Bethel Baptist Church
Carol Service @ Home
20 December 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.Having difficulty hearing the video?
Watch the videos and read the text to see what is happening at the Bethel carol service in the building, at 2pm on Sunday 20 December.
What is a Christingle?
I used to be a terrible listener – I would “listen” to people and make all the right noises: “Yes,” “No,” “Really!” “That’s interesting”, yet, not ‘hearing’ a single word they were saying as I was concentrating on what I was going to say next. I would butt in before they had finished; I would talk over them; doze off, even fall asleep! When someone returned from their holidays I would ask them “How was it in (say) France?” Just as they managed to say, “Oh it was lovely” I would jump in and begin to tell them all-ll-ll about my holiday in France 10 years previously.
To become a better listener was one of the first areas the Lord started to work on me when I first became a Christian – late 1974/early ‘75. Just to relate one of His dealings with me. Shortly after becoming a Christian I went into the large Central Reference library in Manchester to do some studies. It was strange, for I went to sit in my usual seat but because people were talking loudly there, I moved to another place. To cut a long story short, I moved about 4 or 5 times until at last, yes, peace at last, I can sit here – it’s conducive to studying. Sitting down I looked directly across to the books on the shelf opposite me and saw this title on the spine of a book, (one of thousands and thousands of books in that library): “Learn to Listen!” God’s got His ways of getting His message across – are we listening?
Elf and Safety, part 1
Hi I’m Elf n’ Safety and its my job to make sure that everyone in the nativity observes social distancing rules. To make sure this is a Covid Secure Nativity.
Hmm what have we here? Gabriel step back! You are not two metres away from Mary. Yep I know you have something important to say- but back up! And no attitude! You must have read the Covid 19 Risk Assessment like everyone else.
Mary you have not scanned the QR Code. Go and do it please. Yes I know you are in the middle of discussing the important baby. But it takes two seconds to scan the QR code. I’m sure Angel Gabriel can wait while you do it.
Spoiler alert – Mary’s son is going to be Great. He will be called the Most High. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
Oops sorry! Got a bit carried away. Should have let Gabe tell you that….
Right, now to check Mary and Joseph are observing social distancing on their journey.
Goodness it’s packed to the rafters here! I’m getting my tape measure out to check you are all two metres apart.
Who is in charge of taking people’s temperatures? Hang on – that’s not a forehead thermometer it’s a self scan machine from Waitrose.
Observe the arrows. There is a one-way system operating here! And I hope you are all in household groups or bubbles? If not there’s going to be big trouble!
Mary and Joseph please use hand sanitiser before you bang on another door!
And stand well back.
Oh- the inn keeper has a stable they can stay in. Sheep, cows horses. Umm- I hope they are all Covid free.
Technically they can’t stay in the inn anyway. All the rooms should be locked down. I’ll bet the inn keepers only letting them in to make a bit of profit.
Now the birth. I love watching babies being born on Call the Midwife!
Joseph out of the room please. Mary needs to do this bit in private. Yes I know the animals are still there, but I doubt they will faint at the first sight of blood. Don’t argue with me. Unless you want a 200 pound fine buddy!
At last the baby Jesus has been born. And a handsome lad he is. Isn’t he?
Hang on, whose turning up now? I bet those shepherds aren’t part of Mary and Joseph’s household bubble. Remember to stay apart! I’d put lines on the floor if it wasn’t for all that straw…One at a time! The rest of you will have to queue up outside.
You have all seen how that works at Tesco.
So the angels told you to come did they? I’ll have a word with them later.
Hey Shepherd two- use the hand sanitiser before entering the stable! (I bet he thought I wouldn’t notice.)
Finally! The shepherds have gone! Maybe things will quieten down around here now.
Oh no! Who is this now?
Can you get Covid from a camel? I will have to check the manual…
Hold up, they are giving the baby Jesus gifts. Those items need to be quarantined for three days first. Let’s get some disinfectant out so they can be washed.
King One, make sure your face mask is covering your nose and mouth before you go and see baby Jesus…
Hark the Herald Angels sing
Lauren Daigle Christmas Song
Elf and Safety, part 2
Hello Elf N Safety, my name is Jesus. You don’t need to stress so much. Peace be with you!
