Candlelit Christmas Eve – 24/12/20

Opening music video – Dreaming of a White Christmas – Lucy Elston & Laurence Panter

Opening words of welcome & chalice lighting
by Sydney Wilde-Nugent (adapted) – read by Annie Fowler

We are here this Christmas Eve to be together –
to feel the warmth of human connection –
a reassurance against the cold of this winter night.
We come to fill our eye with the light of candles,
to fill our ears with the sounds of music,
to fill our hearts with the wonder of new hope –
hope for the love of one another,
hope for peace on earth and good will to all.
Give us this night that inner peace which comes
from the knowledge that we are not alone
but that we are here, together,
despite, and because of, the year that we have lived through,
sharing common hopes, common dreams, common resolves.
Give us this night the joy and wonder which fill our souls with the knowledge
that we are a part of the interweaving patterns of the human and divine –
Each of us a spark of light in the Universe;
together, a brilliance which calls forth the promise of Bethlehem.
Together, may we find the courage to realise that promise.

Chalice Lighting:
Good evening everybody and a warm welcome to Kensington Unitarians Christmas Eve gathering on Zoom. These quiet meditative Christmas Eve services are very much part of our tradition and despite being unable to meet in person this year, it’s heart-warming to see you all here in the digital realm and to imagine people tuning in to this service as a video on YouTube, listening to it as an audio podcast or reading our script. There are many ways to create community. And that surely has been one of our learnings in 2020 – the need to build our sense of community, one with another.
This Christmas Eve I light the chalice, symbol of our Unitarian faith,
in recognition of all the challenges of these times in which we live
and to celebrate the many ways in which we are helping one another
Part of a human web of connectivity, each doing what we can
To nurture a life of love and justice and peace for all beings,
Seeking to repair the damaged places in ourselves, in one another and in our wider world.
….. And our first carol this evening tells of one of the damaged places here on earth – o little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Bethlehem has long been a disputed territor , through many eras and many regimes. As we sing perhaps our voices will add to the chorus seeking peace and resolution in the disputed Palestinian territories. With all our carols this evening we’ll be singing along with a recording of our Kensington Unitarians congregation so don’t be disturbed by rustling and coughing – it’s us a few years ago. The words will appear on the screen, we’ll all be muted, so sing with gusto if you like singing, but if you’d rather just listen that’s fine.

Carol – O little town of Bethlehem

Responsive Reading (on screen):
‘We are the Light of the World’ by Becky Edmiston

Some say that Jesus is the light of the world.
We all can be the light of the world
if we seek to act in ways that enlarge the realms of love and justice.
When we share another’s pain or offer a comforting ear to a friend in need,
We are the light of the world.
When we give bread to the hungry or support ways to house the homeless,
When we fight temptations to wrongdoing within ourselves
and treat our neighbours with respect,
We are the light of the world.
When we try to overcome differences with understanding
and solve conflict with peaceful means,
We are the light of the world.
When we look for the good in other people and in ourselves,
We are the light of the world.
When we do not stay quiet in the face of prejudice,
but speak our minds firmly and gently,
We are the light of the world.
When we fight despair within ourselves and side with hope,
We are the light of the world.
When we use our powers justly and in the service of love for humanity.
We are the light of the world.
We are the light of the world! Amen.

Time for reflection & prayer
adapted from words by Christine C. Robinson
Let us join our hearts and minds together in the spirit of prayer.
May these moments of quiet lead us to the heart of the season, which is peace.
May we breathe deeply of peace in this quiet place, relax into its warmth,
know we are safe here, and let us open our hearts to the evening’s story.
Like the wandering couple, may we find that our greatest trials issue forth from our greatest joys.
Like the harried innkeeper, may we find ways to be of help to others.
Like the lumbering beasts, may we be silent witnesses to the unfathomable glory of life.
Like the shepherds on the hill, may we know that we need never be afraid.
Like the journeying wise ones, may we always have the courage to follow our stars.
Like the angels, may we sing of peace to a troubled world.
Holy one, to these prayers for our own transformation we add our prayers
for all of those who suffer and grieve this evening for those who feel isolated or afraid. May they find comfort.
And we add our prayers for all those caught up in war and unrest; may they be safe. And may all who are unwell, receive the expert care they need.
And in a few moments of quiet now let us each give voice to the prayers of our hearts, expressing our love for others and for our world. (silence)
And may this season of peace and goodwill nudge our world towards its ideals,
for then might Christmas truly dawn. Amen.

