Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

December 2013: Christmas by Numbers

december 2013 grace flyer

There is something in the air for a cracking good time, while we find out Who is next Strictly Downton for the Queen's Speech

Join us as we explore our Christmas Traditions. What do they tell us about ourselves?

Service, with communion, from 8pm at St. Mary's Church. Mulled wine and mince pies afterwards.

Or join us over twitter from 8:15 by searching on the hashtag #XmasByNos


This was a Christmas-themed version of an old favourite 'Communion by Numbers'. In the original format the congregation sit in small groups around tables, and each table has nine big envelopes containing instructions/liturgy/stuff to do. When a bell rings, people open the next envelope and do whatever is in it. At a certain point this involves bread and wine.

This time we dispensed with the envelopes. The stuff was in a box, and all instructions and liturgy came via Twitter to the devices of people at the tables, mostly without other announcements. Because Twitter is public, friends in other places could observe and join in, and all participants could tweet their comments, reactions, and photos in real time during the service, in effect as part of the rolling liturgy.

Jonny's playlist for the service is here


Welcome to Christmas by Numbers, whether your are with us at St Mary's or joining in via Twitter. This evening we are exploring our reactions, habits and traditions associated with Christmas.

Mike will be our "tweet-meister" this evening. The service will progress largely unannounced until we reach communion.

Instructions for the service will come from @grace_london. Whether you are here in person or online, do tweet thoughts and responses from your personal account, using the hashtag #XmasByNos

This service is an experiement for Grace, it may not be without technical hitches, but this part of our ethos of Risk.

During the service we may tweet photos of the service for those who are remote, but we request that you wait until after the service to tweet a photo, or we might overload the Wi-Fi connection in the church.

After the service there will be mulled wine and mince pies. There will be a laptop running so that we can see photos and comments that are being shared.

Running Order and Tweet Sheet - Christmas by Numbers

At 8pm

We will be starting the service at 8:15pm. Until then, put on some tunes and relax… #XmasByNos

At 8:15pm

Welcome to Grace. #XmasByNos

This service is Christmas by Numbers. #XmasByNos

1. Opening prayer #XmasByNos

Say this opening prayer together. #XmasByNos

Almighty God,
It’s dark outside
and the nights are long.
We watch and wait with mounting expectation
for the coming of your son into the world.

We ease our waiting with the
blandishments of tinsel and tree.
We delight in their beauty,
but Lord, in our eagerness
guard our hearts from celebrating
the things we have made
instead of the gift you will give.

2. Confession #XmasByNos

Read and discuss this; #XmasByNos

Discuss these questions and your experiences. Tweet any insights with hashtag #XmasByNos

Fear at Christmas

How many people do you think are expecting to start 2014 in debt because of Christmas
a) 1 in 3
b) 1 in 5
c) 1 in 8

How do you feel under pressure to spend to ensure a “Good Christmas”? From where is the pressure coming?

Christmas and your relationships

A study has shown that January 8th is the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers, what proportion of couples will enquire about divorce after the pressures of Christmas?

a) 1 in 20
b) 1 in 10
c) 1 in 5

How stressed is your Christmas? What (or who?) are the causes?

Consumption, waste, and Christmas

In 2011 we spent £594 million on unwanted Christmas gifts. What proportion of all the gifts given were unwanted by the recipient?

a) 1 in 20
b) 1 in 10
c) 1 in 5

How much do you throw away? What happens to your unwanted gifts?

Allow time for discussion

Here are the answers to the ‘quiz’ #XmasByNos

a) 1 in 3
c) 1 in 5
b) 1 in 10

Allow time for people to read this.

3. Absolution #XmasByNos

Read the following prayer together: #XmasByNos

Almighty God,
Whom in Jesus Christ we await this advent
Forgive us our sins,
and relieve our tension towards others
Open our eyes to your truths, and dispel our fears
Strengthen us to your will,
and not our selfish motivations
Give us the joy of your kingdom,
Through Jesus Christ your son our Lord,

4. Your Christmas Story #XmasByNos

Watch a short film. It will be on screen at St. Mary’s. #XmasByNos


What aspects of the film felt familiar to you? Chat! #XmasByNos

In your group, talk about your Christmas traditions. These questions might help. #XmasByNos

What makes Christmas special for you/your household/community
What makes Christmas different from any other time of year?
How have your traditions evolved over the years? Why?
Which of your traditions are specifically connected with faith?
Which other groups of people do you have Christmas traditions with?
The office party? Your children’s school?
Who does Christmas enable you to reconnect with?

