AS IT WAS FORETOLD,
AS IT WAS,
AS IT SHOULD BE,
AND AS IT WILL BE
A CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE ORIGINALLY CELEBRATED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 DECEMBER 1992
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Choir and Pastors enter.
Altar candles are lit.
French Horn Prelude:
Introit: O Come Let us Adore Him (1st verse)
Preparation Verse: Isaiah 7:14
14. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."
Hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:6-7
6. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forever more.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Choir and Organ Response: Isaiah 9:6 by John Hallenbeck
Consider the words of the Prophet Isaiah. Consider his words from a common sense point of view.
About whom could he be speaking?
Surely a child, a son, could be born to any of us, and even be as a gift to us.
And some boy could grow up to be a king, or other world leader, who was truly concerned about the welfare of the people under his authority, and be considered a Wonderful Counselor.
But such a human child could never grow up to be Mighty God, for there is only one God; that is, unless He Himself was also God in the form and body of a man.
Thus, He would also be an Eternal Father.
But then again, a truly benevolent leader could also be considered a prince of peace.
But such a person's rule would eventually come to an end.
However, we are told that the rule of the Prince of Peace will never end, and will even continue to expand.
He will sit on the throne of David; but His reign, unlike that of the other descendants of David, will never end.
There is only One, born unto woman, who is truly just and righteous. We may try, but only One has accomplished it.
There could be only One who fulfilled this prophecy, and that was accomplished through the love of the Lord of hosts when He gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
He is our true Christmas gift. Receive Him, and let Him grow in your heart.
Hymn: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Scripture Reading: John 1:9-13
9. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
10. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
12. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13. who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
What is the true light?
Is it the rising of the sun in the morning, which lights our way throughout the day?
Is it the light bulb that we turn on at night, so that we may see?
No; the true light is greater than these, and even greater darkness flees from it.
The true light is truth – the truth of Jesus Christ.
It is the truth and ultimate expression of God's gift of love to us, and to the whole world around us, so that we can better relate to Him and visualize Him.
For we can see His Son born unto us:
Born unto us, so that He would better understand our temptation to sin;
Born unto us, so that we might have the true light of understanding;
Born unto us, so that we would no longer be in ignorance of the truth.
For to live in ignorance of this truth is to live in the greatest darkness we could imagine.
Jesus Christ came into this world to chase away this darkness, this blindness to the corruption and pain and suffering of billions of humans and other animals.
But we must receive Him as our gift of light, if we are going to be able to leave the darkness of our ignorance about the ways of God.
And our gift doesn't end here; for when we receive this first Christmas gift, we are given another: we are given the right to become children of God.
Not that we are children of God just by receiving the truth; but that if we receive light, and grow and mature in His light, as a plant does under the sun, then we will become children of God because we have exercised our right of inheritance.
For through this process, we are in essence born again, not of the blood of our human birth, nor of the will of our parents, nor of the will of any other person, but by the will of God.
For we have received the true light, a light that will never go out.
We celebrate this night of Christmas Eve, not because Jesus Christ was born 2,000 years ago, but so that we are reminded to allow Him to be born in our hearts, and allow Him to mature within us and fill us with the true light forever and ever.
Anthem: Junior Choir – Hey! Hey! Anybody Listening
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-20
8. And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;
11. for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12. "And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."
13. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
15. And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another; "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
16. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child.
18. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Hymn: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Around Bethlehem at that time, there were many other people besides these shepherds, just as there are in and around Athens tonight.
Then why did God choose these shepherds?
Because they were trustworthy.
They did what was expected of them; and because of this, God knew that they would be faithful to deliver His message and live by it.
And what about us?
Jesus Christ is going to come again!
Are we being as faithful and trustworthy as these shepherds were, so that God would entrust us in a similar way?
I pray so; for this is the way God wants us to be.
But consider something else: Why were the shepherds fearful?
In their hearts, they knew they weren't perfect, and even that they were sinful in some things. Though they wanted to please God, they failed in some things.
But the angel told them not to be fearful, for God's love is capable of seeing way beyond our sinful nature to the desire of our heart; and if that desire is to serve the Lord, there is nothing to fear.
And after the angel had told then about the birth of Jesus, the heavenly host told them – and us – something else.
They said, "And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased"
If we receive this message of truth in our hearts, God is pleased; and then we will have peace.
Many in this world have not received this truth and lived by it; thus they don't have peace.
And this lack of peace has resulted in horrible pain and suffering for millions of human beings and billions of animals, and the destruction of our environment.
The tragedy is that some of these people even claim to be Christians, but their actions speak otherwise.
Think about it. We can't be truly filled with God's love and hurt anyone or any thing. Isn't this lack of love the real reason for the problems we have in the world today?
Like the shepherds, we, too, have heard this message.
What are we going to do with it?
God isn't forcing anyone to do anything, and neither am I. God gave us all a free will.
We can take this message of truth and be faithful, as were the shepherds, or we can leave here tonight and throw it away.
But how much better all our lives would be if we began throwing away the things that hinder God’s love.
Be the shepherd to those you can, as were these men of old. It's really worth the effort.
Anthem: We Have Come To Worship Him
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 11:6-9
6. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
7. Also the cow and the bear will graze;
Their young will lie down together;
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
9. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
God's gift of His only begotten Son is a gift of love – the greatest love of all.
And contained in this gift is the knowledge of the Lord.
If one day, in what I pray is not the too distant future, animals as these depicted by Isaiah will once again lie down together and eat plant foods together, former predator with prey, then the love of God must be for them, too.
For only with God's love with them, and within them, could they not hurt or destroy each other or the little children who are with them.
This is the love gift of Christmas.
But what about us humans who are supposedly created in the image of God?
What about us humans who have dominion over the world and those who live in it?
What about us humans who have supposedly been given an intelligence and abilities above those of the animals?
Don't you think that by this time we should have learned this message of God's love and peace for the world?
Then why haven't we?
Why haven't we learned to truly live in love and peace?
Because we look at the world around us, with all its problems and strife, and we don't think it's possible; so we don't try, and even go along with those who cause strife and pain.
But I tell you that all this is possible.
And God has been trying to tell us this for a long time.
We can make a difference in our families.
We can make a difference in our communities.
We can make a difference in our country.
We can make a difference in the world.
We can love.
We can put away our weapons of destruction.
We can have peace.
We can live in a place where we will not hurt or destroy anymore; where we will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord without limit, as the waters cover the sea.
This is the true message of the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.
This is what it takes to have a truly merry Christmas.
Take this message of love and peace with you tonight, so that tomorrow will be truly merry.
But don't stop there, take much more of this love and peace with you than you will need for tomorrow; take enough for the day after, and the day after that, and for every day for the rest of your life.
For every day should be Christmas; and it will be, if we want it to be.
Hymn: O Holy Night!
Lighting of Christ Candle:
Circle around center section of church
Hymn: Silent Night
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