VIDEO Carols That Count: “Nine Lessons and Carols”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14

 

The Right Reverend Edward White Benson was Bishop of Truro in Cornwall, England, from 1877-1882. Increasingly concerned about the alcohol-fueled revelry in pubs during the Christmas season, on Christmas Eve 1880, he conducted a service of “lessons and carols” in the Truro Cathedral. The lessons were short readings from Scripture, alternating with Christmas carols of the day. In 1918, a similar service was held in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, which continues to this day: “Nine Lessons and Carols.” It is broadcast annually over BBC radio and television, received by millions around the world.

Today, churches everywhere celebrate the birth of Christ with joyful Christmas Eve services. Since Christmas Day falls on a weekend this year, most Christians will join with their local congregations—either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day—to celebrate with Scripture and singing.

The angels who announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds in Bethlehem did so with a glorious refrain of praise. May we do the same this Christmas—whether Christmas Eve or Christmas Day!

Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King. James Chadwick


Come Adore on Bended Knee, Pt. 2 (Luke 2:13-14): Christmas Eve Service

Christmas Child

He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:7

Imagine the One who made cedars spring from seeds starting life over as an embryo; the One who made the stars submitting Himself to a womb; the One who fills the heavens becoming what would be in our day a mere dot on an ultrasound. Jesus, in very nature God, making Himself nothing (Philippians 2:6–7). What an astonishing thought!

Imagine the scene as He’s born in a plain peasant village, among shepherds and angels and bright lights in the sky, with the bleating of animals His first lullabies. Watch as He grows in favor and stature: as a youngster, astounding teachers with answers to grand questions; as a young man at the Jordan, getting His Father’s approval from heaven; and in the wilderness, as He wrestles in hunger and prayer.

Watch next as He launches His world-changing mission—healing the sick, touching lepers, forgiving the impure. Watch as He kneels in a garden in anguish and as they arrest Him while His closest friends flee. Watch as He is spat on and nailed to two wooden posts, the world’s sins on His shoulders. But watch, yes watch, as the stone rolls away, an empty tomb ringing hollow, because He is alive!

Watch as He is lifted to the highest place (v. 9). Watch as His name fills heaven and earth (vv. 10–11).

This Maker of the stars who became a dot on an ultrasound. This, our Christmas Child.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

What would life and history be like had Jesus never been born? What prayer or poem can you offer God to thank Him?

Jesus, thank You for making Yourself nothing so I could be forgiven.

The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift ever given was the sacrifice of Jesus, and all we must do is accept this free gift to live in joy forever with Him.

John 3:14-21

Even children understand that unless a present is opened and explored, its value will remain unknown. Yet many people don’t “unwrap” God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. So they don’t get to enjoy the treasures He bestows on His children.

When God the Son came to earth, He took on human flesh—a mystery known as the incarnation. Jesus was fully God and lived a sinless life, yet He was also fully human. Without Christ, our sin would eternally separate us from God. So the Savior took our iniquities upon Himself, enduring the death penalty in our place, and then He rose from the dead. In doing this, Jesus redeemed us and opened the door for eternal fellowship with the Father. 

Jesus’ sacrifice means that any who so choose can accept mercy instead of punishment. It is God’s free gift, which includes an eternal home in heaven. We will live forever with Christians from every nation and generation, and we’ll reunite with loved ones who have already died in the Lord. 

Do you have a relationship with almighty God? Admit your need for forgiveness, and ask Christ to be your Savior. The gift is wrapped and ready, waiting for you to open and enjoy all God has given.

The Gifts of the Wise Men

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

These wise men (or Magi) were of great eminence in the Parthian Empire at that time, and it is unlikely that the caravan from the East consisted of only three men. They more likely had a large entourage as they came searching for the future King of Israel, so it was small wonder that “all Jerusalem” was “troubled,” along with King Herod (Matthew 2:3). The Parthians (i.e., Persians) had never been conquered by the Romans and at that very time were posing a significant threat along the eastern boundary of the extended Roman Empire.

When they found the young child and His mother in Bethlehem, the Magi “fell down, and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). But why did they offer Him just three gifts—and why these three gifts? Somehow they seemed to have sensed, possibly from meditating deeply on the ancient prophecies of Balaam (Numbers 24:17), Daniel (in Daniel 9:24-26), and David concerning the priesthood order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), that this young child whose birth had been announced by a star was destined not only to be the King but would also become the Messianic Sacrifice to “make reconciliation for iniquity” (see Daniel 9:24, 26) and then eventually become our eternal High Priest who “ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Thus, the gold would acknowledge His right to reign, the frankincense would speak of the incense to be offered in the heavenly tabernacle, and the myrrh (John 19:39) would testify that His crucified body would be so anointed as it entered the tomb for a very temporary burial. HMM

Earthly Hosts Sing Praise

Praise the Lord from the earth, all sea monsters and ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind that executes His command, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, creatures that crawl and flying birds, kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth, young men as well as young women, old and young together. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted. His majesty covers heaven and earth. He has raised up a horn for His people, praise from all His godly ones, from the Israelites, the people close to Him. Hallelujah! (Psalm 148 vv. 7-14).

