1. Two movements from “Sonata in F” by Arcangelo Corelli (Prelude??)
o Margaret and John Henken, violins
o Ruth Mandernach, piano
• Dona Nobis Pacem (could be congregational; option to add slides)
Words of Welcome
Invitation to Celebrate -Ruth
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;[a]
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,[b]
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
Shepherds recline around the fire.
Their long day’s work is done
The air is crisp, the sky is clear
They watch the setting sun.
The sheep that grazed the fields by day
Now safely sleep nearby
Men each take night-watch turns
To watch for wolves and foxes, sly.
They eat some fish, some barely bread
Drink water from the well
Draw wooden blankets ‘round’ them, snug
They laugh and stories tell.
Suddenly the calm is stirred
By singing in the sky
The shepherds lift their drowsy heads
What’s happening and why?
They can’t believe their ears and eyes
For what they hear and see…
A thong of shinning faces, wings
Snow white and fluttery!
The rugged shepherds tremble
The angels chant, “Do not fear…”
We bring you tidings of great joy
All people need to hear.
For unto you is born this day
In little Bethlehem—
Swaddled in a manger, Christ
The Savior of all men!
Glory to G-d in the highest!”
Sweet angel voices sing
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men”
They proclaim the newborn King!
As the angels take their leave
The men vow in the morn
They’ll go to Bethlehem and seek
The Christ, the newly born
So with the rising of the sun
Each with his staff and rod
The shepherds with their sheep set off…
Their quest, the Lamb of G-d.
Arriving at the humble place
The angels sang about
They enter with resounding praise
And hallelujah shouts!
As the shepherds kneel adoring
A spotless wooly lamb
Approached the manger
And gently nuzzles the I Am.
Maude Carolan Pych
This is a selection from Maude’s Christmas chapbook, From My Heart to Yours at Christmas…Cookies & Poems. Maude’s poems can also be found on her blog.
Old Testament Shepherds
2. Greensleeves arr. Chip Davis
• Margaret, viola
• John, Piano
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;[a]
3 he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in right paths[c]
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d]
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely[e] goodness and mercy[f] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.[g]
Oh Holy Night
Prayer of Confession-Armand
we rejoice that you have
sent your promised Christ.
we confess that we
are still not ready for Christ’s coming.
We know the story—
the shepherds, the angels, the magi-
but we don’t fully grasp
what it means,
or go tell it from the mountain,
or consistently live lives
changed by your presence here on earth.
Awaken us to your Spirit,
let Christ’s birth transform our lives.
Hope Arrives in December, Ruth
Honoring Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25
We have about 70 head of sheep. We normally have lambs in April. My husband, Joe, is extremely practical and forcibly unsentimental about the adorably cute lambs. He believes they should have as little intervention as possible. Sheep are employees not pets, earning their keep by grazing and lambing in the fields.
Last week, we had a December lamb. In the middle of a snowstorm. During a lull between two squalls. It was bitterly cold and we were expecting even worse weather. It was already dark when he went out to check the sheep with his mother, my informant. He noticed one of the ewes looked like it had had a lamb. A recent birth! The first time mother was wandering towards the barn with no sign of the lamb. Methodically, they searched the pasture: my mother-in-law taking the tree line and my husband the opposite edge. Suddenly, she saw her son jump the fence and run towards a small lump, taking off his coat and his sweatshirt as he went. Quickly he wrapped the new lamb in the shirt that had been closest to his body.
They took the lamb into the barn and my husband – a fairly likable, easy-going man – began barking orders to his mother for a bucket of very hot water to be brought to him. The first bucket wasn’t warm enough. She balked, not wanting to scald the lamb, but he was resolute demanding it be very hot, saying the mother’s body would have been 102 degrees. He kept checking the lamb’s throat to feel for any warmth or signs of life. This lamb was close to death. With hotter water, the lamb was submerged and rubbed over and over. Joe went to fetch the mother while my mother-in-law kept rubbing the lamb for what felt like ages but was actually just a few minutes. The lamb started to rouse. The mother was brought into the stall and began to call for its baby. Lo and behold, the lamb responded! It tottled over to its mother and began to nurse as though it was born to do so.