I came into the world that first Christmas to be the light of the world and I can still be the light of your world today.
Just like the first Christmas you don’t need to wear a face mask when you talk to me. And you don’t need to stand two metres away.
You don’t need to be socially distanced from me. I want you to feel comforted like being wrapped in a great big hug.
You don’t have to talk to me through a plastic screen.
I’m there in the care homes with people who can’t see their friends.
I’m there in the homes of those who are self isolating.
I’m there on the ward with the people in pain.
I’m there with the Scientists giving knowledge on how to fight the virus.
I’m there in the work places where people are afraid.
I’m there with the NHS staff who have lost colleagues and had a tough year.
I’m there with the shielding.
I’m there with the vulnerable.
I’m there with the children who can’t see their friends.
I’m there with the children sitting alone at their desks.
I’m there with the parents at home isolating for two weeks with their children.
I’m there with all those alone this Christmas due to Covid restrictions.
And finally, I’m here with all those who have lost someone this year.
I will comfort you as you mourn.
I will be your light in dark places.
For God so loved the world he gave me his only son, so that whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.
He sent me to shine a light on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, I will guide your feet on the path of peace.
He has sent me to preach the good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release prisoners from darkness. I will comfort all those who mourn and give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
COVID stands for “Christ Overcomes Viruses (and) Infectious Diseases”
HOPE stands for “Hold On Pain Ends”
Why do we have Christmas Lights?
O little town of Bethlehem
‘This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah … The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)Matt. 1:1, 23
One of Matthew’s main purposes in writing his gospel is to show that in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, we have the fulfilment of God’s revelation in the Old Testament regarding the hope of Israel. Matthew includes 54 direct quotes and 262 allusions from the OT. For example:
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).Matt. 1:22-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14
God wants to, and will, with our co-operation, fulfil His purposes in our lives also!
“God with us” – As we have noted on previous occasions this truth pervades the whole of Matthew’s Gospel for we have it here in Matthew 1:23 and again in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” “God with us” as two bookends, an ‘inclusio’. And for good measure we have the reference in 18:20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” – God with us – So what is the significance of this?
(1) Jesus Christ is God
Here we have an affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ: “He will be called Immanuel which means God with us.” This is the most remarkable truth ever. Jesus was born of a human being, Mary, so He was fully human, but He was also born as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, so He is fully God:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit … what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.Matt. 1:18, 20
Luke backs this up:
The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.Luke 1:35
The term incarnation refers to this fact that Jesus was God in human flesh.
In times when, as in the Roman Empire, there were numerous gods, numerous claims to deity, numerous religions, here we have an extraordinary claim that, in this baby born in Bethlehem, we have, “God with us.” And this is by no means an isolated teaching in the NT:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning … The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.John 1:1-2, 14
No one has ever seen God, but the One and only Son, who is Himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.John 1:18
Thomas said to Him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!’John 20:28
and Jesus accepted his worship (unlike the angels, and rightly so, in Revelation 19:10:
At this I fell at his feet to worship him [an angel]. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus’.Revelation 19:10; see also Rev 22:8-9
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.Romans 9:5
While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.Titus 2:13
But about the Son He [God the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.Heb. 1:8 – quoting Ps. 45:6
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.2 Peter 1:1
Just a couple of examples from the Old Testament that refers to Jesus Christ as God will suffice:
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.Isaiah 9:6
A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Isaiah 40:3
John the Baptist was the voice, and Jesus, ‘the Lord’ and ‘our God’, the One John prepared the way for (see Matt. 3:3).
(2) God wants a close relationship with us
God could have stayed in heaven and simply sent instructions to us and left it at that. But He didn’t He sent His Son who came down and did everything necessary that the world might enjoy a close, personal and intimate relationship with Him. “God with us” not “God far away from us” or “God keeping us at arms-length” – no! but “God with us.” How special is Jesus’ promise that accompanies the Great Commission, “I am with you always.” Martha, is anxious, worried and stressing about, but Mary drew close to Jesus. Jesus’ verdict:
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’.Luke 10:41-42
“God with us” – let’s make the most of it!
