A Christmas Eve Communion Liturgy

The italic sections of this liturgy are from the hymn Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, which uses the text of a second or third century Syriac communion liturgy. The entire liturgy may be spoken, but it is also effective to sing the stanzas of the hymn.

The Invitation

Tonight, heaven and earth meet.

Tonight, a backyard shed is holy ground.

Tonight, strangers gather as family.

And so we come here, to the feast table of God, as Christ’s invited friends, chosen and beloved.

If you have been here often, if the memory of this table stretches back through all your Christmases, you are welcome.

If you have been here rarely, if reverence for bread and juice is strange to you, you are welcome.

If you have much faith, or little, or wouldn’t know where to begin even if you wanted to believe, you are welcome here. For Christ does not hold himself back from us, but boldly enters every heart.

Christ welcomes you to this table. That is all you need to know.

The Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.

We remember how Christ came-
from the vast expanses of heaven
to a world that barely made room for him
fragile and vulnerable and tiny-
we shudder to think of a child
in a backyard shed
in the cold of night
with only the protection
that the fierce love of his parents could give him.
We remember how shepherds and kings knelt before him,
before he could form words of blessing
or raise his hand to heal
how they adored him
not for what he’d done
but who he was
God among us
a miracle to hold in your hands.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

We remember too,
Christ of the upper room,
gathered with his friends
who seized a loaf of bread
and a cup of wine
as commonplace as anything
and declared they too
were a miracle
a miracle to hold in your hands
because they would be his signs
for all eternity
bread for new life
new life rising out of the old
and wine for forgiveness
forgiveness unearned
but complete.
We remember with pain Christ’s body broken,
and with wild joy his rising again,
and with faithful hope
await his return.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the shadows clear away.

Light of the world, we give thanks
that you came among us,
with healing in your touch
compassion in your voice
and grace in your power.
Darkness may seem so strong,
but the slightest light disrupts it.
Descend upon our world again, we pray,
vanquish the powers of evil,
sorrow, and despair
shine for those who grieve tonight
who are lost or lonely,
ill or empty
who dread the night
and fear the morning.
Shine in us,
that we might shine for them
that all shadows would clear away
and we would meet each other
in heaven’s light,
and call each other
as you do us.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

 Holy Spirit, presence of Christ in and among us,
we praise you with our own Alleluias
Rest yourself in these gifts of bread and cup
that they may be sure signs of God’s love for us,
forgiveness and life abundant.
Unite us with all the saints in every time and place,
all those who loved you
and all those you loved
Remind us that at this table
are those we miss so dearly tonight
those who are missing from our holiday tables
but ever present at your heavenly banquet
And most of all, unite us with Christ,
the child of Bethlehem,
that we might love as he loved
so greatly
that it changed the whole world.
Alleluia, we sing tonight.
Alleluia, Lord most high!

And now we join together in the prayer Christ himself has taught us, saying

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

The Words of Institution

Tonight we celebrate Christ, the Bread of Heaven, who, on the night before he was arrested for daring to love more boldly than others thought proper, took bread,
and after giving thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat.
This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

In the same way he took the cup, saying:
This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it,
do this in remembrance of me.

And so, whenever we eat this bread and drink of this cup, we too proclaim the boldness of God’s love, that will always come to us again.

The feast is ready. All are welcome.

Prayer after Communion

Bread of heaven, let us not be unchanged by tonight. Let us not pass by the stable in silence; let us not leave the table empty. Dwell in our hearts, and shine in our lives, that we might know your deep, deep peace, and share it with the world. Fill us with your love, that we might walk hand in hand with you all our days. We pray in the holy name of the Christ-child, born for us this night. Amen.

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