Christmas Eve Service - Reservoir Church
Image Map
Image Map


Advent | Bless Us | God Speaks

Christmas Eve Service

Steve Watson

Dec 24, 2023

I’m Steve, the senior pastor of Reservoir Church. We welcome all people, without exception, to discover the love of Jesus, the joy of living, and the gift of community. We’re so glad you’re with us today. 

So good to be with you! One of my favorite places, with many of my favorite people, on one of my favorite days of the year – couldn’t be more pumped!

It’s been a very dynamic and exciting year in the life of this church, and I’m so glad to celebrate the birth of Jesus together today…

To our regular friends and members, thanks so much for sharing another Sunday together. And thank you for sustaining this community – all that we are and do – with your lives, your stories, your help, and your regular financial support. If any of you aren’t already part of the giving team that sustains the community, we don’t pass offering plates in our services but you can find out about giving at Reservoir and give online at our website –

If you’re not a regular part of the Reservoir Church community, a particular welcome to you. You can learn more about this community at our website,, or by following us on social media. 

Most Sundays we gather for worship in person at 9:30 a.m. and over YouTube at 11:00. Our kids and youth and adults are all worshiping together, as we will on next Sunday, New Year’s Eve. Our Sunday programs for babies through youth will resume during the new year. We also have over 25 groups that meet together throughout the week for connection and support and a variety of other ways to connect and serve the community.. If you’d like more information on our groups or any of our programs, or would like to sign up for our weekly newsletters and announcements, just fill out one of the connection cards I mentioned or email us at 

Alright, friends, let’s get to it. This is our Christmas Eve service of story, song, and candlelight. Today we’ll celebrate Christmas together with story and song. Along with readings of the Christmas story from the Bible, we’ll meet a few Reservoir families who’ll react to the story as well. At the end of our time, I’ll come back and share a few words of Christmas reflection and encouragement. And we’ll close with the singing together of Silent Night. 

Let’s now light the Christmas candle. As we do so, I’ll lead us in prayer with the words of Howard Thurman, pastor to America’s civil rights movement, with his poem, “I Will Light Candles this Christmas.”

I will light candles this Christmas,

Candles of joy despite all the sadness

Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,

Candles of courage for fears ever present.

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, 

Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,

Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all year long.

Story – The Annunciation and Visitation

Luke 1:26-38 (Common English Bible) 

26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee,

27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary.

28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”

29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you.

31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.

33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.

36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant.

37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.


Luke 1:39-46 (Common English Bible)

39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands.

40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.

43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.

45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.

48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored

49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.

50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.

51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.

52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.

54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,

55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.

While a child holds Mary and Joseph and an angel and says, “The angel told Mary and Joseph that they were going to have a baby and to name him Jesus. They were scared, but they were happy too because Jesus, God’s son, was coming to save us.” 

Story – The Nativity and Shepherds  

Luke 2:1-20 (Common English Bible)

1 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.

2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.

3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.

4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.

6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.

7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night.

9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.

11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.

12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said,

14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.”

16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.

18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them.

19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully.

20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

Mary and Joseph stand beside the manger. A child holds the baby Jesus and says

“Mary and Joseph had no hospital and nowhere to stay. While they were staying in a shelter, surrounded by animals, Jesus was born. Life was very hard, but God kept reminding them not to be afraid.”

Story – The Adoration of the Magi and Flight into Egypt 

Matthew 2:1-12 (Common English Bible) 

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem.

2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him.

4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born.

5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
            because from you will come one who governs,
            who will shepherd my people Israel.[a]

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared.

8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.”

9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was.

10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy.

11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.


Matthew 2:13-23 (Common English Bible) 

13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.”

14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt.

15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.

16 When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi.

17 This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:

18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much grieving.
        Rachel weeping for her children,
            and she did not want to be comforted,
                because they were no more.

19 After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.

20 “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”

21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee.

23 He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.

A child holds one of the Magi and says “Life was hard for the baby Jesus. But his mom and dad always remembered that after he was born, important people from very far away came to visit them and bring them gifts.”


I spent part of last Sunday with some of Reservoir’s youth, talking about merry Christmases and blue Christmases. 

A merry Christmas is when you celebrate the holiday with optimism, joy, and good cheer.

And a blue Christmas is the opposite – where Christmas comes, and you’re lonely or anxious, or you’re sad or angry. 

I asked the youth if they were coming into the holiday in more of a merry or a blue Christmas state of mind. And more than half of them thought they were somewhere in between. A little bit of both.

Me too.

This Christmas I have a lot to celebrate – a great year in the life of this church, and even more hope for the year to come. Friends and family I love and that love me too. A very loyal dog. Life’s pretty great.

But I’m blue as well. Worried about people I love. Heartbroken and angry over things in the world near and far. Tired out by some of this year’s stress. 

We all contain multitudes. We are people of paradox.

The Christmas story has room for it all. 

It begins with hope. 

Two women laugh together over unexpected joys. They cheer each other on as they dream about all their babies will become and all the wonders God will do in their lifetimes and beyond. 

Christmas after all invites us to dream again. If God is with us, who can be against us? What isn’t possible for God?

But the Christmas story ends in sorrow. A petty, narcissist politician hunts for the baby of Bethlehem. He can’t find Jesus. But there is collateral damage as they say. Rachel weeps for her children who are no more, as so  many mothers and fathers weep for their children today. 

Christmas is a story of immense hope, but it’s hope streaked with tragedy.

What do we do with this story of paradox?

