1) This is the story of God’s light coming into the world and illuminating human history with a love that fills the universe with brilliance.  Tonight, we remember this story.  We look for our place in this story, and we prepare ourselves for the rest of this story.

*Hymn:  O Come, All Ye Faithful (vss. 1-3)

2) The story of creation begins in darkness. [Lights off] It has always been God’s plan to bring the light of his creative and redemptive love into a dark, cold world.  This is reflected in the very creation of the world.

Genesis 1:2-4 tells us …the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” [Lights on] and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

Our lights are small glimmers of God’s glory, but our lights can point us toward God’s truth, the light come into the world.  Let us remember God’s glory with the lighting of our Advent wreath.

Advent Wreath (see bulletin)

3) The light of God was with us, illuminating creation and sharing God’s glory, but human beings have always been quick to retreat to shadows, avoiding exposure to such unfiltered brilliance.  We flee the light for the comfort of darker places; our steps draw us away from God; our eyes struggle and weaken.

John’s Gospel states…The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Hymn #88    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (vss.5-8)

4) Even though our ancestors wandered further and further from God’s radiance [Lights dim], seeking and serving their own dim wills and diminished hearts, God did not give up on them.  In his faithfulness, God sought out Abraham and called him to a new way of living, as a people holy to God, a light to the nations.  Even when this people became enslaved in Egypt, God promised salvation.

Exodus 3:7-12 tells us…Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.  Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Hymn #115   Away In a Manger

5) Still our rebellion, idolatry, and defiance of God’s light darkened our path and drew our gaze from the beauty of God’s design.  The prophets called the people of God back into the light…

Isaiah 60:1-3 says…Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Hymn #123     It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (vss. 1, 3-5)

But the people would not hear.  [Lights dim]

6) Even with such promise, the world grew darker, colder, harsher, and more in need of God’s salvation.  Generation after generation waited for help, for the Messiah to come.  God’s people found themselves lost in the world and prayed to God for light in the darkness.

Hymn #144       In the Bleak Midwinter (vss. 1-2)

[Lights dim]
7) Then out of the promise of the prophets and a divine love for all people, a young man and woman arrived in Bethlehem, a small town in the least of the tribes.  The young woman was with child, and though there was no suitable place, God’s living light was born.

The Gospel of Matthew heralds this light in verse 4:16…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned. [Lights up]

Hymn #145               What Child is This (vss. 1-2)

8) This was a light announced by angels and received by shepherds.

Luke 2:8-14 says… And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Hymn #119       Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

9) This was the light that sparked the very creation itself.

John’s Gospel tells us 1:4-5, 9, 12-14… In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Hymn #134      Joy to the World

10) Even in the face of the glory of this light made flesh, this light of God’s love and forgiveness and grace, this light that sparked the stars and fills the heavens with glory, human hearts became cold and rejected this miraculous and holy light and even sought to extinguish its glow.  [Lights dim]

The entire world seemed to grow very dark with the death of our Messiah, God’s own Son.  As he was sealed away in the silent, dark tomb, darkness descended on the world. [Lights out]

 Let us pray…  Merciful God, hear our prayer.  Come to us in our struggles, in our doubts, in our fears, and in our darkness.  Do not let our lives be ruled by shadows and lies.  Speak to us through the presence of your Spirit and your Word.  Bless us in our union with you, and nurture us as we entrust ourselves, our loved ones, and all of this world to your care.  Build up our spirits in yours.  Fuel our faith to shine in this time of hope and love.  Rejoice in us as we rejoice in you.  In the grace of this moment, help us to walk in the light of life.  Help us to live as your beautiful, bright, and blessed children.  Give us steps to walk together through tomorrow and into the rest of this year.  We offer this prayer in the name of our King, the Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray…  Lord’s Prayer

11) Following the darkness, a new day broke in the resurrection of God’s Son [Sharing of Candlelight].  His followers found that Jesus gave himself for them, and they found that he shared the light of life with them.  As much as the world tried, the light of Jesus was one light that could not be extinguished.  Not only did this light shine again and more brightly, but this light was given to us all to share and reflect his glow.  The brilliance and radiance and warmth of God was awake in us.  Let us receive this light and give this light.

12) Unison Prayer of Dedication (printed in bulletin)

As we prepare to take our light out into the world with the confidence of our beaming Lord and God, join me in the Prayer of Dedication in the bulletin…. (see bulletin)

 *Benediction and Closing with Silent Night (see bulletin)