The Nativity of our Lord – Christmas Day 2020

God Is With Us


Pre-service Prayer

Pre-service Music


We Praise Our God


The Greeting and Invitation to Worship


The Opening Hymn                                      Hymn 55   “O Come All Ye Faithful”


1 Oh, come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant,

Oh, come ye, oh, come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels.



Oh, come, let us adore Him,   Oh, come, let us adore Him,

Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.


2 God from true God, and Light from Light eternal,

Born of a virgin, to earth He comes,

Only begotten Son of God the Father. [Refrain]


3 Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation;

Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above.

Glory to God, All glory in the highest. [Refrain]


4 Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;

Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n,

Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing. [Refrain]

At the Pastor’s invitation, the Congregation will rise for


The Invocation


     Pastor        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 


     Congregation: Amen. 




The Responsive Reading


Pastor:             Oh come, let us worship the Lord


     Congregation:       Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving.


     Pastor                    Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.


Congregation:       We have seen Christ’s glory,   the glory of the Father’s only-

                                   begotten Son,    full of grace and truth.  


The Opening Prayer for Christmas Day


     Pastor:       Almighty God,   +   grant that the birth of your only Son in the flesh +   may set us free from our old bondage under the yoke of sin,  +  that we might live now and always  +   in the righteousness, joy, and peace that are ours   +  through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,   +   Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,   +  one God, now and forever.   +   Amen.


Congregation:       Amen.


The Second Hymn                                                             Hymn 42    Come Your Heats and Voices Raising”


Come, your hearts and voices raising,  

Christ the Lord with gladness praising; 

Loudly sing His love amazing,  Worthy folk of Christendom.


See how God, for us providing,  Gave His Son and life abiding;

He our weary steps is guiding   From earth’s woes to heavenly joy.


From the bondage that oppressed us,   From sin’s fetters that possessed us,

From the grief that sore distressed us,   We, the captives, now are free.


Oh, the joy beyond expressing   When by faith we grasp this blessing

And to Thee we come confessing   That our freedom Thou hast wrought!


Gracious Child, we pray Thee, hear us,   From Thy lowly manger cheer us,

Gently lead us and be near us   Till we join the angelic choir.



after which the Congregation will rise for


The Confession of Sins and Absolution


     Pastor God, our Heavenly Father, invites us to come into His presence and to worship Him with humble and penitent hearts.  Therefore, let us now turn to Him, acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking His forgiveness for all our sins.


     Congregation        Holy and merciful Father, +   I confess that I am by nature sinful   +   and that I have disobeyed You in my thoughts, words, and actions;    +  

 I have done what is evil in Your sight   +   and have failed to do what is good.   +    For this I know that I deserve Your punishment,   +    both now and for eternity.     +     But I am truly sorry for all my sins,     +   and trusting in the perfect life   +   and innocent death of my Savior,  Jesus Christ, +   I plead:    +  God have mercy on me, a sinner.


     Pastor Our gracious Lord and Master has shown us His mercy:   He has given His one and only Son to save us from all our sins.     And now, carrying out my office as a called servant of Christ,  and according to His command and authority,   I forgive you all your sins   in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  May the peace of God rest upon all of you.    Amen.


            Congregation:                                To the melody of “Ode to Joy” (cwh, 1999)


Joyful, joyful we adore You,   God of glory, God of love!

Heav’n and earth bow down before You,     Praising You, our Lord above.

You our Father,   Christ our Savior,    With the Spirit faith provides,

Life eternal we’ve been granted, gracious gift that e’er abides.


You are giving and forgiving,      Ever glorious, Ever blest.

Source of every kind of blessing,    Giver of eternal rest.

You have claimed us as Your children     Heaven’s heirs through faith alone —

In the Rock of our salvation,   Jesus Christ, our Lord, Your Son.


Lord, receive our prayers and praises, weak and humble though they be.

Yours the power, Yours the glory,   Both today and endlessly.

None beside You, None before You, God of mercy, full and free.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ever blessed Trinity.


The Psalm for This Festival                                                                                                                Psalm 72


     Pastor:             Endow the King with Your justice, O God.

     Congregation:       The royal Son with Your righteousness


     Pastor:             He will defend the afflicted among the people,

     Congregation:       And save the children of the needy


     Pastor:             He will endure as long as the sun,

     Congregation:       As long as the moon, through all generations.


     Pastor:             He will be like rain falling on the mown field,

     Congregation:       Like showers watering the earth.

     Pastor:             All kings will bow down to Him

     Congregation:       And all nations will call Him blessed.


     Pastor:             Praise be to the Lord God, Who alone does marvelous deeds.