I could be doe-eyed and tell you how heroic, decisive, and wonderful my husband is and how I fell a little more in love with him because of the person he is – which is true – but I didn’t hear this story from him. He only said to me, “We had a lamb! We named her December.” My humble, unsentimental husband named the lamb. Sometimes we don’t expect new life. New life can seem so fragile, be quite time sensitive, even require extensive work. Still, we must find a way to respond to the arrival of newness for life is resilient and we can find hope in the smallest of successes – a lamb surviving its first 6 hours of life.
Shepherds visited another Joseph years ago who welcomed unexpected new life and guarded that life with faith and integrity. Praise God for them both.
1. Ding Dong Verily on High (could be congregational; option to add slides)
2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Luke 2:8-20- Sarah
8 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,[a] 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,[b] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
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.
8-12 There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
1. Exalt the Lord (could be congregational; option to add slides)
The Heldmans were the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied, stole, smokes cigars (including the girls) and lit things on fire. There were 6 of them, Imogene, Ralph, Claude, Leroy, Ollie and Gladys. And everyone in town is scared of them. The only place that people weren’t scared was Sunday School. They never went to Sunday School. That’s until my little brother ruined it and mentioned that there are cookies at Church. So, they showed up at Sunday School. It was the week my mom was starting to put together the Christmas Pageant. We did it every year and it was always the same. Kids in bathrobes…Alice playing Mary, perfect and peaceful…but this year just as my mom was starting to assign rolls, the Hardman’s showed up. Imogene Herdsman, hit me in the ribs with her Elbow and asked, “What’s the pageant?” And I said, “It’s a play…about Jesus.”
She responded with, “Everything here is!”
So I figured she didn’t care about the Christmas pageant. I was wrong.
All 6 of Hardman’s showed up again the next week, I’m not sure if it was cookies or the possibility of stealing from the Offering Plates but they showed up.
This time, my mom was asking for volunteers to play the different parts in the pageant. First, she asked if anyone wanted to play Mary and who wanted to play Joseph. Alice always played Mary, but this year Imogene Herdsman’s hand shot up.
“Imogine do you have a question?” my mother asked.
“No, I want to be Mary, and my brother Ralph is going to be Joseph.”
“Yeah,” bellowed Ralph Herdman
My mom asked if anyone else wanted to volunteered, but everyone was to scared. Not of the pageant. Of the Herdsman. The same thing happened with the Wisemen. Leroy, Claude and Ollie Herman took those parts. And then when it came time for the Angel of the Lord, Gladys Herdman said that’s what she would do.
Then my mom asked if anyone wanted to be Shepherds and no one wanted to. They were all afraid that Gladys would hit them when she appeared as the angel of the Lord. Finally my mom convinced some of the other kid’s to be shepherds. Promising the Angel of the Lord wouldn’t deck them, but I don’t think she had any idea about the impossibility of keeping that promise.
Normally pageant rehearsals are really boring. I mean we’ve all heard the story a million times. But the first real rehearsal was different this year. When the Herdman’s showed up my mom said,” I’m so glad all the Herdman’s are here.” Which is probably the biggest lie every told in Church.
My mom started to put the different kids in the spots where they were to stand during the pageant but the Herdman’s kept interrupting with questions.
“What are Shepherds?”
“What’s an Inn? Is it like a Motel?”
“Tell us the story from the beginning!”
That really scared me, because the beginning is like Genesis, where it says, “In the Beginning…”and if we were going to have to go back there, it was going to take forever.
But the Herdmans didn’t know anything about the Christmas story, I mean they knew that it was Jesus’ birthday but that was it. So, my mom said she was going to read us all the Christmas story from the Bible. Which lead to a bunch of groans because most of us all heard it before. But then Imogene gave us one of those Herdman glares and we all got quiet pretty fast.
My Mom began, “Mary and Joseph were betrothed to be married and Mary was great with child.”
“Pregnant!? Mary was pregnant!” Imogene shouted.
And everyone started to giggle, Pregnant sounded to ordinary, we had always said Mary was ‘Great with child’ it sounded better.
“And they weren’t even married!!!” Imogene added.
Alice turned to me and said, “I’m not supposed to be talking about things like that, especially not in Church, I am going to tell my mother.”
“Shut up, I want to hear.” Imogene told everyone.
So my mom went on with the story. Then she got to the part about there not being room at the Inn.
“Not even for Jesus?!” Imogene stated shocked.