Carol – Silent night (suggesting we now all switch to gallery view and enjoy the sight of one another, with lights shining in the darkness, such a potent image from the Christian message of God in human form, each of us a light to the world.

Silence in candlelight – 3 mins

Video – Bleak midwinter – Marilisa Valtazanou

Reading: ‘Practicing the Scales of Rejoicing’ by Richard S. Gilbert read by Harold Lorenzelli unannounced
We had forgotten how to sing until angel voices from mythical realms of glory split the night with their song;
We had forgotten how dark and deep the night until the pure light of a birthing star opened our unseeing eyes.
We had forgotten the miracle of new life until some unknown poet caught and sang the mystery.
How weary our step until the quickening holy day season.
How routine our stride before hearing a different song in the night;
How burdened with habit, now infused with time honoured freshness.
For the time being – eyes can see a magical night of joy;
For the time being – ears can hear melodies of the spirit over time’s tumults;
For the time being – hearts comprehend what minds but slowly grasp.
For the time being is all we have, we who are mortal flesh;
Somewhere between the triumphant night of birth and the dark day of death we stand;
Somewhere between silence of beginning and the eternal peace of ending, we pause …
For the time being is all we have for practicing the scales of rejoicing,
For singing into the dark and unknown night,
For flinging faithful tunes against the cold silence,
For beating rhythms of the soul over the cosmic cacophony,
For making melodies of meaning in the midst of spreading space,
For drawing from constricted voices sounds of joy that transcend all sadness,
For the time being is all we have for practicing the scales of rejoicing.

Carol – joy to the world

Reading: ‘Meeting the Messiah’ by Jeffrey B. Symynkywicz
When we scale, at last, the walls
which our hardened hearts have built,
then we come face-to-face, finally,
with the blessedness of one another.
Then we see that these struggling fellow pilgrims
with whom we share this space
are no longer robbers, pirates, and thieves,
but deepest friends, most intimate souls.

To see this Creation with the eyes of God
means seeing with the eyes of peace;
it means finding ways to bind up the broken,
even when the world says it can’t be done.

To scale these walls of alienation and despair
means living our lives in truth, with justice;
neither denying the holy gifts of our hearts
and souls, nor hoarding them like miser’s gold.

It is the simplest call of all, in essence:
To open ourselves to God,
we first open ourselves to one another.
Each day we live, in hope, the deepest possibilities
of our dreams and of our visions in this life,
we dwell as well in heaven.

Then it is that we will turn and greet one another,
knowing at long last the simple blessing
of standing fully in the presence of another true messiah,
face-to-face with one like us: a beaming, holy child of God.

Goodnight hymn

Thank you to all our musicians who put together their festive videos – Lucy Elston and Laurence Panter, Marilisa, Trevor Alexander and Peter Crockford. I look forward to a time when we can all be making music again together but in the meantime thank you for lifting our spirits. Thank you to everyone who’s joined us this evening and helped bring a sense of community. Do join us again if you’re free this coming Sunday at 10am when we’ll be gently putting the year 2020 to bed and looking for ways to ring the changes in the year ahead. We have a full moon afternoon retreat on Weds 30th Dec and a New year poetry group on Saturday 2nd Jan – get in touch if you’d like the details of those events.

We’ll have a closing blessing in a few moments which will be followed by Trevor and Peter’s musical encouragement to have ourselves a merry little Christmas. You might like to switch to gallery view now if that’s possible on the device you’re using

Closing Blessing
I extinguish our chalice flame but not the warmth of this community and I send this candlelight out into the world that all people might feel the power of love and connection this day. And some words of blessing by Edward Ericson, who writes of the value of emptiness, that seemed appropriate for the quieter Christmas time many of us are experiencing this year.

May we never forget the value of emptiness and stillness.
Let us ensure we have the time to make the long slow journey across the burning desert as did the Magi
And sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds, or to ponder that which will come to birth as did Mary.
For each one of us there is a desert to travel, a star to discover, and a being within ourselves to bring to life.
Amen, Go well everyone in the days ahead and blessed be – and I hope we all have a very merry little Christmas time.

Closing video – Merry little Christmas – Trevor Alexander & Peter Crockford

Rev. Sarah Tinker

24th December 2020