Whose Birthday? #12 - Worshipful Ceremonies

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Worshipful Ceremonies

God, We Await Your Advent Here: Hymn

St. Nicholas Day Celebration

Epiphany Celebration


Text: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, 1998
Isaiah 35:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
by Henry Percy Smith, 1874 - "O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee"

God, we await your advent here:
When will these desert lands rejoice?
When will new blossoms bright appear
And all earth praise you with one voice?

We live in deserts we have made;
Gifts of your love we pass right by.
We seek possessions, more each day,
And then in thirst for joy, we cry.

God, we prepare for Jesus' birth--
Searching for gifts from store to store!
Yet when you sent your Christ to earth,
You gave us joy worth so much more.

When in the love of Christ we grow,
Streams in this desert shall abound.
Then by your Spirit we will know:
True wealth in Jesus Christ is found.

Copyright (c) 1998 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Bruce & Carolyn Gillette, Co-Pastors, First Presbyterian Church, 305 S Broadway, Pitman, NJ 08071(609)-589-8444 E-mail: Bruce_Gillette.parti@ecunet.org.

A Saint Nicholas Day Celebration

This service recognizes Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th. It tells of Nicholas, a 4th century Bishop, and his unique way of giving, encouraging people to remember those in need during Christmas and through out the year.

As you plan this event, choose a leader and someone to play the part of Saint Nicholas. Allow enough time for them to become familiar with their lines.

You may use a robe and staff for Saint Nicholas' costumeand gold coin chocolates if you wish to hand out candy at the end.

You might want to plan a meal or gathering after this play for people to discuss and plan for alternative gift-giving this Christmas. You could encourage them to bring a gift for someone in need to your Epiphany celebration (such as baby booties, warm gloves or food).

LEADER: December 6th is the feast of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas lived long ago in the 4th century far away in Myra, a part of Asia Minor. He was known for his kindness and generosity to the needy. He was so loving to people that eventually he was asked to lead the Christians in Myra as their bishop.

Some of you are actively following his example of reaching out to the poor and rejected. That's marvelous! You're keeping a proper perspective on giving at a time of year when we feel tremendous pressure to buy unnecessary things for one another, while more needy people go without heat, nutritious food and friendship.

It's difficult these days to remember the one whose birthday we will be celebrating soon. What kinds of gifts would Jesus want - our works of mercy and love? Imagine how this Christmas could be a truly Christian feast if we all followed Jesus' example like Nicholas did.

[Saint Nicholas enters.]

SAINT NICHOLAS: That would be wonderful! Yes indeed! Nicholas, Bishop of Myra at your service.

LEADER: Well, Bishop Nicholas, can you give us some ideas about gift-giving?

NICHOLAS: I think Jesus showed us the way. He always tried to give to people who were poor, sick or lonely.

LEADER: Who might that be in our area?

NICHOLAS: Well, sometimes it's someone in your own family, classroom, office or neighborhood who is feeling lonely or overwhelmed by a problem. They need your friendship and your time. You may not know the names of those who are struggling to heat their home, but they are right here in [name of city]. I hear that the power company has a way for you to help pay their heating bills to keep them warm this winter. Or you can donate food to the local food bank. And don't forget about helping people by donating to [church's giving fund].

LEADER: But if we use some of our gift money that way, we won't have enough to buy expensive gifts for our families and friends. They might be disappointed.

NICHOLAS: That's right. Sometimes it's hard to be like Jesus. Remember that he promised his spirit would be with us at times like this to help us make loving choices. You can explain it to your friends and relatives, asking them to use their money for the needy too, instead of buying you a gift.

LEADER: Oh, that sounds tough!

NICHOLAS: But it feels wonderful!

LEADER: Saint Nicholas, can you tell us of a time when you gave a gift?

NICHOLAS: Let me think a moment. Oh yes, there was once a poor couple who had three daughters who were ready to get married. According to the custom of that time, the family needed money to give as a dowry for the daughters to marry. Without the money for dowries, the girls would have no choice but to become slaves. I didn't want that to happen, so one night I secretly tossed some gold coins through the window.

LEADER: Did they ever find out it was you?

NICHOLAS: They thought it might be me, but I never told. That's half the fun of giving - keeping it a secret. Like Jesus, I love to give to those in need. And I love to give to children.