5. The Gospel #XmasByNos

Look up Matthew 1:18-25. You can use a Bible, or there’s a link to follow. #XmasByNos

Choose one person in your group to read it slowly and deliberately. #XmasByNos

Listen carefully and try to hear the words anew. #XmasByNos

The Bible passage is here: #XmasByNos

Allow time for the Bible passage to be read

What struck you about the story this evening? #XmasByNos

Has anything challenged you about your Christmas? #XmasByNos

Get someone else to read the story aloud again as you think about these questions. #XmasByNos

Allow time for the passage to be read a second time.

Share a question that the reading has provoked for you about how you keep Christmas. #XmasByNos

Tweet your questions. #XmasByNos

6. Christmas Creed #XmasByNos

There is a gift-wrapped box on your table. Unwrap it now, and take out the paper-chains and pens. #XmasByNos

What does Christmas mean for you now? Complete this sentence; “Christmas is…”. #XmasByNos

Write your sentence down on the white side of a paper chain. #XmasByNos

Write several if you feel inspired. You can read them out later in the service #XmasByNos

7. Prayers #XmasByNos

These tweets need to come steadily, with enough time between them for people to read them.

Position a festive candle from your box so that everyone at your table can see it #XmasByNos

Choose someone to read out the following reflection: #XmasByNos

Candles have traditionally formed part of the symbolism of Advent in many churches.

Now we will take a few minutes to bring us back from all the joys and tears of Christmas Day that we have been imagining…
and remember the waiting…
and searching for answers…
and not knowing what was to come…
that was part of the Christmas story we read.

Ask God to help you ponder on his words, and what the coming of his son means for you.

Light the candle.

We will keep a time of silence together.
Put down your electronic devices and be still.


Pick up your pieces of paper chain #XmasByNos

Read the words to yourself again #XmasByNos

And then take it in turns to read the words of your Christmas Creed with the others on your table #XmasByNos

Loop your paperchain piece through someone else’s, joining your Christmas Creed with theirs #XmasByNos

Bring your table’s paperchain and use it to decorate the Christmas Tree #XmasByNos

Have a look at what the other paper chains say. #XmasByNos

Has anything surprised you? Is there a new tradition you want to adopt? #XmasByNos

As Dean stands up to say the peace, tweet the following;

8. Please stand for… The Peace #XmasByNos

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace. #XmasByNos

The Peace of the Lord be always with you. #XmasByNos

Let us greet one another with a sign of God’s peace. #XmasByNos

9. The Communion #XmasByNos

Choose someone from each table to hold up the bread when indicated, and another to hold up the wine. #XmasByNos

Listen to the Communion prayer being read, or read it yourself here. #XmasByNos

The Lord is here
His Spirit is with us

Lift up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give thanks and praise.

We give you praise for sun and star,
for comet and constellation.
The phases of the moon are your design,
and you keep the planets in their orbits
You made them all,
and they reflect your love.

But when the time was right
you sent your Son to live on earth as a man.
Born in a barn, in a nowhere town,
to a pair of nobodies,
surrounded by shepherds who didn’t count enough to be in the census,
you embraced the mundaneness of human existence.
You partied.
You ate and drank
You wept at the death of a friend
You gave people courage to follow you.

To you, who made the universe,
no-one was beyond your notice,
and everybody was a somebody.

You shaped 6x10^26 grammes of rock to form the earth,
but treasured the small things in life,
and made them signs of your grace.

You took bread and wine,
at supper with your friends, the night before you died.

Lift up the bread

You took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and said:
Take, eat. This is my body, given for you.
Do this in memory of me.

Lift up the cup of wine.

After supper, you took the cup of wine,
gave thanks, and said:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
poured out for you:
Do this as often as you drink it
in memory of me.

Therefore, loving God,
recalling now Christ’s death and resurrection,
we ask you to accept this, our sacrifice of praise.

Send your Holy Spirit on us and upon our celebration,
that our bread and our wine may be for us the body and blood of your Son.

Sustain us to live lives of honesty and goodness,
keeping Christmas with your perspective that transcends planets and parties,
recognising that the joy and mystery of this season
comes from laughter, not expensive gifts
and the expectation of Immanuel, God with us,
and not the perfect turkey.

May we and all who share this food
offer ourselves to live for you
and be welcomed at your feast in heaven
where all creation worships you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Blessing and honour and glory and power
be yours for ever and ever.

Share the bread and wine

After communion, say the following prayer

Thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of Christ.
May we who have been fed tonight,
work to feed the hungry.
May we who have shared our stories and our ideas tonight,
give voice to the voiceless.
Transform our priorities,
and fill our hearts with wonder as we wait to greet your Son.

Share the bread and wine. #XmasByNos

10. The Blessing #XmasByNos

Listen to the Blessing, or read it here. #XmasByNos

Infinite, intimate God,
in bread and wine we have celebrated your presence with us.
May we grow in the divine life of Christ
who humbly shared our human life.
Fill us with joy
and send us out to share this good news with others.
And the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Be with us all, now and forever.

Thanks for joining in! #XmasByNos

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