Service of Lessons and Carols – 20 December 2020


Here is our service of lessons and carols for tomorrow, including a short reflection by Martin

The online worship session will start at 11.00.

Some of us will be in the church for the first time since March.

If you want to join via Zoom in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for log in details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 20/12

‘God With Us’

Once in Royal David’s City

Once in Royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her Baby
in a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all,
and His shelter was a stable,
and His cradle was a stall;
with the poor, and mean, and lowly,
lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
he would honour and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden,
in whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as He.

For he is our childhood’s pattern;
day by day, like us He grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us He knew;
and He feeleth for our sadness,
and He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
through His own redeeming love;
for that Child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above,
and He leads His children on
to the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see Him; but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
where like stars His children crowned
all in white shall wait around.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15, 17-19 – God tells Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise  

That evening they heard the Lord God walking in the garden, and they hid from him among the trees. But the Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden; I was afraid and hid from you, because I was naked.”

“Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. “Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

The Lord God asked the woman, “Why did you do this?”

She replied, “The snake tricked me into eating it.”

Then the Lord God said to the snake, “You will be punished for this; you alone of all the animals must bear this curse: From now on you will crawl on your belly, and you will have to eat dust as long as you live. I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite her offspring’s heel.”

And he said to the man, “You listened to your wife and ate the fruit which I told you not to eat. Because of what you have done, the ground will be under a curse. You will have to work hard all your life to make it produce enough food for you. It will produce weeds and thorns, and you will have to eat wild plants. You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything, until you go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were made from soil, and you will become soil again.”

Second Lesson – Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 – The Prophet foretells the coming of the Saviour

 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows,
    but now light is shining on them.

 A child is born to us!
    A son is given to us!
    And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counsellor,”
    “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
    “Prince of Peace.”
His royal power will continue to grow;
    his kingdom will always be at peace.
He will rule as King David’s successor,
    basing his power on right and justice,
    from now until the end of time.
The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

 It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
‘Peace on the earth goodwill to men
from heaven’s all-gracious king!’
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come 
with peaceful wings unfurled, 
and still their heavenly music floats 
o’er all the weary world; 
above its sad and lowly plains, 
they bend on hovering wing, 
and ever o’er its Babel sounds 
the blessed angels sing. 

But with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the angel-strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
and man, at war with man, hears not
 the love song which they bring; –
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
 and hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on, 
by prophet bards foretold, 
when with the ever-circling years 
comes round the age of gold; 
when peace shall over all the earth 
its ancient splendours fling, 
and the whole world send back the song 
which now the angels sing.

Third Lesson – Luke 1:26-35 – The Birth of Jesus is Announced

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. He had a message for a young woman promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”

Mary was deeply troubled by the angel’s message, and she wondered what his words meant. The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!”

Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 

“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell Thy people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
and open wide our heav’nly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Fourth Lesson – Luke 2:1-7 – The Birth of Jesus

At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria.  Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown.

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born.

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Fifth Lesson – Luke 2:8-16 – The Shepherds and the Angels

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger.

While Shepherds Watched (Sweet Bells)

While shepherds watched
their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground
the angel of the Lord came down
and glory shone around.


CHORUS:
Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells,
sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas Bells,
they cheer us on our heavenly way, sweet chiming bells.

“Fear not,” said he,
(for mighty dread
had seized their troubled minds)
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
to you and all mankind”.

CHORUS

“To you in David’s
town this day
is born of David’s line
a Saviour who is Christ the Lord,
and this shall be the sign.”

CHORUS


“All glory be to,
God on high
and to the earth be peace:
goodwill henceforth,
rom heaven to men,
begin and never cease!”

CHORUS


Reflection

I have had discussions in the past about which of the two festivals – Christmas and Easter – is the most important. I know that Easter is focused on the sacrificial death of Jesus for our sins and all that that means, but this year I am being challenged to consider what Christmas means to me. I am avoiding all the tinsel and baubles, partly because I am lazy and partly because I am wondering what the point is when I am on my own and I would be putting the decorations up to take them down. So what am I to make of Christmas this year.

I suppose this year we are very aware of people, the ones we can be with and the ones we are having to just connect with remotely. In the Christmas story the people are also central to the importance. Firstly God, the story reminds us that even in the depth of our winters God is willing to intervene, to enter our circumstances and to meet with us. Mary and Joseph, Mary a young girl and Joseph a jobbing carpenter from the quickly establishing Roman settlement in Nazareth. Hardly social media royalty. Very normal people, just like us. I’m not sure whether the fact that God used them or God was willing to use them is most striking to me.

The second thing is that God was ‘with’ them. Mary wasn’t established as a mother or social figure and Joseph hadn’t made his first million as an entrepreneur. Mary had not done an alpha or ministry course, but God wanted to work with her and to be a blessing through her. Joseph didn’t change his job because of this new role.  God worked in the ordinary rather than the spectacular. Maybe we would receive a greater blessing if we were to look at the simple ways God is working in our community.

Finally, God is with ‘us’. We have experienced God meeting with us this year. We have seen how he has grown us together in ways that focus on relationships rather than any reputations. On zoom we are all in the same window, not Mark, Tom or I at the front and you separate. We, us, have been drawn together to face God and worship him and grow towards him. On Christmas day I will be thinking about you, my spiritual family as I busy myself with eating and possibly even garage time. I will take time to reflect on how, not only in the Nativity, God has met with us this year. I will also consider how the Nativity has made this new family possible.

However we spend Christmas, let it be a time when we can celebrate the fact that our God is one who wants to enter into our lives and be with us in all the ups and down we face. Hopefully we can cherish this time with our families and, soon, see each other in person.

Amen.

Sixth Lesson John 1:1-14 – The Word of Life

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life,[a] and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

God sent his messenger, a man named John, who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on all people.

The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him. Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father.

The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies,
with th’angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
offspring of a Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

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