NICHOLAS: I have a gift for you today. Who can remember the gift I gave to the three daughters?

CHILDREN: [Leader can prompt if need be] Gold coins.

NICHOLAS: Right! And I have some for you today, not real gold, but with a treat inside.

[Nicholas passes out coin candy. This part can be deleted or adapted if you do not wish to pass out candy.]

NICHOLAS: Now, can you think of ways you might give a gift to someone who is lonely or poor?

[Allow time for response, especially from the children.]

LEADER: Thank you for sharing your time with us today, Saint Nicholas. Your ideas about gift-giving will help us to remember those who are truly in need this Christmas season.

P.S. for parents

The Real Christmas Present Legend tells how St. Nicholas stilled a storm at sea and saved the sailors from certain death by drowning. Nowadays our children's souls are about to drown in the flood of presents. At Christmas time we cannot neglect to emphasize the most important gift, and while doing it we might tell them about the real Saint Nick.

An Epiphany Celebration

This service is designed to help households and small groups celebrate Epiphany, January 6th.

Traditionally, the feast of Epiphany signified the close of the Christmas season. Many countries save their high feasting and gift-giving for Epiphany. By saving our gift-giving for January 6th, we might better focus our Advent and Christmas celebrations on the birth of Christ.

Sometime before Epiphany, perhaps Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th, you might encourage members of your household or small group to bring a gift for a needy person (such as baby booties, warm gloves, food), which will be disbursed your Epiphany celebration one month later. The gifts may be placed near the manger as they are brought in. Choose individuals or an agency to receive these gifts after your Epiphany celebration.

In addition to choosing a leader and two readers, you will need to choose three magi to play the parts of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. One way to choose them is to bake three kings' cakes. Before baking the cake batter, place one dried lima bean in each cake. (Or you may place three beans in a single cake.) Serve the cakes during a special meal sometime before Epiphany. (You may want to divide the group into three age levels so that people of all ages can take part in the presentation.) The three people who find a bean in their piece of cake are then crowned Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

The group can then make crowns for their kings. You could also design costumes if you wish. Encourage the three to become familiar with their lines before the scheduled presentation. Before your Epiphany celebration begins, hang a star at the front of the room or choose a person to carry a star suspended on a pole who would lead the three.

This event can also close with the reading of "Baboushka: A Story from Russia" retold by Elaine Ward in Being with God: Advent Devotions (Brea, CA: Educational Ministries, 1988), also available other places.

LEADER: January 6th is special day - the celebration of Epiphany. On Epiphany we remember the three magi who traveled from faraway places to visit the Christ Child. They arrived after Christmas and after Joseph and Mary and Jesus escaped to Egypt and then returned home.

READER 1: Matthew told us the story. "When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts - gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:9-11)

[The three appear.]

MELCHIOR: Do you suppose this is the way?

CASPAR: We must be lost.

LEADER: We have some visitors. And who are you?

CASPAR: My name is Caspar from Tarsus.

MELCHIOR: I'm Melchior from Arabia.

BALTHASAR: And I'm Balthasar from Sheba.

LEADER: Why, you're the three magi. We have heard a lot about you. In fact, we sing a song about you.

[The group sings stanza one of We Three Kings as the three proceed to the front. Key of G, first note B]

GROUP: We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

BALTHASAR: We bring gifts for the child. Do you know where he is?

LEADER: Matthew says you follow the star. But what gifts do you bring?

CASPAR: I bring gold which stands for tribute. I come to pay tribute to a ruler.

MELCHIOR: I bring frankincense, for I come to worship God.

BALTHASAR: And I bring myrrh, a precious substance used in burial.

LEADER: Yes, we've heard of your gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh. [To audience] What kind of gifts might we bring Jesus today? In Matthew 25, Jesus insists that in order to give to him, we must find him in the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

BALTHASAR: Yes, those are wonderful gifts. We must now be on our way.

LEADER: Thanks for stopping on your way to visit the Christ Child. You gave us some good ideas about what gifts we might bring.

(The gifts that were brought are now disbursed to the needy, preferably by all the members of the household or the group.)

This is a shortened version of this service. Complete, original version.

This page last updated 20 October 2012 (1 February 2005)

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