My mom tried to explain that they didn’t know it was Jesus.
But Imogene just shook her head and said, “Mary knew, why didn’t she tell them? I would have told them. Boy would I have told them! What’s the matter with Joseph that he didn’t them? Her pregnant and everything!”
My mom decided to just continue with the story, “So anyways…Mary had her baby and wrapped and him in swaddling clothing and laid him in a manger.”
“What’s a swaddling clothing? And what’s a manger?” Imogene asked
“Well, a manger is feed box is what they put the animal food in, and swaddling is when they would wrap up the baby real tight in fabric and strips of fabric.”
Imogene was shocked, “So they tied him up and put him in the animal feed box?! Where was the child welfare?!”
Child Welfare was always checking on the Herdmans and I mean she was right, if they found Gladys Herdman tied up in an animal food bowl, they would probably have done something about it.
My mom decided to just pretended she couldn’t hear Imogene and continue with the story. “And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
“Shazam” Gladys Herdman interrupted.
My mom was really confused, “What?” (She had never read Amazing Comics)
Gladys tried to explain it to her, “Out of the black of night…out of no where right? Shazam like the Super Heros in Amazing Comics…”
“Well sort of.” My mom replied. And decided again to just keep going.
“And then from the East the Wisemen came, they were sort of like Kings.”
Imogene was relieved at this, “It’s about time! Maybe they’ll tell the innkeeper where to get off and get the baby out of the barn!”
My mom just kept going again, “They brought the baby Frankensence, Gold and Myre.”
“What Merr and Frankstence?”
“It’s expensive oil.”
“Oil!!! The firemen give out better gifts than oil!”
My mom went on to explain how King Herod heard about baby Jesus and wanted to kill him and if you think Imogene Herdsman was wound up before, this really got her going!
“He was just born and now they’re trying to kill him!!!! Whose going to be Herod in this play (mimic hitting their hands together in a punch)
No one was going to be King Herod in our play.
Finally, my mom finished the story and the Herdmans left arguing about whether the Herdmans should have set fire to the inn or just chased the innkeeper to the next country.
We later found out that the Herdman went to the library to find out more about King Herod. I was surprised, to be honest I didn’t even know that they could read. None of us had really given much though to Herod. But the Herods wanted to know the whole story. Ralph had told the librarians, “We want to know about Jesus, and that King Herod.”
They came back next Sunday and told us that Herod had killed all sorts of people including his own wife. To be honest I had much thought to the people in the nativity, or really thought of them as real people.
We do normally get a real baby to play Jesus. Normally every parent of a baby in our town was wanting their baby to play Jesus. But this year, nobody wanted the Herdmans to hold their baby, so we just had to use a doll.
We had a final dress rehearsal and Imogene kept saying things even though my mom kept telling her it was a silent role.
(Holding Jesus like a football) “I’ve got a baby here! Don’t touch him! His name is Jesus. Though, I would have named him Bill.”
And then Galdys jumped on the stage and shouted at the kids playing the Shepherds, “Shazam!!!! Unto you a child is born”
Alice (who normally played Mary) interrupted, “that’s now what the angels said. I know what the angel said, ‘His name well be wonderful counselor, mighty G-d, everlasting Father, prince of peace…”
“My G-d,” Imogene interrupted. “He never would have gotten out of first grade if he had to learn to write all that!”
Any ways at that point, Leroy, Claude, Ollie Herdman who were playing the Wisemen had gotten bored waiting for their part so they started smoking cigars in the bathroom, which set off the fire alarm and the fire department which ended the final dress rehearsal.
Anyways, despite my Mom’s prayers, Christmas Eve did roll around. I’ve never seen my mom so nervous in her whole life. We all went to the stage and took our places. Well all of us Shepherds and Angels and Choir people. And we started to sing Away in the Manger, but Imogene and Ralph didn’t enter so we just kept humming and waiting. But finally they came in, they weren’t pushing each other like normal. They just entered and sort of looked confused, like they weren’t sure they were in the right place.