All nature sings to the Lord! The list of members in the great universal choir is a kaleidoscope of animate and inanimate creatures—sea creatures, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, small creatures and flying birds, kings and princes, rulers and nations, young men and maidens, old men and children—all crying out with joy, all praising the Lord together!

Why do they praise him? First, they are responding to the glory of his name (v. 13). Second, they realize that his glory transcends his creation (v. 13). Third, they are praising him in gratitude for the king he has given Israel (v. 14)— a prelude to the coming of Christ!

Why do I, who now know the Messiah, often neglect praise? Why is my heart sometimes unresponsive? Could I be guilty of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25)? How do I alter this condition? By bowing again before his cradle throne, by cherishing this Gift from the Father, by adoring him!

Personal Prayer

O Lord, I adore you! I cherish the gift of your salvation and commit myself again to you with full fervor and joy!

A Christmas Carol

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant;

Come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold Him, born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore Him, O come,

let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;

Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n;

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Words—Latin hymn, 18th C. Trans, by Frederick Oakeley. Music—Wades Cantus Diversi.

God Knows All

Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite.—Psalm 147:5

Two aspects of God’s nature which cannot be examined separately are His knowledge and His wisdom. I link these two characteristics together because really it is almost impossible to consider one without considering the other.

The difference between knowledge and wisdom has been described like this: “Knowledge is what we know; wisdom is the right application of what we know.” God, of course, knows everything: everything possible, everything actual. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell. Daniel said of Him: “He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” (Dn 2:22). Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, and nothing can be forgotten by Him.

Many Christians, when referring to their conversion, say that God has forgotten their sins, but strictly speaking that is not so. God never forgets anything. What He promises to do with our sins is “never again remember” (Jr 31:34). There is a great difference between forgetting something and deciding not to remember it. Realizing, then, as we do, that God knows everything ought to strengthen our faith and cause us to bow in adoration before Him. The hymnist put it effectively when he wrote these words:

The knowledge of this life is small,

The eye of faith is dim,

But ’tis enough that God knows all

And I shall be with Him.

Prayer

O Father, how consoling it is to know that You know everything. Nothing ever escapes Your attention. This means I can relax, for what I don’t know You know. And because You know it, then what I don’t know can’t hurt me. Amen.

Further Study

Jb 31:1-4; 34:21-25; Ps 147:5; Ezk 11:5

What was Job’s question?

What was Elihu’s response?

On This Wise

Matthew 1:18

The 18th verse of the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel records, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise” (Matthew 1:18 KJV). Then follows the wondrous story of Mary, and of Joseph, of the angel of the Lord, of the choice and conferment of the saving name—Jesus.

Matthew, one-time customs house officer in the dominion of Herod, here becomes the herald of Jesus as the Messiah of the Jews. Factually and precisely, in the manner of one trained to accuracy, he points the sequence of events. I appreciate the exact precision, the luminous accuracy of Matthew’s history. The birth was “on this wise,” and not otherwise; just so, as recorded.

Let the Christmas season take you right back to the beginning, the very source of this eternal splendor. And when you see how it happened, receive with simplicity the glory and the mystery of it. We know of the lovely legends and imaginative embellishments with which adoring saints have overlaid and even obscured the Bethlehem story. We do not need such fancies; the facts alone make heaven and earth to be filled with wonder.

Matthew is clearly concerned to emphasize the fact that the birth of Jesus was not according to the normal processes of human propagation, that His mother, Mary, was a betrothed virgin, that her just and devout Joseph was both fearful and ashamed, until the Angel of the Lord reassured him.

When we testify that the birth of Jesus was “on this wise,” the divine Being revealing Himself in human nature and clothing Himself in flesh and blood, we mean a divine intervention.

There is a revelation of God in the order of the universe, and His ways are in the starry sky. But nature is an opaque medium, and she cannot show the God a sinner wants to know. She never goes out of her way to meet my need. She has no intimate touch, no saving healing word for me. Her rocks and mountains retain their dignity, and they call forth my wonder, but they frighten me. Her cascades and rivers flow on perpetually, but never wash away one of my shameful stains. Never, at any time, in any way, does the universe move toward me or draw me into forgiving intimacy.

I yearn to have someone “speak to my condition” in a way that the land and sea, and stars never can do. The Incarnation meets me there.

He came right down to me,

To condescend, to be my friend,

He came right down to me.

Albert Orsborn, The War Cry