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Issue No.114
23 November 2017

Bringers of colour and light

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David Sinclair suggests activities for a Christmas tree service


Advance preparations

This service involves a degree of spontaneity which rarely results in perfection. It would be useful to have a few reliable helpers recruited beforehand. Decorations should be laid out - more than will be needed, so that there is some choice to be made. The leader will need to be ready to ad lib! At the end, invite those who have not yet participated to stay behind to complete the process. They and everyone else could be served festive treats while this happens.


Hymn: Good Christians, all rejoice


"The light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has never overcome it." (John 1:5, NIV)



In this service, we're going to decorate our Christmas tree. We're going to make it as bright and shining and festive as we can. Many churches have trees in them as part of their remembrance of the birth of Jesus, and we decorate them to make them look their best. Ours is in place, and the star and the lights are on it, but there is more to do - and that 'more' is what we're going to try to accomplish together today. We decorate our trees, we put lights on them, because we believe that life isn't just about survival; it's about a glorious celebration. We believe in the God who brings us life in abundance, whose desire for us is not a mere existence, but a bright, brilliant, true life.



Lord God, we come together today to celebrate your will for us, to celebrate the festival of your love, to celebrate the bright glory of your salvation. So, as we decorate a tree, may we think about how we may decorate our lives, and be decorated by your love. Help us be the bringers of joy and festivity, the bringers of colour and light, the bringers of love and life, in your name. Amen.


Hymn: The race that long in darkness pined


Baubles and symbols

We're going to add baubles to the tree, and symbols of our celebration. We have ... (describe the various decorations, holding them up for people to see). We need some people to come out and help put some of them on the tree. (Up to six volunteers come out - assure any 'extras' that there will be another opportunity later. They start on their task while the leader is still talking.)

We add symbols of our celebration to the tree to mark the oneness of everything we do; the carols and the parties, the snowman building and the festivity, should all be gathered into one in our thinking, not allowing ourselves to become divided into 'religious' stuff and 'secular' stuff. We are whole people living, we hope, integrated lives - all in celebration of the life Jesus brings.

We add baubles because they reflect the light and spread it; they multiply its effect. And so should we. We are called to refl ect the light of Christ in our lives, in our dealings with one another, with those in the church, and with those who would not think of themselves as being part of the church. The light, says John, shines in the darkness - and those of us who claim to follow that light should reflect it, shine it, celebrate it.


Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6

Hymn: The first Nowell the angel did say


Glitter and tinsel

We're now going to ask those who have been decorating the tree to give some others a chance. (Six are replaced by six others. They start 'work' immediately.) The new team is going to add tinsel and glitter to our tree. Their job is to give us a bit of magic and sparkle - our tree is going to glisten and glimmer.

Jesus often talks about a party: a party where everyone is welcome, a party where there is more than enough to go round, a party of feasting and dancing, excitement and amazement. That's what God wants for us. At Christmas we remember that God in Jesus came among us to add excitement to our lives, to help us notice the signs of God's kingdom that surround us.

And so we have a tree that is glistening and shimmering - not because we think the world is like that (we know it isn't for too many people) but because that is how God wants the world to be.


Reading: "Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, 'Light up the darkness!' and our lives fi lled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful." (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, MSG)


Hymn: Lord, the light of your love is shining



Lord Jesus, we make our church bright and beautiful for you. We brighten our place of worship because you brighten our lives. But do not let us forget that your world still has in it so much pain and despair and ugly darkness. Help us to become the bright light of your love for your world; help us take the beauty of this place with us when we go out into your world - to spread your beauty, and let your light shine. Amen.


Hymn: On Christmas night all Christians sing


Edited version of a service which appears in David Sinclair's book To Nativity and Beyond (Canterbury Press, 2016), used by permission of Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd, e:

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.www.zondervan.comThe "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken fromTHE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.