Thinking About Christmas – A Christmas Liturgy by Jenny Flannagan

by Christine Sine

It is still Advent but most of us are well into thoughts of Christmas so this week I plan to post on Advent in the mornings and Christmas in the afternoon.  This afternoon’s post is a beautiful liturgy by Jenny Flannagan.  She shared it on her blog as That Christmas Storythis morning (with a downloadable version) before heading off to stay with her husband’s family in Ireland.

The last time they did that she came back wondering where on earth Jesus had been in any of the celebrations…which inspired her to write this liturgy for them to share in each year, with whoever they were with at Christmas.

What I love is the way that she breaks it down into responsive readings for different times of the Christmas celebration starting with Christmas Eve and ending the evening of Christmas Day.

Christmas Liturgy

i) Last thing on Christmas Eve: The anticipation.  By candlelight.

Reader 1: We read the angel’s words to Mary:

“Greetings, you who are highly favoured.  The Lord is with you.

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Reader 2

On the eve of this glorious celebration, we pause together.  

We steady our busy minds.

We still and quiet our souls within us.

We wait.


Reader 3:

We are silenced by the angel’s words, and can only listen with holy awe and strange wonder. 

We wait with her for the fulfilment of your extraordinary promises.

We carry inside us the promise of your presence.

We wait through the dark night for the promise of dawn.


Reader 4:

This Christmas eve, we are incredulous again that the God of the universe should make himself so small and so vulnerable, and be born into our world.

We wait with expectation for the new ways in which you will break into the darkness, into the humdrum of our lives.

We are humbled again by your desire to be born in us.

May you be born is us again this Christmas.  


All: We wait for your light to dawn again in our world.

ii) First thing on Christmas morning: Celebration

Reader 1: 

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Reader 2: We join with the angels, whose joy could no longer be contained in heaven, and say:

All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men and women on whom his favor rests

Reader 3: May our joy overflow like theirs today, and may it send us out to others.

Reader 4: We remember that the angels were sent to the unlikely – to a teenage girl, to a carpenter, to a group of shepherds.  Give us eyes to see the unlikely around us today, and may our joy overflow out to include them.

Reader 1: We remember today the people who are easily forgotten.  Those in our community who are alone.  Those who have no means of celebrating.  Those suffering physically, emotionally or mentally.  Those who are grieving. Those who are cold and hungry.  May they hear good news today.

Reader 2: May we know again today that Jesus’ birth is good news that changes everything.

All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men and women on whom his favor rests

iii) said at the table before lunch: Journey’s end and beginning

Reader 1: Today is a day that symbolises old journeys ending and new journeys beginning.  For Mary it was end of her pregnancy, and for both her and Joseph, the end of the long and slow journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  For the Wise Men it was an even longer journey, across many lands, following a star.  For the shepherds it was perhaps just a journey across the fields and the town.  The baby they found marked the end of their journeys, but it also marked the start of a new and a wonderful journey.

Reader 2: As we stop to share this meal together, we think of those who are journeying today – fleeing war and famine and other injustices.  We think of those who have no time today to stop and to celebrate.


Reader 1: We thank you Father for our different journeys which have brought us here today, and the promise that the baby born today will change everything.  Thank you Father that you are Immanuel, God with us, and we do not journey from here alone.


iv) tea time: the recognition

Reader 1: In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

God, you can now release your servant;

release me in peace as you promised.

With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;

it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:

A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,

and of glory for your people Israel.

Reader 2: God give us the faith and the patience of Simeon, who waited his whole life in prayerful expectancy that you would keep your word.


Reader 3: God, give us the imagination of Simeon, who could recognise in a newborn baby the hope of the whole world.


Reader 4: God, give us the humility of Simeon who lived to seek and to find Jesus


Reader 1: May we, too, live to see you today Jesus, and may we recognise you even in the most unexpected places.

v) last thing: the darkness; by candle light

Reader 1: 

A voice is heard in Ramah,

weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted,

because they are no more.

Reader 2: At the close of this Christmas Day we remember the grief that accompanied that first Christmas.  How the birth of Jesus’ caused such fear in Herod’s heart that he commanded the slaughter of all baby boys under the age of two.  These words of Jeremiah’s prophecy were fulfilled as mothers across the region wept for their loss.

Reader 3: We remember that this Christmas will have only brought more grief and suffering to many around the world.  We know that the darkness remains.

Reader 4: We weep with those who weep tonight.  We mourn the injustices of our world.  We mourn the violence, the oppression, the abuse.  We grieve the inequality that means one nation will starve and another will throw excess away.  We grieve selfishness and greed. We grieve premature death.

Reader 1: In faith we cling to the words of John, who described that first Christmas:

“What came into existence was Life,

and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

ALL: “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

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