24 December 2019

Continuing the Christmas
journey to Bethlehem ‘in
uncertainty, in hope’

The Christmas story told in an icon on a Christmas card from the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge (click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday 24 December:

Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

9.30 p.m.: The Christmas Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Readings: Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2: 1-14 (15-20)

The First Christmas in a panel on the Oberammergau altarpiece in the Lady Chapel, Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford / Lichfield Gazette)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Our Gospel reading tonight (Luke 2: 1-20) tells the Christmas story tenderly and succinctly.

So why would I try to add to it or to embellish it in a sermon?

Instead, on this Christmas night, I have decided to read ‘Of Journeys,’ a new poem by President Michael D Higgins. It is poignant and fitting given the times in which we live, especially at Christmas and as we fast approach a new year and a new decade:

On that migrant’s journey,
Paused in Bethlehem,
No room at any Inn,
Was all the rest foretold,
Of words upon the Mount,
And abundance of fish,
Of miracles and glory,
Gethsemane and Golgotha?

The migrant journey resumed
Was not the script of prophets
Informed by uncertainty?
Did it not offer a foretelling,
Of all the migrant journeys to come,
Sometimes in the warmth of sharing
Too often in the shadow of fear.

Nothing is fully foretold.
All journeys reveal,
What we do in the shadow
Of each other,
Making a welcome,
Reaching for fear,
Bolting the door
On which the notice announces,
There is no room.

Yet unbowed
By any response,
The migrants’ journey as before,
In uncertainty,
In hope,

Happy Christmas; live in hope, and live in love, and may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

The first Christmas depicted on Antoni Gaudí’s Nativity Façade of the Basilica of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 2: 1-20 (NRSVA):

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The first Christmas depicted in the reredos in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical colour: White (or Gold)

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God, mighty God,
you are the creator of the world.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary,
you are the Prince of Peace.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
by your power the Word was made flesh
and came to dwell among us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect (night):

Almighty God,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
Grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 6)


You have given Jesus Christ your only Son
to be born of the Virgin Mary,
and through him you have given us power
to become the children of God:

Post Communion Prayer (night):

God our Father,
whose Word has come among us
in the Holy Child of Bethlehem:
May the light of faith illumine our hearts
and shine in our words and deeds;
through him who is Christ the Lord.


Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one
all things earthly and heavenly,
fill you with his joy and peace:


174, O little town of Bethlehem (CD 11)
160, Hark! the herald angels sing (CD 9)
182, Silent night, holy night (CD 11)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

A Christmas crib in a shop window in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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