Christmas Day and Sunday 27th December 2020

Christmas Day & Sunday 27th December 2020

 

Christmas Day

Welcome.

Let’s worship the Lord together in the words of the well known carol:

 

Carol (piano)

 

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

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

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

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
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

 

Phillips Brooks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71ppzuPARXg

 

 

Today is Christmas Day. We celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. God Himself come to be with us. Greatness and majesty of the Creator. Yet also shepherd come to save. See greatness and love in this baby born in Bethlehem.

 

John 3:16 and Titus 2:11: ‘The grace of God has dawned on the world with healing for all mankind’

 

Opening Prayer. ‘O God of peace, you fill our hearts with hope at every Christmas time, for we remember again that this is the world that You have loved. May that hope, peace and joy fill our hearts today’ Amen

 

 

 

Carol (guitar)

 

 

 

Chorus

Come and join the celebration

It’s a very special day

Come and share the jubilation

There’s a new King born today

 

See the shepherds

Hurry down to Bethlehem

Gaze in wonder

At the Son of God who lay before them

Chorus

 

Wise men journey

Led to worship by a star

Kneel in homage

Bringing precious gifts from lands afar,

So Chorus

 

God is with us

Round the world the message bring

He is with us

Welcome all the bells on earth are peeling

Chorus

 

 

Valerie Collison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMqG5M76tFE

 

(Item Children’s presents.)

 

Reading

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

Prayers

Lord and Giver of all good things, the Magi travelled for miles to bring the Christ child the first Christmas presents. So may we, too, remember with thankful hearts the love that comes with each present we open. We also thank you for the love you have for each of us, and we thank you for the many gifts that you give us, especially the gift of life itself. Amen.

–Author Unknown

 

Lord, I thank you for coming to earth so you could redeem me. When I think of the extent to which you were willing to go in order to save me, it makes me want to shout, to celebrate, and to cry with thankfulness. You love me so much, and I am so grateful for that love. Without You, I would still be lost and in sin. But because of everything you have done for me, today I am free; my life is blessed; Jesus is my Lord; Heaven is my home; and Satan has no right to control me. I will be eternally thankful to you for everything you did to save me! I pray this in Jesus' name!

–Rick Renner

 

When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with the flocks, then the work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, to heal those broken in spirit, to feed the hungry, to release the oppressed, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among all peoples, to make a little music with the heart. And to radiate the Light of Christ, every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say. Then the work of Christmas begins.

–Howard Thurman

 

Carol. (Recording)

 

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

[Refrain:]
O, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flow'r
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our dear Saviour

[Refrain]
The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good

[Refrain]
The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn
 


[Refrain]
The holly bears a bark
As bitter as the gall
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all

[Refrain]
The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

[Refrain]

  

 

Traditional 19th Century

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57l6dSbVppM

 

Talk based on ‘The Holly and the Ivy’

 

Carol. (piano)

 

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 dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth


 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEH7_2c644Q  Joseph Mohr

 

Blessing.‘The joy of the angels, the wonder of the shepherds, the peace of the Christ child, fill your hearts this Christmas time, and the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and always’ Amen

Week Commencing Sunday 27th December 2020

 

Call to worship

Jesus said “I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Matthew 5:44

 

Let’s worship the Lord together. Sing of his goodness to us as we ponder again the message of the angels to the shepherds who brought ‘glad tidings of great joy.’

 

Carol (piano)

 

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

2. 'Fear not,' said he - for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind -
'Glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind:

3. '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:

4. 'The heavenly babe you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands
and in a manger laid.'

5. Thus spoke the seraph, and forthwith
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song:

6. 'All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
goodwill henceforth from highest heaven
begin and never cease!'
 

 


Nahum Tate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgYzJDxxzN8

 

Opening prayer

We worship you Lord. You are generous and full of goodness. You have always demonstrated this.

We see it in Creation. The awesome intelligence behind all of life- the intricacey of DNA; a ‘universe’ within a cell. We are humbled. Please forgive us our pride and arrogance when in our foolishness we think we know better than you. You have created us along with many gifts that we richly enjoy.

We think of your generosity towards Israel. You raised up Patriachs and Prophets to guide her, and you used her in your providential purposes to bring forth the Messiah.

In this is your generosity to the whole world. Thank you Father for the gift of the Son. He has purchased our salvation by his shed blood, even the forgiveness of our sins. He has brought us back into relationship with you and given us life that never ends.

These are all blessings of your grace- none of which we deserve, and we give you the glory and praise for it all. Amen

 

Reading. Acts 6:1-7

 

6 1  In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

 

Carol (piano)

 

1 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

2 The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love you, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
and stay by my side until morning is nigh.

3 Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay
close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
and fit us for heaven, to live with you there.

 

 

Verses 1 & 2 Anon. Verse 3 J T McFarland

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hZGDLZzYI&vl=en

 

 

Sermon. “Stephen and Wenceslas. Men who gave of themselves” Part 1

Well I trust you all had an enjoyable day yesterday which was of course Boxing Day. Perhaps a number of you had other family members stay with you. Others took the opportunity to have a day out together.