It occurred to me that this must have been what the Holy family actually looked like. Stuck in a barn by people who didn’t really care about them. They couldn’t have been very neat and tidy either, but more like this Mary and Joseph (Imogene’s veil was cockeyed and Ralph’s hair stuck out around his ears.) Imogene had the baby doll but she wasn’t carrying it the way she was supposed to, cradled in her arms. She had it slung over her shoulder, and before she put it in the manger she thumped it twice on the back, like to burp it.” And Alice had never burped baby Jesus in previous pageants, but I guess it made sense because, wasn’t that like the whole point? He didn’t come down on a cloud or something out of “Amazing Comics,” but that he was born and lived…a real person.
Anyways that that point we all started signing, “While the Shepherds watched their flocks at night…” and then Gladys burst in with, “Shazam!!! Unto you a child is born.” And all the kids play Shepherds sort of stood there scared, until she said… “Go…Go see the baby!!!”
And then we started signing “We three Kings of Oriental,” and Leroy, Claude and Ollie entered the Sanctuary as the Wisemen. And they were supposed to be carrying empty perfume and soap bottles from Bath and Body Works as Frankincense, and Myer but instead the three of them were carrying something heavy all together. And when I was able to make it out. I realized it was their Christmas Ham. Their family got a food basket every year at Christmas and it always had a Ham in it, and I guess they were bringing Jesus their own Christmas Ham.
Then it was time for us to sing, “O Silent Night,” normally when we got to this part of the pageant, I couldn’t wait for it to be over but this time I didn’t want it to end. And then something completely unexpected happen, Imogene started crying. In the candlelight her face was all shinny with tears and she didn’t even try to wipe them away. She just sat there- awful old Imogene—in her crooked veil, crying and crying and crying.
Like if all of a sudden the story of Christmas overwhelmed her. When the pageant was over and we were all leaving the Church that night, everyone kept talking about how this year’s pagent was different, not bad different. Special different. And no one could really agree what it was, but everyone agreed that it was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
A retelling of Barbara Robinson’s, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Did anyone notice the last name of the family in our story. The Herdmans They were a mess. So were the Shepherds in our story. The Herdmans were considered uncleaned it’s shocking that those were the people invited to the birth of the Messiah. They smelled like poop, like literally they smelled like sheep poop. They were outcasts. They were losers. They didn’t get to shower or bath regularly. They would help sheep deliver the babies and would try to clean their hands in local cold stream. They dreamed of their children being able to have different jobs. Of getting ahead in society. A few of my fellow Pastors and I were debating who are the Shepherds are of today. I think they are the Herdmans. Or the Shepherds/cowboys from the movie Brokeback Mountain. Two men forced to hide their love, outside of society watching sheep because they weren’t accepted.
Another Pastor suggested Truckers or Migrant workers or third shift workers in general.
Either way, they were people who weren’t fully embrace or accepted by society, even though they were by G-d. And these are people who first invited to meet the homeless baby in the manger. May we too, go to meet him there. May we to be open to G-d calling us and people different than us to be trusted to meet the Savior in the manger tonight.
Go Tell it On the Mountain
I may not go to-night to Bethlehem,
Nor follow star-directed ways, nor tread
The paths wherein the shepherds walked, that led
To Christ, and peace, and God’s good will to men.
I may not hear the Herald Angel’s song
Peal through the Oriental skies, nor see
The wonder of that Heavenly company
Announce the King the world had waited long.
The manger throne I may not kneel before,
Or see how man to God is reconciled,
Through pure St. Mary’s purer, holier child;
The human Christ these eyes may not adore.
I may not carry frankincense and myrrh
With adoration to the Holy One;
Nor gold have I to give the Perfect Son,
To be with those wise kings a worshipper.
Not mine the joy that Heaven sent to them,
For ages since Time swung and locked his gates,
But I may kneel without–the star still waits
To guide me on to holy Bethlehem.
*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Pauline Johnson
Holy and the Ivy arr. Chip Davis
• Margaret, viola
• John, Piano
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Shepherd’s Song at Christmas ~ Nancy
Look there at the star!
I, among the least,
Will arise and take
A journey to the East.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the King?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a song,
A song that I will sing,
In the Manger.
Watch out for my flocks,
Do not let them stray.
I am going on a journey
Far, far away.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the Child?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a lamb,
Gentle, meek, and mild,
A lamb for the Child
In the Manger.
I’m just a shepherd boy,
Very poor I am—–
But I know there is
A King in Bethlehem.
What shall I bring
As a present just for Him?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring my heart
And give my heart to Him.
I will bring my heart
To the Manger.
Joy to The World