Christmas Eve, 2022 Luke 2: 1-20; Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96 Grace, peace and mercy be with you from Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen. In my family, growing up, we always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve night. We would have our turkey dinner, finishing with a traditional Danish dessert called citron fromage (I think that it means “lemon snow”) and it would have a whole almond hidden in it and the person who found the almond in their bowl received a box of chocolate. There was the one Christmas when we were passing the bowl around the table and almost everyone had two or three servings of this dessert searching for the almost. When the bowl was empty, and many of us had very full stomachs, my dad reached into his mouth and came out with the almond and then, with a very innocent voice, “Oh, is this what everyone was looking for?” Telling that story soon became a tradition that was shared each Christmas Eve. After the meal we would head to church for the candlelight service, come home and pull the tree into the middle of the living room – a room that we weren’t allowed to step into through the year because of the white wool carpet – and we would join hands, walking around the tree and singing Christmas carols. Then it was time to open the presents. There were traditions that surrounded our family’s celebration of Christmas and if those traditions weren’t followed there would usually be someone who would say, “Hey, wait. We have to let only one person at a time to open a gift.” I am sure that there are many of you who have certain ways of doing things, certain foods that need to be a part of the celebrations, even certain music that needs to be sung or shared or listened to. For many of us, those traditions help to make the celebration feel complete and satisfying. For the second time in three years we are gathering for our Christmas Eve service on-line, in 2020 it was because of COVID-19 and tonight because of the treacherous weather and road conditions. This is not how we have always done it but it is a way to keep everyone safe. As we gather together today to celebrate Christmas, we are gathering to remember what God continually does – come into the midst of us with the promise of HOPE, PEACE, JOY & LOVE. We are celebrating that God, in Jesus, is showing us how much we are loved and valued and blessed. In the story of the birth of a baby, born to an engaged couple who have todwell in a barn because there was no room for them in the inn, and attended to by barn animals and shepherds is a story of God coming down into our experience of everyday life, whatever that may be, and reminding us of God’s presence with us always. The gift of the Christ-child was and is unexpected. This gift of love from God that comes into our world again and again to remind of the kindness and generosity of our God in the One who is born among us and comes to bring a message of peace and good-will among all people is a reminder that we are called to share this Good News of Jesus Christ with all those with whom we come in contact. We are called to share a part of ourselves in Acts of Random Kindness that shows others the love that is in our hearts. We, too, are called to reach out to others with our gifts of hope, peace, joy and love so that they too can see how much God loves and cherishes them and calls them to be a part of the Reign of God in this world as well. During this Christmas time we are called to be messengers of the love of God for the world – actually, we are called to always do this, but Christmas time seems to remind us of this call – in the ways that we tell the message to others. We are all different and have different gifts, yet we all have the same message to share in this Christmas season. The angels told the shepherds, the shepherds told Joseph and Mary and Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Again this year, we are doing things differently at Christmas time, but the important thing is that the message is being proclaimed – God is doing a new thing, God’s child is being born, again, in the world today and we, you and I, are the messengers of this Good News, God is dwelling with God’s people, God loves God’s creation and we have hope, peace, joy and peace to share with everyone. Let’s go and proclaim this wonderful news to everyone. Merry Christmas! Let it be so. Amen PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION With wonder and thanksgiving for Christ’s coming into the world, we pray for the church, the life of the earth, and the whole human family. Your infinite love is born to us this night. With choirs of angels the church proclaims the good news. Send us out as messengers of the hope that has come to all people. God of grace, hear our prayer. You are pleased to dwell with your creatures and the whole earth sings for joy. Renew the splendor of creation from the smallest cell to the widest galaxies. Guide us to be wise stewards of your gifts for the sake of generations to come. God of grace, hear our prayer. Your authority is over the nations. Break the rod of oppression in every land and free all people from fear. Bring peace where there is war, compassion where there is suffering, and healing where there is disease, we think especially of Ukraine & Russia, Yemen, Syria and the Holy Land. God of grace, hear our prayer. You cherish those who are most vulnerable. Protect infants and children, and bless those who care for them. Watch over women giving birth, attend the dying, and relieve any who are in painWe pray for those who have requested our prayers for them, especiallyJennie, Sally, Hermie, Linda, Lefty, Emma, Helga, Howard, Ben, Lydia, Annie S., Olga, Myrna & Wally, Herman, Marcia, Al, Julie, Gerhard, Marvin, Greta, Alex & Evelyn, Alice, Willy, Terry, Wayne, Bernie, Agnes, Alma, and others known to us personally whom we name before you now…Send us and others into their lives as signs of your presence and healing… Shelter refugee families and those who have no home. God of grace, hear our prayer. Your lovingkindness embraces everyone in need. Help any for whom this season is lonely or joyless. Comfort those among us, or known to us, who are experiencing distress of body or mind, missing loved ones, or grieving, and we think especially of family and friends of Berni Solheim. God of grace, hear our prayer. You welcome those who have died into the joyous light of glory. We give thanks for the saints of every time and place who have praised you with lives of faith and humility. Inspire us by their example to love you by serving others. God of grace, hear our prayer. Pondering the mystery of eternal love made flesh in Christ Jesus, we commend all for whom we pray to the mercy of God. Amen.