURE—Matthew 1:18-23 Gordon Kling
The angel appears to Joseph in a dream explaining that Messiah Is coming. Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
CHOIR ANTHEM “Night of Miracles” Cindy Berry
SCRIPTURE—Luke 1:26-38 Susan Reed
The angel appears to Mary and explains the Holy birth.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
SONG “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” Hymn 169
SCRIPTURE—Luke 2:1-7 Andrew Giorgetti
Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem where Jesus is born.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, and this because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
SONG “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Verses 1 & 3 Hymn 180
SONG “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” Hymn 191
SCRIPTURE—Luke 2:8-14 Diane DeFranco Kling
The angels announce the birth of the messiah to the shepherds.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
SONG “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Hymn 185
SCRIPTURE—Luke 2:15-20 Brayden Hosman
The Shepherds go to the manger.
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
MESSAGE “Savior of the World” Pastor Melissa
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) –Luke 2:1-2
They were taking a census of the entire Roman empire and everyone had to go back to their hometown to be counted. If there had been TV news in those days, this might have been the breaking news of the day, with on-the-street reporters showing pictures of the crowds, and interviewing people about how far they’d come.
That night two thousand years ago, the census was the big thing the government was doing, but God was doing something even bigger, so big that angels came four times. Angels were the messengers who brought the news to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds and explained what was happening. Two miraculous babies: John the Baptist would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, both of whom thought they were too old to have children, and Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to the virgin Mary.
Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of all the prophecies, God in the flesh, Emmanuel, the savior of the world.
A choir of angels made the most visible announcement, but not to the crowds of people gathered for the census. Instead they went to the shepherds out in the fields with their sheep, because sometimes God does big things in ways that seem small to us.
- Luke tells us about the census so that we know when this birth was happening, to give us the context of historic world events.
- Luke tells us about the census so that we know how God brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and fulfilled the prophecy in Micah (5:2) that the Messiah would come from there.
- Luke also tells us about the census to emphasize who this good news is for. All the world. Because every single person is important to God.
We might get a different idea, because when the Old Testament tells us about a census, they only counted able-bodied men who could fight in the army (E.g. 1 Chronicles 21:4-5). Nowadays, when our government does a census, they work hard to include everyone. Our government has also decreed that a census be taken every ten years. The 14th amendment to the Constitution requires it. I’ve already seen ads on Facebook about job openings for people to help with the 2020 census.
We don’t require everyone to go back to their hometown these days like they did 2000 years ago. Working for the government census, you might be one of those sent out to
- find homeless people, or to knock on the doors of the people who haven’t responded,
- to find the people who might otherwise be missed or who need help responding,
- so that differences in ability won’t keep people from being counted.
- One of the ways the government uses the data is to get help to people who need help.
We count people here at church, too. We count people because people count. It’s one of the ways we make sure we have enough for everyone who comes – enough bulletins, enough communion bread and cups. We’ve grown accustomed to using those counts to measure our success as a church. Really, though, the measure of our success in not in the big and visible things like crowds of people, but in the smaller, less visible ways that lives are changed by the presence of Jesus.
- We count everybody. No matter how young or old.
- Whether you come every Sunday or just once a year or just happened to be here tonight for the first time.
- Whether you’re here in the room or watching online, we all matter to God and God has a plan and a purpose for every single one of us.
The angel said, “… I bring you good tidings of great joy which is for all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior…”
The shepherds went to find the baby the angels had told them about, and then they went out to tell people what they had seen. But it would be thirty-three years before people saw the biggest news of all. Jesus, our savior, would bear our sins on the cross, conquering sin and death once and for all. That’s when we saw that he truly is the Son of God, when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 1:4) If it weren’t for Jesus’ resurrection, we wouldn’t be celebrating Jesus’ birth tonight, the birth of our savior Jesus, who was born to save us all.
God went to great lengths to bring us a savior because God loves us so much.
God can use anything to reach us, even mundane things like a census, and God is still reaching out to us in big and small ways so that every single one of us knows that we matter to God, and so that nothing, not even sin and death, can separate us from God’s love.
Whatever circumstances God used to bring you here tonight, maybe you’re here tonight to hear these words.
God loves you. God loves us all so much that he sent us Jesus.
Let us all give thanks to God!
-  https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/amendments-11-27#14
-  https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html
-  https://www.prb.org/importance-of-us-census/
SONG “Christmas Alleluia” Chris Tomlin
Our offerings tonight will be given to CarePortal, an organization which helps local children and families in crisis, with special emphasis on adoptive and foster families.
*CANDLE-LIGHTING “Peace, Peace | Silent Night” Hymn 186
(While candles are lit, choir begins hymn, and congregation joins as led. Please do not tip the lit candle. Take the unlit candle and tip it into the flame to light.)