24th December 2023 11.30pm – Christmas Midnight Eucharist

24th December 2023 Christmas Midnight Eucharist: 

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Download the order of service here: 23 12 24 Christmas Midnight Eucharist

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The Readings

Isaiah 52. 7 - 10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.


John 1. 1 - 14

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.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 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

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

At one time I was a parish priest in Kendal, in the Lake District.

Each year, as people left midnight mass, a woman, the same woman, would wish me a
Happy Christmas, and then say: ‘See you next year, vicar.’

She did this unfailingly for the fourteen years I was there.

‘See you next year.’ She wasn’t being cheeky or flippant. On the contrary, she was telling
me that this service meant a great deal to her. She wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I think there were two reasons why.

First, in this service, we are taken to the very heart of the Christian faith. And at its heart is
a happening, an event.

Sometimes people speak about Christianity as if it were a set of beliefs. But that’s not quite
right. Christianity is not in the first place beliefs. That should cheer us up if at times we
struggle with some of those beliefs.

No, Christianity doesn’t begin with beliefs; it begins with the story of this night. The birth of
a child to a young mother and her soon-to-be husband, in an outhouse, by an inn, in the
little town of Bethlehem – a town which is still there, of course, on the Palestinian West

It is the story of how the invisible God makes himself known to us. He does it, not through
words – the messages of prophets or priests, the writings of theologians. God makes
himself known through the birth of a child. His message to us, his word to us, is a Word
made flesh. A Word made visible, in human form. If you want to know what God is like,
look here.

At Christmas we tell this story in many different ways – in school nativities, on Christmas
cards, in carols and in the crib you can see beneath this altar. And as we sing the story or
look at it, we go there in imagination to the place where God chooses to meet us – in this

Yes, beliefs can follow from that. You can put into propositions and doctrines what all this
means – as we do in the creed following this sermon. But we don’t start with beliefs. We
start with an event, a happening, the story of Christmas.

And that brings me to the second reason why the woman in my Kendal parish came every
year to midnight mass.

She wanted to hear the story again and to respond to it. She knew that having a faith is not
about carrying a bundle of beliefs around in your head, but it is about letting this story work
its way in you, in some profound way and at a deep level.

As one year came towards its close and another stood beckoning, she wanted to ground
her life again in the things that matter, the values that the story of the Christ child
suggested to her – the loving-kindness of the God who comes to us, the love of the mother
who cares for her child.

We live busy lives. We spend so much time on mobile phones and the internet. That often
leaves us physically exhausted and spiritually drained. We lose sight of the things that
matter, and it’s hard to find time to stop and think about what is important in life, what in
the end gives real satisfaction and meaning to all we do. Midnight mass is a precious
moment for quietly reflecting.

So tonight we remind ourselves of the story on which we ground our faith – a faith that will
guide us in our living and sustain us through whatever life has in store for us in times to

A young couple. A birth. A God who draws near to us in that baby. Who now knows our
human life from the inside of a human skin. One with us. One of us.

Ponder the story. It’s why we say Happy Christmas. It gives us a blessedness that will
underpin our living through all the coming days.

Tonight, you have no need to gaze up to heaven. Heaven has come down to you.


The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

Father, in this holy night your Son our Saviour
was born in human flesh.
Renew your Church as the Body of Christ.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night there was no room for your Son in the inn.
Protect with your love those who have no home
and all who live in poverty.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Mary, in the pain of labour,
brought your Son to birth.
Hold in your hand all who are in pain or distress.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night your Christ came as a light shining in the darkness.
Bring comfort to all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night the angels sang, ‘Peace to God’s people on earth.’
Strengthen those who work for peace and justice
in all the world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night shepherds in the field heard good tidings of joy.
Give us grace to preach the gospel of Christ’s redemption.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night strangers found the Holy Family,
and saw the baby lying in the manger.
Bless our homes and all whom we love.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night heaven is come down to earth,
and earth is raised to heaven.
Hold in your hand all those who have passed through death
in the hope of your coming kingdom.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Christians the world over celebrate Christ’s birth.
Open our hearts that he may be born in us today.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

in this holy night angels and shepherds worshipped at
the manger throne.
Receive the worship we offer in fellowship with Mary,
Joseph and the saints
through him who is your Word made flesh,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council