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Christmas Podcast Worship

The Story of Christmas

Listen to or read the Christmas Story celebrated in Lessons and Carols

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.

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.

Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895)

The celebration of Christ’s incarnation at Christmas is one of the great festivals of the Christian year. Christmas celebrates the wonderful mystery of God’s coming to dwell among us in the fullness of the human condition. Therein lies the greater message of Christmas, amid the joyful customs and celebrations of the season, we are called to hold on to the central truth of the Word made flesh for our salvation.

The Christmas crib and the nativity play can both be said to have their origins in the tableau of Christ’s birth that Francis of Assisi arranged when he celebrated Christmas at Greccio in 1223.

Christmas carols are a medieval tradition which has been notably developed from the end of the nineteenth century.

Through the days of Advent we have followed the light of Christ, and now we travel in spirit, with Mary and Joseph, to Bethlehem, to acclaim with the multitude of the heavenly host the coming of the Prince of Peace.

So, let us hear again the wonderful story of our redemption and, hearing, let us rejoice and respond with lively faith.

Prayer

Lord, by the song of the angels
you disclosed your birth to your own people,
and by the leading of a star
you revealed your glory to the whole world.
Teach us to know you now,
and, in our small way,
make you known to all.
Amen.

Christ’s birth and kingdom are foretold by Isaiah

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9.2,6–7

Thanks be to God.

God rest you merry

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
let nothing you dismay!
for Jesus Christ our Saviour
was born upon this Day,
to save us all from Satan’s power
when we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Now to the Lord sing praises,
all you within this place;
and with true love and brotherhood
each other now embrace,
this holy-tide of Christmas
all others doth deface:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Traditional, possibly 18th-century

The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1.26–36,38

Thanks be to God.

Angels from the realms of glory

Angels from the realms of glory,
wing your flight o’er all the earth;
ye who sang creation’s story
now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Though an infant now we view him,
he shall fill his Father’s throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

James Montgomery (1771–1854)
from Iris, 1816 and The Christmas Box, 1825

St Luke tells of the birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2.1, 3–7

Thanks be to God.

Away in a manger

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.

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

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

Author Unknown
Little children’s book, Philadelphia, 1885

The shepherds go to the manger

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

Luke 2.8–16

Thanks be to God.

While shepherds watched

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

‘Fear not,’ said he (for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind);
‘glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.

‘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:

‘the heavenly babe you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
and in a manger laid.’

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

‘All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
good will henceforth from heaven to men
begin and never cease.’

Nahum Tate (1652–1715)
based on Luke 2.1-20
           

The wise men are led by the star to Jesus

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2.1-11

Thanks be to God.

In the bleak mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter.
Frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,
in the bleak mid-winter,
long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away
when he comes to reign:
in the bleak mid-winter
a stable-place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

What can I give him,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man,
I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him —
give my heart.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894)

St John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

John 1.1-14

Thanks be to God.

O come, all ye faithful

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O 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,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

God of God,
Light of Light,
lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
very God,
begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
glory to God
in the highest:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

Adeste, fideles (Latin, 18th century)
translated by Frederick Oakeley (1802–1880) and others

Prayers

Almighty God,
you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer,
so we may with sure confidence behold him
when he shall come to be our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen.

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ-child
be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Hark! the herald angels sing

Hark! the herald angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’
Hark, the herald angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven 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 new-born King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen 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 new-born King.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788) and others