Christmas to the Cross: A Christmas Eve Worship Service


Near the end of this service, we will partake of Communion together. Please prepare your elements (bread/cracker and juice/wine) before beginning our worship service.

Merry Christmas!

Waiting for God’s Chosen One

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. From that moment on, God was not satisfied simply to have started the human story—he intended to be part of the human story. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve.

He brought Noah and his family through the waters. He led Abraham away from his home in order to start a new nation.

And when God’s people found themselves in desperate times, prisoners in Egypt, God sent Moses to lead them out of slavery and back to the land God promised them. But the people walked away from God and returned to slavery. This time it wasn’t with real chains and prisons—humanity became slaves to their own sin and brokenness. But God brought a new Moses—a new Savior—to lead his people out of slavery and back to him.

The prophet Isaiah said: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel which means ‘God is with us.'”

So the world waited for the new Moses, leading a new Exodus, bringing people back to God. But God has a quirky sense of humor. When we expect wisdom, God uses foolishness. When we expect strength, God uses weakness. And from an unexpected place, the story unfolds.

The prophet Micah said, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Emmanuel—God with Us

Once again God becomes intricately involved as part of the human story. He is not a far and distant God, but is among us. The Messiah is Son of God, but is also Son of Man.

When his mother Mary had been legally pledged to be married to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. A Divine Pregnancy. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce Mary quietly. But as he considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel commanded.

Can you imagine being in Joseph’s place? Thomas H. Troeger once wrote, The Hands That First Held Mary’s Child:

The hands that first held Mary’s child
were hard from working wood,
from boards they sawed and planed and filed
and splinters they withstood.
This day they gripped no tool of steel,
they drove no iron nail,
but cradled from the head to heel
our Lord, newborn and frail.

When Joseph marveled at the size
of that small breathing frame,
and gazed upon those bright new eyes
and spoke the infant’s name,
the angel’s words he once had dreamed
poured down from heaven’s height,
and like the host of stars that beamed
blessed earth with welcome light.

“This child shall be Emmanuel,
not God upon the throne,
but God with us, Emmanuel,
as close as blood and bone.”
The tiny form in Joseph’s palms
confirmed what he had heard,
and from his heart rose hymns and psalms
for heaven’s human word.

The tools that Joseph laid aside
a mob would later lift
and use with anger, fear, and pride
to crucify God’s gift.
Let us, O Lord, not only hold
the child who’s born today,
but charged with faith may we be bold
to follow in his way.

There’s a Christmas song that nearly moves me to tears every time I hear it. It’s called Joseph’s Lullaby.

This newborn king is not just for some. He is born to be King of all; regardless of nation, gender, wealth, or poverty. He is the King of both the low and exalted. When this little King held court his royal attendants were shepherds and kings!

But why? What’s the point of this baby king? What’s it really about? Recalling God’s plan from the beginning, the Gospel of John tells us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 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.

For 1600 years, God’s people had waited for the Messiah, the Chosen One to lead people back to God. That’s why the Baby King came. Not to be a cute baby—but to bring light to the dark world.

But the darkness didn’t go away quietly. Instead, it fought back, taking the life of this Messiah, this King, this light of the world. It wasn’t a surprise to this King—he knew what had to be done.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed…

Let us know join in taking Communion together.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also, he took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Why did God decide to become part of our story? Why come as an infant king only to die? It was for us, that we might have a new life with God. He was born to give us life. Jesus said:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Christmas is great. Baby Jesus is great. Family and friends are great. Giving and getting gifts is great.

But that’s not what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about our chance to have a new life—to have a fresh start, to leave our brokenness behind us, and to experience eternity in the presence of God. Because Christmas to the Cross is all about how much God loves us.

Merry Christmas!

Photo via Flickr

Chaplain Chris Linzey
Comments 3
  1. My company facilitates worship for senior citizens with dementia. We do not have a Christmas Eve service, so my husband and I enjoyed this service in the privacy of our home. It was moving and meaningful. Thank you so very much. Well done!

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