     Congregation:       May the whole earth be filled with His glory.


After which the Congregation may be seated for


The Third Hymn                                                                      Hymn 63   “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,

Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo,   Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo.


Shepherds, why this jubilee?   Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be     Which inspire your heav’nly song?

Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo,   Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo.


Come to Bethlehem and see    Him Whose birth the angels sing;

Come, adore on bended knee   Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.

Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo,   Glo – – – – – ria, in excelsis Deo.



We Give Our Attention to God’s Word


An Old Testament Prophecy                                                                                                            Micah 5:2


But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,  though you are small among the clans of Judah,  from you, will go out the one who will be the ruler for me in Israel.  His goings forth are from the beginning, from the days of eternity.



Our Response In Song                                                                    Hymn 50   “Once in Royal David’s City”


1 Once in royal David’s city Stood a lowly cattle shed,

Where a mother laid her Baby In a manger for His bed;

Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little Child.


2 He came down to earth from heaven Who is God and Lord of all,

And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall;

With the poor and mean and lowly Lived on earth our Savior holy.


3 But our eyes at last shall see Him Through His own redeeming love,

For that Child, so dear and gentle, Is our Lord in heav’n above,

And He leads His children on To the place where He is gone.


4 Not in that poor, lowly stable With the oxen standing by

Shall we see Him, but in heaven, Set at God’s right hand on high.

Then like stars His children crowned, All in white, his praise will sound.

The Reading of Luke 2:1-7                                                                                    The Birth of the Savior


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.   And all went to be taxed,  everyone into his own city.   And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem  (because He was of the house and lineage of David)  to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with Child.  And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.



Congregational Hymn                                                                                   Hymn 68   “Away In A Manger”


Away in a manger,   no crib for a bed,

the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay.

The little, Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.


The cattle are lowing,   the baby awakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.

I love You, Lord Jesus;   look down from the sky,

And stay by my cradle ‘til morning is nigh.


Be near me, Lord Jesus;    I ask You to stay

Close by me forever    And love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Your tender care,

And take us to heaven to live with You there.       


                                                                                                                   The Angels Announce Christ’s

The Reading of Luke 2:8-14                                                  Birth to the Shepherds


And there were in the same country,  shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them;   and they were sore afraid.   And the angel said unto them:  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior,Which is Christ the Lord.   And this shall be a sign unto you;  ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”



Congregational Hymn    Hymn 53     “To Shepherds As They Watched By Night”


1 To shepherds as they watched by night    Appeared a host of angels bright;

“Behold the tender babe,” they said,   “In yonder lowly manger laid,


2 “At Bethlehem, in David’s town,   As Micah did of old make known.

It is the Christ, your Lord and King,   Who will to all salvation bring.”


3 Oh, then rejoice that through his Son   God is with sinners now at one;

Made like yourselves of flesh and blood,   Your brother is the eternal God.


4 You  shall and must at last prevail.   God’s own you are; you cannot fail.

To God forever sing your praise   With joy and patience all your days.



                                                                                                       The Shepherds Visit the Christ

The Reading of Luke 2:15-20      Child and Return, Glorifying God


And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.   And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.   And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.   And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.   But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherd returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”



Congregational Hymn      Hymn 61 “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”


Hark the herald angels sing,   “Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth and mercy mild,   God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful all you nations rise,    Join the triumph of the skies;

With the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark!   the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest heav’n adored,   Christ, the everlasting Lord,

Late in time behold Him come,    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,    Hail th’ incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with us to dwell    Jesus, our Immanuel!

Hark!   the herald angels sing,   “Glory to the newborn King!”


Hail, the heav’nly Prince of Peace!   Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings,   Ris’n with healing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by,   Born that we no more may die,

Born to raise us from the earth,   Born to give us second birth.

Hark!   The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”



The Sermon                                     based on Matthew 1:22-23


22 All this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son. And they will name Him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.”


“Our Savior is Born – God Is With us”


We Bring our Offerings and Prayers to the Lord


Our Offerings of Love to our Lord


Because we aren’t able to pass an offering plate today during tonight’s worship service, those in attendance may leave their offerings in the offering plates by the exit at the close of our service.    For those watching this worship service, we offer you the following suggestions for providing God with Your thank-offerings through our ministry:     

1) You can mail a check (no cash) to the church address (415 N. 6th Place, Lowell, AR 72745)

2) You can go to our website ( and use the giving option.


The Christmas Day Prayer                                                                                                                               



The Lord’s Prayer


Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name;  Thy kingdom come;  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;  Give us this day our daily bread;  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;  And lead us not into temptation;  But deliver us from evil;  For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.