Actually, the origin of Boxing Day as an additional holiday lies in the notion of the giving of a present- a Christmas box- to those in poverty in this “season of good will”. Indeed an extra day off would have been a welcome gift for many poor people in Victorian England.

Now Boxing Day is also called St Stephen’s Day. As we shall see, this name also reinforces the importance of generosity. This is what I want to challenge us all to this morning. The Lord has been generous to us and we will see His generosity in the lives of Stephen and Good King Wenceslas- I will speak about him next Sunday- we in turn are called to give of ourselves and our substance to promote God’s kingdom.

Stephen

After Jesus ascended the Church grew rapidly. Many were becoming Christians. All sorts of people from different backgrounds. They had such a love for each other that they were willing to give of their money and possessions to make sure no one in the Church went without.

Stephen was one of the seven men chosen by the Early Church to ensure food was distributed fairly to those who were in need. People like widows. The Apostles said the qualifications required for this job were to be full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom. This meant the Apostles were freed up to concentrate on prayer and teaching God’s Word. But we should notice that practical, administrative work, as Stephen carried out, was not for the “unspiritual”- indeed the opposite is the case. You need to be filled with the Spirit and have God’s Wisdom for any kind of Christian service.

If you are not Spirit filled you will not have the motivation to serve. You will be slow to give of your gifts, time and so on, because you will only be thinking about how you could be doing things for money or your own pleasure. If you are not Spirit filled you will not have love for people, you will not understand generosity. You will be fault finding and measuring others up by the Law, rather than giving of yourself sacrificially to benefit and encourage the other.

But if you are Spirit filled you will serve because you love Christ, and are serving Him. It’s with this same spirit of giving and generosity that you will carry out your service, graciously relating to other people, and doing your work for God in a conscientious way. That’s all part of having the Spirit’s wisdom. Indeed you will always be looking to use the gifts God has given you in the best and most effective ways possible. Because nothing is too good for God.

Cain brought some of “the fruits of the soil” as an offering to the Lord, but Abel brought “fat portions from some of the first born of his flock” Scripture tells us “the Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering to the Lord, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour” (Gen.4:4). We’re not just looking to get by as Christians; our lives should be marked by the pursuit of excellence; of generous giving towards the Lord- conscientiousness. However inadequate we feel, we still give our very best to God.

This kind of drive comes from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit orchestrates each member of Christ’s body to play their part; so the whole Body functions in a healthy and effective way. We need Spirit filled administration so the church can address the many different facets of ministry to which it is called. Such people are needed for the facilitating of fellowship, pastoralia, teaching, prayer and worship, evangelism and mission.

Although the word isn’t used here in Acts 6, some think Stephen was a deacon, along with the other 6 selected to administer this work (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:8-13). Deacons are to use their abilities to ensure the free working of these areas by ensuring money is used in the service of ministry, and organisation is in place so those who are involved in these areas of ministry are properly supported.

The deacon is a servant. That’s what deacon means- servant. Because administrators like Stephen were put in place more time was given to the Apostles to put together decent sermons and to seek God’s anointing through prayer. Consequently we are told in Acts 6:7 “The Word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the Faith”

It turns out Stephen can preach a powerful sermon (Chapt.7). The longest speech of anyone in Acts. But he’s still willing to be used as a distributer of food parcels. A task on the face of it that didn’t seem to require much skill. But because he is Spirit filled, he is willing to do this menial work. Out of love for Christ and the elderly widows in the Church- he does it.

Before I had opportunity to preach at my local church or train for pastoral ministry, the Holy Spirit impressed on me the need to use what God had given me to serve His work in the Church. At that time I was an English teacher. I was teaching during the day and marking most evenings! The Church I served in was on a rough council estate in Swansea. Each Friday evening me and a good friend of mine- Alan Woodward, a hospital worker- ran a group for 7-11s called Warriors. You can imagine! Could be a stressful experience after a working day at School. But my contribution was still valuable in God’s sight. Having input into those lives no one really cared about. Spending time with them and sowing God’s word into them. Part of a valuable work in the community. Showing the love of Christ as a Church to that area. It may be that God calls us on to something else in due time; but meanwhile we use what we have been given for the building up of the Church and the furtherance of God’s glory.

So, Boxing Day was the day when the poor boxes were opened. Collection boxes in the church that people put money into to help the poor. The tradition arose from Stephen’s example, because he was one of seven deacons who agreed to distribute food parcels to the needy in the church. Although Boxing Day has only just taken place we still need to ask ourselves what gifts, abilities, time and resources has God given me that I can give back to God and use to serve Him in His Church? To benefit my brothers and sisters and those who are not Christians at present but God will call to Himself in the coming months and years.

As you pray about the New Year and think over your resolutions and direction in life, pray about what you will give in your service here under God.

