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The child at the centre

A service for all ages on Christmas Day

Planning

 

Preparing the worship space
This act of worship will work best if the worship space can rearranged to create a circle. For those with traditional buildings, be creative with some open space at the front if you can.

 

Banners
Throughout Advent or during a day workshop, produce several banners depicting the following characters:

  • Mary and Joseph
  • The shepherds
  • Angels
  • Animals
  • The Magi

These might be made by people of all ages. If you are not able to make the banners, an alternative approach would be to have different groups of people dressed up as these characters.

 

Stars
Cut out a variety of star shapes, 8-10cms in size, using gold and silver hologram card. Each star needs a hole punched at the top and at the bottom and on the back of each should be the words:
The child at the centre calls us
to be open and vulnerable.
Give a star to each person in the congregation as they arrive, together with a small paper clip which will be opened up to form a simple hook.

 

Hymns and carols
Keep these familiar and in tune with local custom.

 

The service

 

Call to worship
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;
Be born in us today!

 

During the singing of an opening hymn or carol, parents with a new baby come to sit centrally or
the youngest members of the congregation bring up a manger with a doll and place it centrally.

 

On this day we call upon the Christ, who is a child, to cross the bridges of story and space:
be present with us now.
On this day the Christ child comes to us as the Word made flesh:
come and dwell with us today.
On this day the Christ child announces a realm of peace and play in the streets:
take up your place at the centre of our lives.

 

Opening prayer
Hope of the world,
come to us as the baby born in Bethlehem.
Come and open our hearts and minds;
open our lives to the child within each one of us.
Open our lives to the presence of children in our community.
Hope of the world,
help us to put aside our privilege and power
and renew our spirit of wonder and awe.
Release us to rest in the presence of love;
restore to each other the other's lost infancy.
Hope of the world,
Come to us as the baby born in Bethlehem.

 

Open the word


The Christ child stretches out arms to those who surround him.
Who is this community that is centred on the child?

People of all ages carry the banners to a particular place in the worship space and gather there. Each banner is then carried in procession around the worship space while a suitable hymn or carol is sung or other suitable music played, until it arrives beside the crib scene in the centre.


A reader then joins the banner bearers and reads the relevant text. Eventually all the banners move to encircle the child in the manger or the small family group sitting in the centre of the worship space.

The Mary and Joseph banner arrives

We are Mary and Joseph, the bearers of the child.
We are Christ-carriers: the ones who give birth to the Word made flesh.

We are the care-givers, the providers of food and shelter, the holders of boundaries.
We give the child everything that is needed for growth.

We know that sometimes we won't get it right;
nevertheless we will do the best that we can.

 

Reading: Luke 2.1-7

The procession of the shepherds' banner

We are the shepherds, common people, the workers, practical folk who know how to do things.
We are the ones in touch with winter and summer, the wind, rain and sun.

We know the hard mysteries of birthing and dying, the toughness and realities of life.
Yet today we are the ones full of fear, but also the preachers of joy.

Reading: Luke 2.8-9, 15-18

The procession of the angels' banner

We are the messengers of God who link heaven and earth.
We pull back the curtains to reveal the divine.
Moving upwards and downwards we act as the go-betweens,
heralds of glory,
creatures of wonder,
and visions of splendour;
bringers of good news.

We know that that we can make people fearful but peace to all people is the message we bear.

 

Reading: Luke 2.10 – 14

The procession of the animals' banner

We are the written out ones,
only mentioned in the sacred writings in passing or by implication.
We are the dumb animals, no language, no words;
creatures used by others for their needs; for food and for carrying.
Yet we are part of Creation, consecrated with divine blessing.
We are Creation that is more than the human, more than the limited.
We are creatures who are loved by the child.

The procession of the Magis' banner

We are the Magi, the travelling ones, those who seek wisdom.
Seekers of knowing and unknowing, travelling with mystery and enquiry.

We are the star-gazers and gift-bringers.
We carry gold to enliven our humanity,
frankincense to enflame our passion,
and myrrh to anoint our endings.

As the circle of characters is complete they turn to face inwards and say:
Child of Bethlehem at the centre of our lives,
release us to rest in the presence of love.
'Restore to each other the other's lost infancy.'

The circle of characters turns to face outwards and invites the congregation to join the circle:
The Christ child calls you to join the circle,
to keep the child at the centre,
to ponder the meaning of childhood,
to share the tasks of redemption.

During a hymn or carol or suitable music, members of the congregation join the circle.
They bring their stars and paper clip hooks with them.
People may choose to stand around a particular banner because of associations it has for them.

 

Prayers

 

Intercessions
As people hold their stars they are invited to pray for different needs and concerns, keeping 'the child in the midst' as their focus. These prayers may be formal or informal, depending upon the congregational practice.

They might include concerns for the world's vulnerable children, for children throughout the world who are imperilled by famine, war, poverty and abuse.

Prayers may also be said for those who minister alongside children, prayers for changes that might enable justice for vulnerable children.

Prayers of thanksgiving may also be offered for the insights and challenges that children bring.

The circle of prayers can be extended by asking people to be aware of the unseen people who join this circle, those throughout the world, the children from the past who have lived the life of vulnerable open love.

Each of the banner groups could create prayers that focus on their theme. Each should keep 'the child in the centre' as the main focus.

For those with screens and PowerPoint™ different images of vulnerable children could help focus the intercessions.

At the end of the prayers the congregation join together saying the words on the back of the stars and then join their stars together using the opened up paper clip hooks.

These may then be attached to the banners or attached to different parts of the church building. They could encircle a Communion table if the service is to move into the sharing of bread and wine.

Say the Lord's Prayer together.

This section could conclude with the peace or a blessing.

 

Sending out prayer
Go out into the world in peace and great joy.
Be Christ-bearers, share the Good News with all;
be heralds of glory, and people loved by old and young, rich and poor.
Be wisdom seekers, travel with enquiring minds, and share in the tasks of redemption.

We go into the world.
Christ is born!
Thanks be to God!
Amen and amen!

 

 

Acknowledgements
The themes of 'Vulnerability' and 'The Child at the Centre' can be found in the book Graced Vulnerability by David Jensen, The Pilgrim Press, 2005, ISBN 978 0829816211.

The line: 'Restore to each other the other's lost infancy' comes from the poem 'For a Child Unexpected' by Ann Ridler in The Sun, Dancing: an Anthology of Christian Verse compiled by Charles Causley, Puffin Books, 1984 ISBN 978-0140315752.

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