After which the Congregation will be seated for



We Conclude Today’s Service


The Closing Hymn                              Hymn 34 “Now Sing We Now Rejoice”


1 Now sing we, now rejoice,  Now raise to heav’n our voice;

He from Whom joy streameth   Poor in a manger lies;

Not so brightly beameth  The sun in yonder skies.

Thou my Savior art!   Thou my Savior art!


2 Come from on high to me;   I cannot rise to Thee.

Cheer my wearied spirit,   O pure and holy Child;

Through Thy grace and merit,   Blest Jesus, Lord most mild,

Draw me unto Thee!   Draw me unto Thee!


3 Now through His Son doth shine   The Father’s grace divine.

Death o’er us had reigned   Through sin and vanity;

He for us obtained   Eternal joy on high.

May we praise Him there!   May we praise Him there!


4 Oh, where shall joy be found?   Where but on heav’nly ground?

Where the angels singing   With all His saints unite,

Sweetest praises bringing   In heav’nly joy and light.

Oh, that we were there!   Oh, that we were there!


After which, the Congregation will rise for

The Closing Prayer


Pastor:             We thank You, Almighty God, for the gift of Your Son, Who humbled Himself to become our Brother.   May our celebration of His birth continue beyond today, across the course of our lives, that as we praise Him here we might serve Him always as grateful, redeemed  citizens of His heavenly Kingdom.   We ask this for the sake of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with You  and the Spirit is the one true God, forever and ever.


     Congregation        Amen.



The Benediction


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

And the love of God

And the communion of the Holy Spirit

Be with you all.    Amen.


Period for Silent Prayer

Announcements,  Postlude





           Which is the most important church festival?   There’s no doubt that many people would answer, “Christmas, of course!”   But it wasn’t always that way.   As a matter of fact, for the first 350 years after Christ’s birth Christian churches didn’t celebrate a December 25th Christmas.   (There is evidence that the origins of a primitive and isolated Christmas celebration can be traced back to 98 AD, but it was not embraced church-wide and was rather short-lived.)   Understandably, for early Christians the major Church festival of the year was Easter, with each new Sunday (the Lord’s Day) being a fresh reminder of Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week.  In fact, church members who did consider formally commemorating Christ’s birth were afraid that by doing so, outsiders might come to think of Jesus as just another one of the many earthly rulers whose birthdays customarily were celebrated in those days.


           Instead of being concerned with a December 25th Christmas, the early Christian church was much more interested in the January 6 Festival of Epiphany, which directed people’s attention to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry: His baptism and first miracle.  Today, of course, Epiphany lies – almost hidden – under the shadow of Christmas and has even taken on a Christmas-oriented theme.  We now use Epiphany to relate the final chapter of the Christmas story, the coming of the Wise Men.


           It was during the fourth century that the spotlight of the church’s attention began to shift from Epiphany to Christmas.  One reason for this shift was a growing – and appropriate – emphasis on the miraculous, yet human, birth of the Savior.   From its very earliest days, the Christian Church had to contend with a cult known as the Gnostics (Greek for “Knowers”).   Bearing in mind that Gnostic teaching varied significantly, generally these heretics significantly down-played Jesus’ humanity.  To them it was unthinkable that the eternal Son of God should come into the world as a physical, humble, little baby.  They taught, instead, that the man Jesus first became occupied by a divine presence at the time of His baptism.  Gnosticism posed a serious threat to the early church, much like those cults today (the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, among others) which are deceptively and damnably pulling thousands upon thousands of people away from Christian churches.    In the context of its struggles against Gnosticism, it was only natural that the orthodox (true-teaching) Christian discussions about Christ’s humanity would center on His physical birth and the reality of Jesus being fully human.   But there was a rather significant problem in connection with Christ’s birth…..nobody knew exactly on what day the Savior was born.   The Bible gives no specific date.   And if the first generation of Christians knew precisely when Christ was born,  either they didn’t write it down, or whatever was written down wasn’t preserved for us.


           Putting together what scant information they had, theologians worked to arrive at some kind of an accurate date for the Savior’s birth.   Some attempted to establish the day when Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) served in the temple;  they then combined it with the annunciation to Mary which took place “in the sixth month” following (Luke 1:26), added nine months and reached one conclusion about when Jesus was born.  Others tried to determine at what time of the year the shepherds might or might not have been in the fields of Bethlehem.  Such calculations have led to a variety of possibilities:  January 2 or 6, March 28 or 29, April 18, 19 or 20, September 29, December 25.  The church father Hippolytus (about 170-235) is given credit for being the first person to set the date as December 25.  He had concluded that the time of Christ’s life from His conception to His crucifixion was exactly 33 years.  Having somehow determined (we now know Hippolytus’  conclusions were erroneous) that both these events took place on March 25, it was simply a matter of adding nine months to come up with the day of Jesus’ birth – December 25.   


