THE FIRST LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 9TH CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH, BEGINNING AT THE 2ND VERSE.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:2-7)
HERE ENDETH THE FIRST LESSON
Psalm 96O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honour and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendour;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.’
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
THE SECOND LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 2ND CHAPTER OF THE LETTER OF ST PAUL TO TITUS.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
HERE ENDETH THE SECOND LESSON.
THE GOSPEL IS WRITTEN IN THE 2nd CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN, BEGINNING AT THE 1st VERSE.
GLORY BE TO THEE, O LORD.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
PRAISE BE TO THEE, O CHRIST. (John 1:1-14)
Let us pray.
Incarnate God, Emmanuel – you are with us. We know your presence especially this most holy night in Word and in Sacrament. In this Word, may only the truth be spoken and the truth be heard. In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
I join my offering this night to the ancient voice of St. John Chrysostom, of Constantinople.
I behold a new and wondrous mystery!
My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing!
The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and human in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.
And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For God willed, God had the power, God descended, God redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.
This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.
Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers have come, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women have come, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins have come, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants have come, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children have come, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men have come, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds have come, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests have come, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants have come, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans have come, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful people have come, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.
Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice.
I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival.
But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the tambourine, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ.
For this is all my hope,
this my life,
this my salvation,
this my pipe,
And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech,
I too, with the angels, sing:
Glory to God in the Highest;
and with the shepherds:
and on earth peace to men of good will.