URC Daily Devotions Carol Service – 23rd December 2020

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers and carols for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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URC Daily Devotions Carol Service on 23rd December 2020

Led by Karen Campbell

 
Carol        O Come O Come Emmanuel
traditional Latin 12th Century

 

O come, O come Emmanuel
To free your captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
 
Rejoice, rejoice O Israel
To you shall come Emmanuel
 
Veni, veni, Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel
Qui gemit in exilio
Privatus Dei Filio
 
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel

 

Introduction & Prayer
 
Wherever you are, whoever you are, warm greetings to you.  My name is Karen Campbell and I am the URC Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries. I welcome you to this advent Carol Service. Welcome to this time of worship and reflection.
 
Let us pause, readying our hearts and minds to consciously seek and acknowledge God’s presence with us; 
 
Let us be still… and in the quiet, I invite those who have an advent candle ready to light them together now… (pause)
 
And let us pray…
Saviour God, light of the world, we praise you.
We give thanks for your presence with us, between us, and everywhere.
We see you reflected in all of Creation – your life, your breath, your wonder, your beauty.
 
Who are we that you should love us so? And yet you do!
 
Who are we that you should gift to us the life and love and joy of Christmas? And yet you have!
 
We rejoice that you are with us in this moment, and in every moment, our inescapable God of love.
 
Thank you, Friend. Thank you, Saviour. Thank you, Lord.  Amen
 
Carol        O little town of Bethlehem
The Rev’d Phillips Brooks (1835-1903)

 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
 
2 O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love

 

3 How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

4 O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

 
Psalm 80
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth…
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O LORD God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
 
Prayer
 
God of compassion,
we know you receive your people’s prayers;
hear us today.
 
Listen to us as we humble ourselves before you;
as we lament all that is broken in our world.
 
Hear us as we recognise the part we play 
in making things as they are;
the ways we fail to act as people
called and claimed and beloved by you.
 
Forgive us our shortcomings;
and make us whole
that we may live and love 
in your name
and always for you.  Amen
 
St Luke 1:46-55
 
And Mary said,
 
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
 
Carol        Silent Night
Joseph Mohr
 
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, oh, 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
 
Reflection 
It seems the world has always been waiting for a saviour
 
In today’s Psalm, the Psalmist cries out to God for Israel to be restored.
O Lord, please listen to us, and answer us.
We are not what we were;
we are not what we want to be!
We have been crying out for so long – please come and help us!
When will you listen and answer our prayers?
 
And God does listen.
God does answer… but in the most unlikely of ways!
Not according to human wisdom or expectations, but speaking to and through Mary – an insignificant girl.
No promise of a mighty army, no wars being waged – but the birth of an infant to an unmarried nobody.
Yet through Mary – her willingness to hear and be part of God’s plans, salvation will come.  
Not just for Israel, but for all.  
 
God’s great plan of salvation will see everything turned on its head-
the proud will be brought down;
the downtrodden will be lifted up.
Earthly power will count as nothing;
and the powerless will have their souls satisfied.
 
O, Lord God, how long have your people waited for their salvation!
And the words of the carol declare it plainly – 
Christ, the saviour is born.
Christ, the long awaited saviour, is born.
 
Carol        Born in the night
Geoffrey Ainger
 
Born in the night, Mary’s Child,
a long way from your home;
coming in need, Mary’s Child,
born in a borrowed room.
 
Clear shining light, Mary’s Child,
your face lights up our way;
light of the world, Mary’s Child,
dawn on our darkened day.
 
Truth of our life, Mary’s Child,
you tell us God is good;
prove it is true, Mary’s Child,
go to your cross of wood.
 
Hope of the world, Mary’s Child,
you’re coming soon to reign;
Savior of all, Mary’s Child,
walk in our streets again.

  

St Luke 7:31-35
 
Jesus said: ‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,
 
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.”
 
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’
 
Reflection 
 
Christ the Saviour is born – but what does that mean?
What is a saviour, and what does a saviour do?
As I consider our Bible texts, I am reminded of our world today-
It is more than 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus, the Christ, and yet the world seems to be yearning and crying all the more for its saviour.
This is the season of peace and goodwill… but things feel chaotic, on edge, volatile… far from peaceful.
 