Stephen was ready to give of himself. He humbly played his part in the Body of Christ. As Chapter 6 proceeds we read of his being opposed and false charges brought against him. He is accused of committing blasphemy and inciting rebellion against the Temple and is seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. In his speech before the Sanhedrin that is recorded through Chapter 7, Stephen says little in his own defence. But he says a lot about God. And it’s here we see why Stephen has a generous nature. He has God’s Spirit within him and he is reflecting the nature of his God. From what he says we see very clearly that God is a generous, giving God.

We haven’t got time to detail the speech today, but if you read it carefully you will see that time and time again God had raised up individuals to save Israel, but time after time, the people in their self-righteous pride and rebellion, rejected God’s good purposes for their lives. They opposed the very ones God had called to deliver them. Indeed the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Jesus was just one more example of Israel’s rebellion against and rejection of God.

But here is the amazing thing. The grace and mercy of God!! Each time Israel rejects God’s man, such is God’s love for Israel, He raises up someone else to deliver them. Israel doesn’t deserve this grace and mercy. Israel deserves to be punished. But this is the love of God.

Stephen had great faith. He was ready to state his case before his accusers. They noted how the light of heaven was already in his face and by the end of the proceedings, Stephen could confidently exclaim that he saw heaven’s door open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God (7:56). His Spirit filled loyalty to Christ enabled Stephen to show the ultimate act of sacrificial giving. He was prepared to empty himself, as his Lord had done, and give his life as a martyr for Christ. Again his generosity is marked as he uses gracious words similar to those the Lord had spoken when he was before his enemies: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (7:60).

Stephen was a man who gave of himself because he was wholly given to God. ‘Matthew Henry’s Creed’ encourages us to do the same. Let’s make it our own as we face 2021:

 

 

I take God the Father to be my God;

I take the Son to be my Saviour;

I take the Holy Spirit to be my sanctifier;

I take the Word of God to be my rule;

I take the people of God to be my people;

And I do dedicate and yield

My whole life to the Lord:

And I do this deliberately, freely,

And forever. Amen

 

Carol (piano) 

 

1 As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright:
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore your splendour see.

 

2 As with joyful steps they sped
Saviour, to your lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
you, whom heaven and earth adore:
so with ever-quickening pace
may we seek your throne of grace.

 

3 As they offered gifts most rare
at your cradle plain and bare,
so may we with holy joy
pure and free from sin's alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to you, our heavenly king.

 

4 Holy Jesus, every day
keep us in the narrow way,
and when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last:
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds your glory hide.

 

5 In the heavenly city bright
none shall need created light
you, its light, its joy, its crown,
you its sun which goes not down;
there for ever may we sing
alleluias to our king.

 

 

 

William C Dix

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp52sx2_GYs

 

Prayers

Prayer of Confession:

May the God of all healing and forgiveness draw us to himself

and cleanse us from all our sins, that we may behold the glory of his Son,

the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Church of England)

 

Prayer of intercession:

Father, after this very turbulent year we pray that many who have or are attending Christmas services today and during this last week, seek the mercy and grace that only comes from you. Please draw them by your Spirit to receive the promise of eternal life.

Lord of light and truth, please raise up increasing numbers of Christians with gifts of evangelism, preaching and teaching your Word throughout the world. We especially pray for people in countries where this is forbidden; that they will hear and understand the gospel and that many will choose to follow you.

Holy Spirit, please help us to understand and respond appropriately to the prayer of Jesus ‘Keep them in your name that they may be one, even as we are one.’ This Christmas, grant a fresh flourishing of this divine unity and may that be manifested in the gospel message of love and peace reaching further across our hurting world.

Faithful God, we lift to you our sisters and brothers in countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Please comfort those in prison, provide for those in need and grant hope and courage to all who suffer. Strengthen us to pray and give whatever support we can.

Lord we thank you for every Christian ministry both in the UK and in faraway places that are bringing relief to those who are poor, sick, imprisoned, deprived of education, meaningful work, safety and a future. Please strengthen them with a spirit of generosity, mercy and hope and provide for their needs. Amen. (From Care Prayer Diary Oct.2020- Jan. 2021).

Carol (piano)

 

1 See, amid the winter's snow,
born for us on earth below,
see the tender Lamb appears,
promised from eternal years.

Refrain:
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption's happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem."

2 Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He, who throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim! [Refrain]

3 Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
what your joyful news today;
wherefore have ye left your sheep
on the lonely mountain steep? [Refrain]

4 "As we watched at dead of night,
lo, we saw a wondrous light;
angels singing 'Peace on earth'
told us of the Saviour's birth." [Refrain]

5 Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was Thine;
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this! [Refrain]

6 Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
by Thy face so meek and mild,
teach us to resemble Thee
in Thy sweet humility! [Refrain]

 

 

Edward Caswall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0akXeYaHAc4

 

Blessing

Christ, the Son of God, born of Mary, fill you with his grace to trust his promises and obey his will.                                                                                                                   

David Barnes 17/12/20