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  • Simon Woodman

The Nativity According to Gabriel


A script for a nativity service, where Gabriel saves the day.

Call to Worship

With Angels, and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven,

we praise and magnify your glorious name;

evermore praising you, and saying:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,

heaven and earth are full of your glory:

Glory be to you ,O Lord most High. Amen.


Hark! The herald-angels sing,

'Glory to the new-born King;

peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!'

Joyful, all ye 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 new-born King.'


Christ, by highest heaven 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 with us as flesh to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel.


Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

risen with healing in his wings.

Mild he lays his glory by,

born that we no more may die,

born to raise each child of earth,

born to give us second birth.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and George Whitfield (1714-1770) #165


Opening Prayer

Loving Jesus, who comes to us each day,

we ask that you will come to us this day

and meet us through the story of your coming to the earth.


As we hear and experience the story of your birth to Mary and Joseph,

we ask that you will be born in us by the power of your Holy Spirit.


As we hear and experience the story the shepherds

we ask that you will draw us to worship you.


As we hear and experience the story of the wise men,

we ask that you will reveal yourself to us in the daily stuff of our lives,

through our work and study and play.


As we hear and experience the story of the angels

we ask that you will fill us with the mystery of your presence,

and that you will help us to learn to not be afraid.


Loving Jesus, who comes to us each day, we offer you this day. Amen.


Lord’s prayer

Loving God in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,

your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

Now and forever. Amen.


Welcome & Notices

Prayer to dedicate our giving to God and the church


The Nativity According to Gabriel

It was a busy year for Gabriel and the other angels.


Mary


Luke 1.26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you."

29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.

31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

37 For nothing will be impossible with God."

38 Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.


It all started one afternoon in Nazareth,

when Gabriel was sent to bring a message to Mary.


But how to introduce oneself, Gabriel wondered…?

‘Hello’ seems rather informal.

How about ‘Greetings, favoured one’?

Nope, that just left the young woman confused, and looking terrified.


Trying again, Gabriel said ‘Do not be afraid, you have found favour with God’.

Better.


But then the kicker, as they say,

‘You’re going to have a child, and I’d like you to call him Jesus.

He’s going to be great – trust me on this.’


Well, she looked a bit less scared, but no less confused.

‘How…???’ she stuttered.


‘Um’, Gabriel replied,

‘let’s just say the Holy Spirit will take care of things’.


And Mary, not having had any kind of answer, really, just said ‘yes’.


The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,

his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;

'All hail', said he, 'thou lowly maiden Mary,

most highly favoured lady.' Gloria!


'For known a blessèd mother thou shalt be,

all generations laud and honour thee,

thy son shall be Immanuel, by seers foretold;

most highly favoured lady.' Gloria!


Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,

'To me be as it pleaseth God', she said,

'My soul shall laud and magnify your holy name':

most highly favoured lady. Gloria!

Basque Carol, adapted Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) #177


Joseph


Matthew 1.18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

(Matt. 1:18-25 NRS)


Gabriel thought his job was over having got a ‘yes’ from Mary,

but then mission number two came his way,

and this time he had an angry and fired up man to deal with.


Joseph, Mary’s fiancé,

apparently wasn’t taking her happy news very well at all.


He was planning to break things off.


If they’d had messaging apps in those days, he’d have done it straight away,

but the Angel got in there first.


‘Um,’ he began, about to launch straight in

but then he remembered the scared look on Mary’s face,

‘don’t be afraid!’ he said, trying to begin a bit more gently.


‘Joseph, I’d like you to take Mary as your wife,

take on her child, and call him Jesus.


He’s going to be great – trust me on this.’


Joseph, being a man of few words who also knew what was good for him,

woke up from his dream, took his courage in both hands,

and did as the angel had commanded him.


God it was who said to Joseph,

'Down your tools and take your wife.'

God it was who said to Mary,

'In your womb, I'll start my life!'

Carpenter and country maiden

leaving town and trade and skills-

this is how we find God's people,

moved by what their Maker wills.

John L Bell (born 1949) & Graham Maule (born 1958)

Tune: Jesus calls us here to meet him #12



Bethlehem


Luke 2.1-7

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.


By this point, Gabriel decided that he was due a day off,

so he let the Holy Spirit take the lead in the next part of the story.


Joseph and Mary had to make a journey

to the town of Bethlehem to be registered for the big census,

and arrived there just in time for Mary to have her baby.


It all seemed like something of a mess,

what with there being no room at the inn and ending up in a stable.


But thankfully the innkeeper had an ear open

to the creative stirring of the clever Spirit,

and sometimes there’s more to life’s chaos than meets the eye,

and so the Baby who’s going to be great

was born in the same town as the great king David of old,

and the Holy Spirit went home dusting her hands

with satisfaction at a job well done.