What do we do with our merry/blue lives of paradox this Christmas?

Well, one option is that we stay where the story ends.

Our final reading ends with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph finding somewhere safe to live, escaping to the small, off the radar town of Nazareth. 

For Jesus, for a time, this is good. Nazareth is a hilly town away from trouble. 

It’s a place for Jesus to grow up and see many birthdays. To take his first steps, and wobble and fall, and get back on his feet again. 

To learn to speak Aramaic, to call his mother Ema and his father Abba.

Nazareth is where Jesus has the time to study Torah, to develop an uncanny knowledge and insight of the ancient holy texts of his people. 

It’s where he is safe to walk outside at night, look up at the stars and talk to God and wonder about his place in the world.

Nazareth is where Jesus would learn to catch and cook fish, where he’d apprentice to a builder and learn a trade. 

It’s good for Jesus to be safe, to have a place to grow and get ready for what’s to come. 

We need our Nazareths to flee to as well – the people and the places where we can go when trouble comes, when the stress and despair of life is too much. 

I have a park I walk to when I need that, where I can sit on the grass, lean back against the trunk of a tree, and be still for a bit. 

I have friends, in my case fellow pastors, who I meet with a couple times a month, where we smile and laugh and cuss a little, keeping it real about our joys and troubles. It’s good to spend an hour or two together, in privacy, in confidence, in that circle of listening and encouragement and support.  

I wonder if some of us need to find safe people, safe places for the year to come. Where can you go when you’re blue? Who can you be with when you’re stressed? What will you do to find your peace again when you’re afraid?

If we’re going to believe in peace on earth and good will to all people, we’re going to need to know how and where the peace can start with me. 

And this is good for us, for a time. To go to our parks and our prayer circles and our peace practices.

But we don’t spend our lives there. 

I get up from under the tree and walk back home.

I leave my little pastor buddy huddle and go back to work. 

Jesus grows up safe and secure in Nazareth, as every child should have the right to do in some city or town. But then he leaves. 

He heads east to the region of Galilee. Galilee was a complicated place. Multi-religious, multiethnic, it was heavily taxed, heavily oppressed, and a land of heavy anger and resistance. Of longing for a change to come. 

Jesus steps into this land, makes friends and followers among its people, as he teaches the way of a loving God with us, and as he teaches and lives a better way of being alive together, a healing path of truth and freedom and living like there’s always more than enough for us all. 

It’s the beginnings of God’s help, of the remembrance of mercy, his mother Mary dreamed of.

But it is not safe. People hate change, even the changes that set us free, and this was true even then in Galilee too. So Jesus found foes. Some people, including some very determined and very powerful people, came to hate Jesus. 

Which gives him the choice – to head back to his safe place in Nazareth if he can find it again, or to keep moving forward with his part – his very big part – in seeing God’s peace and justice get bigger in the world. 

So Jesus goes forward. He pulls back now and then. He withdraws to places and people and practices of peace. But then he keeps moving. 

What about us, my friends?

What hard work calls out to us in this year to come?

What relationships or communities of tension or despair do we live among, where we have access to bring words of blessing or peace? 

What complacent systems do we live within, where we  might be truthtellers or changemakers, sharing our story or our gifts? 

When the angels speak to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and it seems like anyone who has ears to hear, again and again what they say is: Fear not. 

Fear not. Don’t be afraid. 

I don’t think they mean: don’t you dare ever be afraid. 

Don’t get nervous. Don’t feel anxious. Don’t have stress.

Maybe for the angels, but not for us.

To be human is to feel these things.

But I do think they mean: don’t stay there.

Don’t hang out forever in your safe place. Don’t go back to Nazareth.

Go forward. Love big. Speak the truth. Live your call. Do the work. 

Remember what Christmas tells us.

That God is with us, this day, every day, in every place, forever.

And that God has the desire, and the ideas, and the strength to give us hope and to help us walk in courage in the middle of our fear, and to do the hard things that grow peace and justice in the world. We can join Jesus in this work, friends, moving from our safe places to our brave spaces where we partner with God and one another in the transformative healing of creation. 

Today it’s Christmas Eve today, tomorrow’s Christmas. It’s not a time for working. 

Take a moment of peace. Give a present, or open one, or both. Light a candle. Eat a good meal. Sleep a good sleep. 

We all deserve some peace. We all deserve secure places to rest and grow. 

Soak in the story. God is with us. Reclaiming every bit of our lives and every bit of creation as sacred ground again. If God is for us, who can stand against us? And if God is for us all, who dares stand against one another? 

But when you get up the day after Christmas, or the day after your vacation, before you go back to normal in the new year, perhaps pray the words of Thurman’s Christmas candle prayer with which we began today.

I will light candles this Christmas,

Candles of joy despite all the sadness

Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,

Candles of courage for fears ever present.

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, 

Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,

Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all year long.

Where can you join Jesus in his campaign of peace and good will, grace, hope, love, and courage? How will you welcome the light, and how will you and I join the light, be the light? 

Friends, if there is anything in that makes you just a little bit afraid, that’s OK. Ask God for courage to keep walking, keep shining, keep going forward. 

Together, we can do it. We can do it. 

Pray with me, friends, as we close.

Light of God, light of Christ, shine among us. 

Tender mercy and help of our Ema, Abba God hold and keep you this day and all the days of your life. 

The courage of Christ hold support you in your fear, and push you forward in courage. 

And may you know the light of God, shining upon you, within you, and through you and this day and forever more.