Gracious God, whose light shines in the darkness and will never be extinguished: we thank you for this day of life, this opportunity to worship you, and this time to celebrate the birth of your Son Jesus, whose coming meant salvation for everyone who accepts the free gift of eternal life available through him and through your atoning love. His coming was not simply a joyous occasion some 2,000 years ago; it means joy for us today. His coming did not simply offer peace to the Holy Family, to shepherds abiding in the field, and astrologers from afar; it makes real and lasting peace possible today. His coming was not a single, loving action long ago; it means love is possible now, because love’s enemies have been defeated once and for all. We look forward to that time in your future when this victory is made manifest. You have enabled us to embrace your gift of life and love through faith; yet we confess that faith is often difficult. When we’re tempted to lose heart, remind us that you are Emmanuel, God with us, and you have proven yourself true. Enable us, your church, to be your chosen instruments to help others by warmed by the light of your love and experience the greatest gift of all this season: your salvation, which is made possible by Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.