Tag Archives: Christmas Eve

Advent Candles Lighting 2017



This year has been devastating…

Wildfires, hurricanes, shootings, turmoil

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

to let our hearts grow dark with despair.

But there is a light shining in the darkness.

(the candle is lit)

A single candle, a small voice, a still reminder…


Hope in the Word proclaimed by the prophets.


Hope in the Promise of Emmanuel.


Hope in the birth of our Savior.





She places a hand on her belly to feel the kicking from within as they journey down the road toward Bethlehem…

a Babe will be born, a Savior will arrive, Love will come down.

The lost world pushes on drudgingly, slaves to a never ending care-less-ness.

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

But there is a light shining in the cold winter.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, a wonderful gift…


Love nurtured by a Mother’s embrace…


Love shared from the Father’s strength…


Love in the birth of our Savior.





Cheerless faces marching in the land of misery…

Chained to our desires, held captive by our regrets, slaves to our brokenness.

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

to let our hearts grow deaf, our open lips mute with pain.

But there is a song shining in the silence.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, the gift of love, a song of joy…


Joy brought the Angel’s song to the shepherds.


Joy inspired the Wise to follow their starry dreams.


Joy in the birth of our Savior.





War affects more than those who are fighting.

Men, women, children, babies, refugees.

Turning a blind eye, pretending it isn’t our problem,

It would be so easy to give in to apathy.

But there is a light shining in the night.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, the gifts of love, a song of joy, the peace of Christ…


Peace born in a prince lain in a manger.


Peace waging in our hearts, seeking justice, offering mercy.


Peace in the birth of our Savior.





(all the advent candles are lit)

She gives him a nod; he realizes it is time,

There is no room in the inn.

It would be so easy to give in to the apathy that surrounds them,

Yet they don’t give up, pressing on to the stable.

Light is born in the darkness.  A child is born unto you.

(the Christ candle is lit)

A simple hope, the gift of love, a song of joy, the peace of Christ…

His name is Jesus.

Wonderful, Counselor,

He is Emmanuel – God with us.

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,

He is the Christ child.


“Traditions that won’t die – Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve” from Luke 2:1-20

There are some Christmas Traditions that won’t die – like going to church on Christmas Eve.  The tradition I grew up in didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass sounded too Catholic for them.  Instead, my family’s tradition was to open our gifts from ma and pa on Christmas Eve knowing on Christmas Day we would go to the extended family Christmas. The one where you got all these gifts you didn’t want from Aunts and Uncles you wouldn’t see again until the next family gathering.

The irony is the first Christmas Eve service I ever went to was in a Catholic Church.  I was at college in Danville.  Two of my good friends were Catholic, so when they invited me, I went.  The priest was very open and joyful. He didn’t care that I wasn’t Catholic.  So when the time came for me to receive communion, I went forward with everyone else.  And that’s when I encountered the wafer.

I’m not sure what brand of dissolvable cardboard the priest gave me, but it wasn’t bread.  Bread has flavor.  Bread has texture.  Bread travels down to your stomach with a sensation that is real, sensual, and gratifying.  Not so with the wafer.  It had no flavor.  It had no texture save the distinct realization by my tongue something had been placed on it with a micro-measure of weight.  And after it dissolved in my mouth, I’m not sure any remnant made it any further down the pipe.

I’m not trying to poke fun at our Catholic sisters and brothers.  I respect their understanding and practice of the Lord’s Supper.  Yet it occurs to me that many times that wafer represents my own experience in spirituality.  It lacks flavor. There are times that I can’t tell you the last time I tasted the joy of the Lord’s presence.  It lacks texture. There are long places in my own life where I don’t feel as if God is with me; quite the opposite of Emmanuel.  It leaves me hungry.

At the first church I served as pastor, I was reminded of this by a 4 year old boy named Cody.  It was an ordinary Sunday with ordinary hymns.  You might say we were going through the motions.  I’m sure it was the first Sunday of the month, because we were having communion.  Folks were coming up to the rail in groups as was tradition. They knelt and received a torn bit of bread which they were invited to dip into the cup.  But the ordinary disappeared when little Cody received his bread.

“Is that all I get?”  He had said it as any 4 year old would have said it.  Quiet enough that the entire congregation heard him.  Loud enough to embarrass his mother and father.  But what struck me was his honesty about the hunger.  He didn’t come here for wafers or crumbs.  Cody wanted the flavor, the texture, the fulfillment.  Cody wanted the feast, all that God would give him.  Cody wanted to experience God at the table.

