Luke 2:1-14 with Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, (Set I, years A,B,C)
Christmas services take place against a background of distraction – family arrangements, excited children, memories (good and bad), strangers in church . . . Over-familiarity with the story can also lead to low expectation of hearing something new. A midnight (11.30pm) service is more difficult because of tiredness. Perhaps a Dialogue Sketch can catch and focus attention, communicating something important?
Questions on the readings above (for Christmas Day)
1. How does the reading of Isaiah 9:2-7 help your understanding of the Christmas story? What does he suggest will make the difference between living in darkness and in light? What causes joy in his prophecy? Would it really make so much difference to have power based on right and justice? Is God interested in that?
2. Luke tells of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Was that an added problem for them, or part of the solution? Did it matter that Jesus was born there? Why?
3. The baby lay in a manger. That may have helped the shepherds identify the right baby, but did it have any other significance?
4. What sort of peace did the angels announce and Jesus bring?
A sample sketch for three voices: A, B and C (quotes are from Good News Bible – you might want to use the version you read in church)
A I see you brought your own light
B (with torch or candle) Yes, I can’t read the words otherwise. It doesn’t fit in very well with Isaiah, though
C I couldn’t really see why we read that.
A The bit about walking in darkness and seeing a great light fits well with the candlelit service
B Yes, but I was fascinated by the “great joy”
C I must have missed that – what caused great joy?
B It was God who caused it, but it was the people’s reaction to the birth of a child
A like Jesus?
B well, perhaps, though Isaiah is an Old Testament prophet speaking about 800BC. He says the child will rule over a peaceful kingdom “basing his power on right and justice”
C That would be good. I think people would welcome that at any time – we want peace, not war or terrorism, and we never seem to find fair shares for all.
A Even Jesus drew the short straw – born in a stable and cradled in a manger. Health and safety wouldn’t allow that now.
B but Mary and Joseph might not have liked being moved on into Bed and Breakfast accommodation, either. It does suggest that when God decides to share a human life, he doesn’t travel First Class.
C It probably made it easier for the shepherds to find him. There would have been plenty of babies in Bethlehem, but just one in a feeding trough. Strange that the angels spoke to shepherds, when they could have gone to Jerusalem – the palace, the temple, or anywhere. You must be right about God getting involved in the lives of ordinary people.
B Ordinary, yes, but they became special
A Mary and Joseph must have had some character to face that journey. Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot, with Mary pregnant and everywhere crowded.
C I wonder how they felt about it. Was it really hard, or did it offer them a new start together? For that matter, did they see any significance in going to “David’s City”.
B They should have done, after the angel’s message to Mary. But perhaps it only became clear later.
C Why later?
A You mean, when people were asking if Jesus was the promised King / Messiah – when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey for example?
B Yes. King David’s umpteen times great grandson – the promised child who would bring a peaceful rule “basing his power on right and justice”.
C and that’s what we are celebrating at Christmas
B with “great joy”, yes. But be careful
C Is the collection coming? or are the police out with breathalysers?
B No – Jesus. Celebrating his birth is fine, but you have to realise that he can get to you.
C Get to me? I don’t think I understand.
B You’d expect life to change for Mary and Joseph that night, but it wasn’t only them. A lot more people were drawn into Jesus’ life, and they were all changed by it. It still happens – and people still enjoy it.
A Perhaps Health and Safety would have soemthing to say about that, too. Can you see us advertising services with an official Health Warning?
B Like “Celebrating the birth of Jesus may seriously affect your Priorities”
C I like it! Let’s get on with the celebration!