(3) Listen to Him
God doesn’t have to shout down from the great distance of heaven to earth for He is with us. On that very special occasion, on the Mount of Transfiguration the Father:
- testified that Jesus was His Son,
- confirmed His love and delight in Him and
- affirmed that He was well pleased with Him; and also
- commanded the people: ‘Listen to Him’: “While He was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’ ” (Matt. 17:5).
This was prophesied thousands of years previous:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to Him.Deut. 18:15
Alas, most of them didn’t and got into a terrible mess in their lives as a result (cf. Jer. 25:1-8 – the people “have not listened” (x 4) in 8 verses). I once heard a tape in which this person set out to spend a whole hour listening to God because she so wanted God to speak to her. She began by explaining to God what she was going to do (which took about 10 minutes) and then she kept reminding God she was here in His presence, making this sacrifice, because she wanted God to speak to her (15 minutes in total). She dozed off to sleep on one occasion (15 minutes); complained on several occasions that God wasn’t listening to her even though she had made this sacrifice of time (15 minutes in total); then finally gave God one last opportunity to speak to her counting down the last 5 minutes (telling God each minute that passed there was only 5, 4, 3, 2, minutes left, 1 minute left). She was rather disappointed, to say the least, that God hadn’t spoken to her in the hour she had put aside in her busy schedule for God to speak to her! The question she should be asking though is whether she gave God the opportunity to speak to her! I don’t think we have too much trouble asking God for all sorts of things, and it is good to pray and ask, but we need to develop our ability to listen to Him also.
(4) God will speak deeply to us
It is a wonderful experience when the Lord speaks to us. Even if He has to chastise, or rebuke us, great freedom can be experienced if we submit to what He has said and obey Him. There are times when we will have to repent, put our faith in Him afresh, draw near to Him again and walk closely with Him. Even though the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were “downcast” (Luke 24:17), and in Jesus’ words “foolish and slow to believe” (Lk. 24:25) still when they later recognised the risen Lord and reflected on their experience:
They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’Luke 24:32
The Holy Spirit was at work burning in their hearts the words of God as Jesus expounded the Scriptures to them.
(5) God will give us the grace to respond
It is a wonderful thing to hear God speak to us, but then, having heard God speak to us, we need the grace of God to be able to obey Him and put into practice that which He has spoken to us. The rich young ruler heard Jesus speak to him very clearly:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” He said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”.Mark 10:21
But the young man was not able to obey Jesus:
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.Mark 10:22
He was trusting in his own strength, resources, and ability:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”Mark 10:17
There was nothing that he could do except obey Jesus! Jesus has done it all! Jesus said so, Himself, to His disciples who responded in amazement at His standard regarding this matter of salvation and asked Him “Who then can be saved?”:
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’.Mark 10:26-27
His grace is sufficient and we need only ask Him for the grace to do what He requires of us, and then do it, Amen!
Short message on “The Light of the World”
The theme for this Carol Service:
- Jesus is “the Light of the World”
- Whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12);
- People loved darkness instead of light; Why is this? – Jesus explains: “Because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19-21)
- Jesus followers are “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). To have Jesus is to have the light. There is no light apart from a right relationship with Him.
- Light always “bears witness to itself … it always illuminates, is never illuminated” (Marsh).
Short message on “… you are to give him the name Jesus …”
The theme for our Christmas Day Service:
Why name Him Jesus?
- Because He will save His people from their sins
- To differentiate Him from all others who claim to be God – Jesus is ‘God with us’
- It’s at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, Amen!
Quote for Week
“We are told to let our light shine, and it does, we won’t need anybody to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire canons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”
(D. L. Moody).
Verse of Week
The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5
We close this carol service with a final song.
Show me the way to shine for Jesus
Heavenly Father, this Christmas we again praise You for the gracious gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
You say in Your word, that, we, Your people, are the light of the world. As the darkness increases, let Your Church shine more and more brightly.
Among all the many demands and needs of this world, show us those good deeds that we are to do at Bethel, that others may see them, and glorify You, our Father in heaven. Open our eyes that we can see more clearly all that You are doing at this time. Lord continue to give us more and more of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know You better. Help us always to walk in the light as You are in the light, in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, Amen.