Everything seems to be in turmoil…
Our politics; our economics; our world order; the very survival of the Earth and all her inhabitants
Countless voices are crying out for change, for justice… for a saviour fit for the challenges of the present day
Some are certain what that saviour should look like – the policies; the rules; the perfect model to implement
Some want everything on their own terms – the way things used to be!  The world as it makes sense in their eyes, or deals favourably with them!
Too many are blind to the impacts of ‘their saviour’ on the world around them; the consequences of ‘their terms’ for the people with whom they share this planet.
 
I see something of this heightened dis-ease captured in Jesus’ words as recorded in Luke:  ‘To what can I compare the people of today?’
The people yearned… but John the Baptist did not fit their picture of salvation.
The people groaned… but Jesus couldn’t satisfy their expectations either.
Everybody seems able to voice their dissatisfaction and disillusionment, but there are few solutions – no universally accepted, positive responses.
 
I look at the UK today – yearning to put the ‘Great’ back into ‘Britain;
But our current would-be saviour – Brexit… isn’t proving to be what people thought or hoped for.
Look at the knots in which we’ve tied ourselves;
deal or no deal;
the fears for British industry and agriculture, the potential impact on life in general.
And that’s before we mention the racism and scapegoating of migrants that was unleashed by the negative Brexit campaigns on both sides of the debate. 
 
Wider afield, we see the chaos being created on the world scene by powerful leaders flexing their political muscles, apparently without due regard for the consequences today, tomorrow, and in the times to come.
The impact of extremist religious and political persuasions – all seeking to be their own kind of saviour, focussed on appeasing people who think and believe as they do, desiring to establish their power; their empire; their way.  
 
But it all comes crashing down!
 
This Christmas, now more than ever, we need to revisit God’s picture of salvation – not built on power and might and force… but an invitation, issued to and through people the world deems to be of no consequence.
Here is a saviour for all.
Here is a saviour whose power is seen in the powerlessness of a wooden cross.
Here is the saviour – Mary’s Child!
 
Carol        Come and join the celebration
Valerie Collison
 
Come and join the celebration 
It’s a very special day 
Come and share our jubilation; 
There’s a new King born today! 
 
1: See, the shepherds 
Hurry down to Bethlehem, 
Gaze in wonder 
At the Son of God who lay before them 
 
2: Wise men journey, 
Led to worship by a star 
Kneel in homage 
Bringing precious gifts from lands afar, so 
 
3 “God is with us” 
Round the world the message bring 
He is with us 
“Welcome”, all the bells on earth are pealing 

 

Isaiah 11:1-9
 
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
 
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
 
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
 
Reflection 
 
A couple of Christmases ago, my 5-year old Grandson, Zekiah, had Christmas Jumper Day at school.  A bleary-eyed Zekiah woke that morning, stroked the festive dinosaur on his jumper, and declared ‘I love dinosaurs!’
Then, he smiled a huge, half-awake smile and said ‘I wish I could marry a t-rex!’
It was just lovely!
I LOVE Christmas.  I usually have a wonderful Christmas spent with my family.  But, lovely or not, I know this Christmas will be different. 
 
Many people are wondering – in this time of COVID – will the ‘usual things’ be able to happen?  Certainly, the Campbell Family table will be missing its head – my Dad having been lost to COVID earlier this year. 
 
Will the world be able to feel truly festive, following the upheavals of 2020? 
 
The killing of George Floyd and all the fallout since; the rising outcry against racial inequality, the pushback by some who cannot or don’t want to see that there is a problem.  
 
And what about the huge challenges faced by nations such as Syria and Lebanon, Palestine – and too many to name… 
 
It may be Christmas, but Lord, it feels depressing…
 
And yet, is this so unfamiliar?
There have always been issues.
John the Baptist came and spoke into a world of issues.
Jesus himself was born into and for a world of turmoil.
But the Isaiah passage holds up and holds out a different picture – a Peaceful Kingdom, where, somehow, all is well.
 
It feels unrealistic – maybe even impossible – yet the image is there.
And I think to myself, isn’t that what we are about – or isn’t that what we should be about?
 
We are called to be a people of hope – counter-cultural, believing in what might seem impossible… AND living it into being.
 
Living as if it is already here – God’s topsy-turvy kingdom built on upside-down values!
 
But it won’t ‘just happen’.  We have to be like Mary, and play our part – whatever that might mean.
More often than not, it will be small gestures, tiny steps, which to the world – and in the grand scale of things – may seem irrelevant.  And yet, they matter!  
 
The people we engage with; the thoughts we think; our willingness to be generous of spirit; open to others; challenged in our thinking and in our actions; patient with people who may get on our last nerves.
 
These things matter… and we have to keep believing that they matter. 
 