O little town of Bethlehem,

how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,

the silent stars go by:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

the everlasting light;

the hopes and fears of all the years

are met in thee to-night.


O morning stars, together

proclaim the holy birth,

and praises sing to God the King,

and peace to all the earth.

For Christ is born of Mary;

and, gathered all above,

while mortals sleep, the angels keep

their watch of wondering love.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)


Shepherds


Luke 2.8-19

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 Savior, 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.


And now it was the turn of the cynical shepherds,

out in the fields looking after their sheep,

and Gabriel set off once again,

this time to try and to convince them

that there was something special going on in a stable in town,

and that they really shouldn’t miss it!


By now he knew how to begin,

‘Do not be afraid’ he said,

as they cowered in terror

at the sight of one of God’s messengers hovering in the sky in front of them.


‘I’m serious’, said Gabriel, ‘you won’t want to miss this one

– there’s a baby just been born, and he’s going to be great.

You really should go and take a look’.


But the Shepherds decided they weren’t going anywhere,

so Gabriel decided it was time for some reinforcements.


One angel might have done for a young woman, or an angry man,

but shepherds needed overkill.


Anyway, one heavenly multitude later,

the skies still ringing with the deafening chorus of the angelic host,

and the shepherds were off the hillside

as fast as their legs could carry them,

making their way to the stable, to see the little baby.


And they all agreed the he was going to be great.


Infant Holy, infant lowly,

For his bed a cattle stall;

Oxen lowing, little knowing,

Christ the babe is Lord of all.

Swift are winging, angels singing,

Nowells ringing, tidings bringing.

Christ the babe is Lord of all

Christ the babe is Lord of all.


Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping

Vigil till the morning new,

Saw the glory, heard the story,

Tidings of a gospel true.

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,

Praises voicing, greet the morrow

Christ the babe is born for you!

Christ the babe is born for you!

W zlobie lezy, Anonymous Polish translated by Edith M G Reed (1885-1933)


Wise Men


Matthew 2.1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."

3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;

4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.

8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."

9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


Well, thought Gabriel, I’ve taken care of the Mother,

and the Father, and the Shepherds,

and the Holy Spirit did the whole Stable in Bethlehem thing.


What’s next on the angelic to-do list?

Ah, yes, the wise men.


They might not listen to angels – far to mystical –

but being wise men, I bet they’d listen to science and reason.


So Gabriel popped back to the beginning of the universe

to have a word with the lord of the cosmos,

and between them they arranged for a conjunction of planets,

or was it some kind of star, or maybe a comet,

who knows how these things happen…?


Anyway, it was enough for the wise men,

who followed their wisdom and their science

all the way to where the baby lay.


And they said to his mother, ‘we think he’s going to be great’,

and they gave him gifts of gold, and spices, and precious oils,

and were about to go back to visit King Herod and wreck the whole thing

when Gabriel, panic stricken

that it was all going to go wrong at the last minute,

decided that it was time for one last angelic visitation.


And the wise men who followed the signs

were confronted with the angel after all.


‘Don’t go back to Herod’, said Gabriel,

‘he wants to kill the baby who’s going to be great.

Go home by another route.’


And to Gabriel’s huge surprise, the wise men said ‘yes’,

and everything turned out OK, at least for now.


The first Nowell the angel did say

Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay:

In fields where they lay keeping their sheep

On a cold winter's night that was so deep:

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,

Born is the King of Israel.


They looked up and saw a star,

Shining in the east, beyond them far,

And to the earth it gave great light,

And so it continued both day and night:

Chorus


And by the light of that same star,

Three wise men came from country far;

To seek for a king was their intent,

And to follow the star wherever it went:

Chorus


Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,

That hath made heaven and earth of naught,

And with his blood mankind hath bought:

Chorus

Anonymous


Prayers of Intercession


Angels, from the realms of glory,

Wing your flight through all the earth;

Heralds of creation's story,

Now proclaim Messiah's birth:

Come and worship Christ, the new-born king;

come and worship, worship Christ the new-born king.


Shepherds in the fields abiding,

Watching by your flocks by night,

God with us is now residing,

Yonder shines the infant Light:


Wise men, leave your contemplations;

Brighter visions shine afar;

Seek in him the hope of nations,

You have seen his rising star


Though an infant now we view him,

he will share the eternal throne,

gather all the nations to him;

every knee shall then bow down:


All creation, join in praising

God: Creator, Spirit, Son,

evermore your voices raising

to the eternal Three in One.

James Montgomery (1771-1854) #155


Blessing

May the blessing of the Christ who comes to us,

the Spirit who stirs and inspires us to action,

and the God who enfolds us in love,

be with us today and always. Amen.

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