Our service of lessons and carols this year is adapted from a service by Jeanyne Slettom at Process and Faith.

First Reading: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 [Christ’s birth and reign are foretold.]

Second Reading: Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9 [The peace Christ will bring is foretold.]

Third Reading: Luke 1:26-35, 38 [The Annunciation]


“Don’t be afraid.” Even though God comes and changes your life, don’t be afraid. Even when God turns the world upside down and invites you into that project, don’t be afraid. Even when the Life of creation comes to an unwed girl, don’t fear.

There’s nothing to fear, but much to wonder at. God indeed turns the world upside down – and that’s good news, when we see the world as it is. Mary lived in a world full of wrong, violence, and exploitation. People had almost stopped hoping for Isaiah’s vision of peace and justice. Then God came into this world where “It is what it is” and said, “It doesn’t have to be that way.” Power and wealth don’t have to rule. God is greater than fear.

To change this world, God came and offered himself to it. Christ took part in life as any human does, and he gave his life to healing, feeding, and teaching. He ultimately showed us a way through death – not to avoid death, to free us from it. Christ’s life continues to come to us, it takes shape within us, when we imagine what could be and allow ourselves to be part of it.

Let us give thanks for the courage that makes room for God, tonight and always.


Fourth Reading: Luke 2:1, 3-7 [Luke tells of the birth of Jesus.]

Fifth Reading: Luke 2:8-16 [The shepherds go to the manger.]


Again, “Don’t be afraid!” This is what angels say, because God’s plan is good news – even when that plan looks like feeding Baby Jesus to the livestock. Even when the messengers come to the farmhands and announce earthshaking news to the graveyard shift among people who weren’t respected and valued – this is God’s way. God arrives anonymously. God shows herself to those we consider “nobody” and invites us to be on lookout for what God is doing. God is still doing it, still bringing new life into the world, still shining lights in the darkness, still healing and transforming life.

Most of the time, we have to look where we wouldn’t expect it. The big things happen subtly. They rarely tear open the heavens, and the angels usually sing silently. You can hear them when relationships come back together in forgiveness, when people give generously to strangers, when people take bold chances in love. You can hear them if you’re listening, if you pay attention to what God’s up to.

And when we listen, we don’t just hear; we start to resonate with the angels’ music. We’re changed by what we hear and invited into new life. So let’s continue to listen – not just tonight, but always – for what God is doing.


Sixth Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 [The wise men are led by the star.]

Seventh Reading: John 1:1-14 [The mystery of incarnation.]