We have to keep standing on our faith and living out our faith – in spite of whatever may be going on around us.  In response to whatever is going on around us – otherwise, all that is left to do is lament – ‘We played the flute, but you wouldn’t dance.  We wailed, but you didn’t weep.’
 
So, this Christmas, instead of being depressed by a world which too often does feel depressing, let us delight in the moments of pure magic which do exist if we are willing to see them…
a phone call made or received at just the right moment…
some small gesture which tells you that somebody is thinking of you…
a song, or a piece of music, which carries you away and makes your heart sing…
a little boy dreaming of marrying a dinosaur…
 
Let us  commit to living out the Good News we claim to have received, 
Let us  recommit to sharing that Good News whenever, wherever, however and with whomever we are able.
And let us be willing to share the Good News not on OUR terms…  but just as freely as has been given to us.  Amen  
 
Carol        See him lying on a bed of straw
Michael Perry (1942 – 1996)
 
See him lying on a bed of straw:
a draughty stable with an open door;
Mary cradling the babe she bore
the prince of glory is his name.
 
   O now carry me to Bethlehem
   to see the Lord of love again:
   just as poor as was the stable then,
   the prince of glory when he came.
 
2 Star of silver, sweep across the skies,
show where Jesus in the manger lies;
shepherds, swiftly from your stupor rise
to see the saviour of the world!
 
3 Angels, sing again the song you sang,
sing the glory of God’s gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl’em’s little baby can
be the saviour of us all.
 
4 Mine are riches, from your poverty,
from your innocence, eternity;
mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
child of sorrow for my joy.
 
Offering
 
Let us take a moment to give thanks to God
for the wealth of blessings we still receive
and the gifts we are able to offer back –
even in these strange times –
for the building up of Church and world:
 
Wonderful God,
we give thanks that you are a God of abundance
and of cups overflowing.
You are a God who gives not just what we need to survive,
but all we need for life in its fullness.
 
Thank you.
 
We ask you to take our gifts of money and resources –
our gifts of time and talents –
bless them,
multiply them
and use them according to your purposes.
 
And, most of all,
use us, Lord.
Let each heart say
‘Use me!’
 
Amen
 
Prayers for the world:  Could it be…?           
 
Loving God, dare we conceive of a topsy-turvy kingdom
where the wolf lives peaceably with the lamb,
the wild beasts play tenderly with the farmyard young 
and the innocent child takes charge of them all?
 
Can we conceive of such a kingdom
where no-one is hurt and no life is destroyed; 
where community against community,
nation against nation,
religion against religion 
are a thing of the past? 
 
Can we conceive of a justice with power to transform,
calming the voices which clamour to speak,
distilling wisdom from a myriad truths 
which demand to be heard?
 
The noise of the world is deafening;
     how can we hear your promise of peace?
The claims for right and wrong are complex and multi-shaded;
    how can we discern what to trust or believe? 
 
So our hearts yearn for you, 
and your topsy-turvy kingdom of peace,
where wolves can live peaceably with lambs,
wild beasts can play tenderly with farmyard young,
and human beings, at last, can live side by side –
at peace with each other; at peace with the world
and at peace, O God, with you.
 
Carol        Joy to the world
Isaac Watts

 

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And heav’n and nature sing.
 
2 Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

 

3 No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

4 He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

Blessing 
 
Let us share a blessing as we part company today:  Whether going out or staying in, this Christmas let us recommit to live and love and serve and laugh in the name of Christ, and may the eternal God of Love be with us always.  Amen
 
Closing music: O Holy Night by Céline Dion
 
O Come, O Come Emmanuel- traditional 12th Century Latin. Performed by Enya
O little town of Bethlehem- The Rev’d Phillips Brooks (1835-1903). Performed by the choir and congregation of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge.
Silent Night- Joseph Mohr. Performed by Winchester Cathedral Choir.
Born in the night- Geoffrey Ainger. Words © 1964 Stainer & Bell (admin. Hope Publishing Company). Performed by the choir of the First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Come and join the celebration– Valerie Collison. © Hye-Fye Music Ltd. Sung by the children of Scampton Parish Church.
See him lying on a bed of straw- Michael Perry (1942 – 1996). © Mrs B Perry/Jubilate Hymns. Taken from BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Joy to the world­- Isaac Watts. George Fox University Orchestra and Choir.
 
Thanks to
Karen Campbell. Gordon Smith, Andy Braunston and Dan Morrell for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 

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