You may be asking what does this have to do with Jesus, the Stable, the Manger, etc.  God didn’t offer us fast food solutions, but instead offered us a full multi-course feast in this babe, in this birth, in this life, in this death, and in this resurrection.  He could have been born in a palace, yet he chose a stable.  He could have had Angels announcing his coming to all humanity, yet he chose shepherds in a field.  He could have picked any town – Rome, New York, Washington DC, yet he chose Bethlehem, a Hebrew word that translates as “House of Bread.”  He could have had the best Tempurpedic, double down, plush bed for his crib, yet mother Mary laid him in a manger – fancy word for a “feeding trough” for animals.

We didn’t come here for a little snack or a bit of fast food.  We came here for the whole experience of who Jesus is.  Tonight we celebrate his coming to us.  Tonight we are invited to experience the whole of who God is in a little child laid in a manger.  Tonight we are invited to experience the whole of who God is in a candle light dinner of a little bread and a little wine.  Thank God some traditions won’t die.  Amen.

Evening Prayer for Christmas Eve 2015

Lord of light,
the dark is not dark to you
for you are a God who births light into the world.
We are a people who live in darkness.
We seek your light in our life
to give us sight
to give us meaning
to give us salvation.
Be born this night in us Christ-light.
Coo in the manger of our hearts.
Glow so bright that day overcomes night
and all the world may see you, Christ Child, Amen.

“Pass out the Cigars – It’s not a boy” from Luke 2

Christmas Eve, 2014

Gospel Luke 2

Do you remember your first kiss?  The anticipation – because this is so going to be different than the pecks on the cheek Aunt Mary and Aunt Anna Lee give me.  The worry – because I’ve never done this before so what will it be like, will I be good, will she be good, what if we get stuck that way?  My first kiss was with Sherri Overall in 2nd grade.  We were playing house at her house.  She had on her mama’s high heels and costume jewelry.  I had on her daddy’s sports jacket.  All at once she came up to me and said, “have a good day!” and smacked one on me.  I didn’t know what to do so I smooched back tongue and all.  It didn’t end well.

A kiss is when two human beings reach out to one another.  We are attempting to touch each other’s soul.  We are making ourselves vulnerable – germs, disease, good kisser/bad kisser.  We are sharing ourselves wholly.  The Birth of Jesus wasn’t just the birth of a baby boy; it is a kiss blown from heaven to humanity.

Sure, we’d had flirtation with God before the Christmas event.  As kids we went on a field trip with Abraham and Sarah.  There was that moment in middle school when we were really geeky, asking for kings like other nations, not listening to God’s prophets wondering what it was the Isaiah, Jeremiah and all those others were saying.  And now as full blown adults God has taken us out and invited us to Bethlehem for a kiss.

The Birth of Christ isn’t just about the birth of a baby.  God is attempting to touch our soul.  Christmas is about beginnings.  There was a young wife and mother of two children whose husband was in the Air Force during one of the nation’s military conflicts. As Christmas approached, she gathered her children and headed for her parents’ home for the Christmas celebration. She arrived to find her parents’ home gaily decorated. The tree was glistening with lights and the presents were crammed beneath it. And, although her husband could not be present, it promised to be a happy time together.

Then, on Christmas Eve, came the news that her husband had been killed in combat, and the woman was devastated. While she was upstairs crying in her room, her parents, who now felt that the decorations were suddenly inappropriate, began to take them down. The lights were unplugged and the gifts put in a closet. Later, when the new widow came down the stairs, she saw the decorations gone and the tree darkened. “Where is everything?” she asked. When her father explained, the young woman, with a wisdom beyond her years, said, “No. Bring them back! Christmas was made for such times as these.”  God touching our soul.

 It’s not just a boy.  God is being vulnerable with us.  Jesus is a baby, a human baby. He cries, he poops, he has colic, and Mary watch out, he is going to have questions and doubts and fears.  Jesus is a baby. The all-powerful God lays aside all that cosmic power and makes himself able to get sick, able to bleed, able to experience heartache, able to be killed.  Jesus is a baby who will grow into a man to receive a kiss from Judas.

It’s not just a boy.  God is sharing the Divine-Self wholly.  All those moments with Moses and Elijah, Amos and Malachi and all those other names in the Old Testament we can’t pronounce were flirts and glances.  Tonight is the first kiss. God shares all love and all that God is in a baby.  In Christ we experience the awesome holy nature of God fully.

You can read romance novels about sitting next to the one you love. You can hear stories about how they looked at one another and saw fireworks.  You can sing songs about the passionate kisses and the heat of the moment.  But until you lean in and experience a kiss – you’ll never know what kissing is.

Tonight is a kiss from God.  The anticipation and excitement of Advent is over.  We don’t have to be worried because God who made our lips knows what kind of person we are.  Tonight God invites us to salvation wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  We all know that awkwardness of kissing someone who isn’t kissing back.  Won’t you come to Bethlehem with Jesus tonight?  Won’t you receive the gift God is giving this Christmas?