           About the same time that these early Christians were trying to arrive at a reasonable determination of when Jesus was born, a momentous event in the history of the Christian Church took place.   For the first time ever, a Roman Emperor became a Christian.    In 313 the Emperor Constantine (280-337) issued his Edict of Toleration, changing Christianity from being an illegal, persecuted religion to one having the “status” of being not merely an approved, legitimate religion inside the empire – it became the Emperor’s own faith.   (Constantine would subsequently renounce all paganism and be baptized, near his death in 337.)  Because of this, many people suddenly decided that it was politically advantageous for them to become Christian, like their emperor.  Needless to say, more than a few of those “conversions” were probably less than sincere.  



           Now, it just so happened that one of the favorite Roman, pagan holidays was the Saturnalia (December 17-24), which culminated in the celebration of the shortest day of the year and the birth of the “new sun” on December 25.  These days were marked by processions, the lighting of candles and the giving presents.  This was also a time of “merrymaking” and overindulgence.  Since many people within the empire’s boundaries were not at all inclined to give up their holiday – at least not entirely – it seemed reasonable (and it worked out…) to replace the celebration of birth of the “sun” with the celebration of birth of “the Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).   Of course, at the time it wasn’t an easy, quick, or total victory for the Church.   In fact since that first celebration of Christmas in 336, to our own day and age Christian pastors have been trying their best to keep Christ at the center of the Christmas celebration — often against rather formidable secular and materialistic competition……and that “competition” from the secular world is very strong – as we all know all too well.


           Here are a few additional thoughts and observations in connection with our Christmas observance …..


           First, the “season” of Christmas lasts only a few weeks on the “traditional” Church Calendar.  Its exact length is determined by the number of Sundays between December 25 and January 6th.   It is never longer than two Sundays, and is typically one Sunday in length.               Also, in generations past  December 25th was usually referred to as “First Christmas” (rather than Christmas Day), while December 26th came to be known as “Second Christmas.”  On both days Christians considered it a privilege to publicly worship their Savior-King.  Sadly that “good” custom of reinforcing in our hearts the good news of the Savior’s birth through “Second Christmas” fell into disuse years ago, and so has been all but lost to today’s average churchgoer.


           Finally, (and perhaps as a surprise to some among us) a few of the customs we normally associate with Christmas owe at least part of their origin to pagan sources.  For example, the Roman Saturnalia, which marked the sun’s “return” included the practice of giving and receiving presents.  Also, it is very possible that our customs of using evergreens, holly, ivy, mistletoe and rosemary were first suggested by non-Christian practices, although these quickly took on Christian significance (their green color symbolic of the eternal life that is ours through faith in Christ).  Finally, as for our custom of bringing Christmas trees into our homes (a practice which is of German origin), its beginnings can actually be traced back to the Christian-oriented “mystery plays” of the Middle Ages….the evergreen tree being used to represent both Eden’s “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and also (later in the play) Christ’s cross .   By tradition, Martin Luther was among the first – if not the first person – to bring the evergreen tree indoors as a symbol of the everlasting life which Christ our Savior came to bring us.



The Advent Wreath and Candles


           Central to our celebration of the Savior’s birth not only this morning , but throughout the pre-Christmas season of Advent has been the “Advent Wreath and Candles” which are found in the front of the sanctuary today.        For the first time this year, the large white candle in the center, the “Christ Candle,” is lit, since this morning we are here to celebrate His birth.  It symbolizes the fulfillment of Christmas prophesy — the nativity of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Light of the world. 


           In addition, the four smaller candles (formerly 3 purple and one pink) have been replaced by four white candles.   The color of white is used to symbolize the personal purity and righteousness of Christ our Savior, as well as to typify the status (of fully forgiven, heaven-bound saints) that Jesus’ substitutionary perfect life and sacrifice has secured for us.   The significance of each of those four smaller candles is explained in what follows:


The First Candle (violet/white) is the Candle of Prophesy, symbolizing the Old Testament prophecies of the Advent, or coming, of the Savior.   


The Second Advent Candle (violet/white) is the Bethlehem Candle.  It symbolizes the coming to earth of Jesus, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary.   


The Third Advent Candle (pink/white) is the Shepherd Candle.   Through this candle’s symbolism we recall the coming of the Savior into our hearts and lives through the Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament).  


The Fourth Candle (violet/white) is the Angel Candle.   It represents the final coming of the Savior in glory with all His angels for the final judgement.