(a Litany for Christmas)
LEADER – From the very beginning of time there was light in this world. Genesis 1:3 tells us that God said. “‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” Not only was there physical light which is necessary for physical life, but there was also spiritual light. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” The goodness of God’s creation reflected a rightness between creation and Creator, between man and God.
When sin entered the world, physical light remained. Spiritual light would have died had it not been for our loving and gracious God who immediately intervened with a promise of One who would crush the evil one’s head and bring everlasting Light to all who would believe on Him. The burden ofthe Old Testament is the longing of God’s people for the coming of the Light—the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
PEOPLE – “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:22–24a).
LEADER – The songs of God’s people in the Old Testament must have reflected longings such as these:
SONG – O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear, O come thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; Dispel the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Chorus: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
LEADER – In the Old Testament the Light was concealed in shadows—types and prophecies. In the New Testament that Light was revealed in the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. That Light is fulfilled on earth in us as we walk in it. It is fulfilled in heaven as it pervades the heavenly mansions, making the light of sun and moon unnecessary.
The Light Concealed
LEADER – In Numbers 24:17 Baalam spoke prophetically of the Light, Jesus Christ, when he said:
PEOPLE – “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab…”
LEADER – Frequently throughout the Old Testament, God’s people would fall away from the true worship of their God. They would lose the vision of their deliverance and become oppressed by foreign powers. Often in that context, God would come to them through His prophets to declare punishment and deliverance by reminding them of the Light which was coming to dispel the darkness of sin and bondage. Isaiah was one of those great prophets of the Lord. After thundering against the sins of Israel, Isaiah comforts the righteous by saying:
PEOPLE – “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
LEADER – The gospel writer, Matthew, quotes this verse in chapter 4:16 to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Light promised in Isaiah 9:2.
PEOPLE – “Jesus…returned…went…and lived in Capemaum…to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
LEADER – With yearning the people must have sung songs like this:
SONG – Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
LEADER – The great prophet Malachi refers to the Light as the Sun.
PEOPLE – “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2a).
LEADER – There is a song which expresses the prayer that this Sun will rise.
SONG – Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies
Christ whose glory fills the skies, Christ the true and only Light, Sun of righteousness, arise, triumph o’er the shades of night; Dayspring from on high, be near; Daystar in my heart appear.
Dark and dismal is the morn unaccompanied by Thee; Joyless is the day’s return, till Thy mercy’s beams I see;Till they inward light impart, till Thou cheer and warm my heart.
LEADER – In the silence of hundreds of years which lay between the periods of the Old Testament and the New Testament, Isaiah’s words must have kept the hopes of many alive.
SONG – Comfort, Comfort Ye My People
Comfort, comfort ye My people, Speak ye peace thus saith our God; Comfort those who sit in darkness Mourning neath their sorrow’s load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them; Tell her that her sins I cover, And her warfare now is over.
Make ye straight what long was crooked Make the rougher places plain; Let your hearts be true and humble As befits His holy reign. For the glory of the Lord now o’er earth is spread abroad; And all flesh shall see the token That His Word is never broken.
The Light Revealed
LEADER – Through the thick stillness of centuries, God’s Word was not broken. God had planned to send the Light and when the time was ripe, He commanded the Light of the world to appear.
PEOPLE – “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).
LEADER – Zechariah the priest announced the coming of the Light by saying:
PEOPLE – “…because of the tender mercy of our God…the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadows of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78, 79).
LEADER – At last the holy night arrived and this song tells the story:
SONG – O Holy Night
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;Long lay the world in sin and error pining; Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born! O night, O holy night, O night divine!
LEADER – Angels filled the air with praises.
SONG – Angels We Have Heard on High
Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains, And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria in exelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!
LEADER – Shepherds hurried to the manger to worship the Light.
SONG – Silent Night
Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and Child, Holy Infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, heav’nly hosts sing alleluia. Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!
LEADER – We welcome the Light with a song!
SONG – Alleluia! (Tune -Michael, Row the Boat Ashore, Alleluia [Afro-American song))
Christ was born in Bethlehem, alleluia! Son of God and Son of man, alleluia!
He grew up an earthly child, alleluia! Of the world but undefiled, alleluia!
Jesus died on Calvary, alleluia! Rose again triumphantly, alleluia!
He will cleanse us from our sin, alleluia! If we live by faith in Him, alleluia!
We will live with Him someday, alleluia! And forever with Him stay, alleluia!
LEADER – A just and devout man named Simeon had been promised by the Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. When Joseph and Mary presented the baby King in the temple, eight days after His birth, Simeon took the Child in his arms and thanked God for sending the Light.
PEOPLE – “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).
LEADER – We join Simeon by praising God for His wonderful gift—the Light of the world!
SONG – How Bright Appears the Morning Star
How bright appears the Morning Star, with mercy beaming from afar; The host of heaven rejoices; O Righteous Branch, O Jesse’s Rod! Thou Son of man and Son of God! We too will lift our voices: Jesus! Jesus! Holy, holy, yet most lowly, draw Thou near us; Great Emmanuel, come and hear us.
LEADER – When Jesus grew up, He Himself announced to the world that He was Light, not just a light, but the Light of the world who alone can give life eternal.
PEOPLE – “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
LEADER – In his gospel, John has clearly demonstrated the person and purpose of the Light of the world.
RESPONSIVE READING of John 1:1–14
LEADER – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
PEOPLE – Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
LEADER – There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
PEOPLE – He came as a witness to testify concerning that light. so that through him men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
LEADER – The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
PEOPLE – He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
LEADER – Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
PEOPLE – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
SONG – Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light, And usher in the morning; Ye shepherds shrink not with affright, But hear the angel’s warning. This Child, now weak in infancy, Our confidence And joy shall be; The power of Satan breaking, And peace eternal making.
The Light Fulfilled – Fulfilled on Earth
LEADER – It is God’s will that the Light of the world be fulfilled on earth by dwelling in the hearts of believers. In Ephesians 5:14 and 15 Paul calls us to receive that Light.
PEOPLE – “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be very careful then, how you live…”
LEADER – The apostle Peter urges us to follow the Light.
PEOPLE – “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19).
LEADER – The apostle John shows us the meaning of the Light for our daily lives.
PEOPLE – “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble” (I John 2:8–10).
LEADER – Our Lord Jesus Himself calls us to walk in the Light.
PEOPLE – “Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light. before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the I light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light’” (John 12:35–36a).
LEADER – To this we respond with a song.
SONG – Brightest and Best
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning, Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid; Star of the east, the horizon adorning, Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
Vainly we offer each ample oblation, Vainly with gifts would His favor secure; Richer by far is the heart’s adoration, Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
FULFILLED IN HEAVEN
LEADER – It is also God’s will that the Light of the world be fulfilled in heaven. In Revelation 21:23 God says:
PEOPLE – “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”
LEADER – The Light of the world, our Savior Jesus Christ, invites us to join Him in heaven.
PEOPLE – “‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’ The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come…” (Revelation 22:17, 18).
SONG – O Come All Ye Faithful
O come, all ye faithful, joyful triumphant! O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem! Come and behold Him, born the King of angels.
O Savior we greet Thee, born this happy morning; O Jesus to Thee be all glory given. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,Christ the Lord!
All Scripture references cited in this litany are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.