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Carol Service at Home – 24th December

Carol Service at Home 2020

for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to our Carol Service at Home. In past years, we’ve enjoyed gathering in our church buildings to hear readings from the Bible and sing our favourite carols by candlelight. But this year, of course, is very different, and because of COVID-19 we’re not permitted to sing inside.

Therefore, we’re staying at home for our Carol Service this year, with online videos provided for people who are on the Internet. But, as always, we’re also providing a ‘paper’ version for those who are not on the Internet. This includes all the Bible passages, prayers, narratives and the talk, plus the words for a couple of the better-known carols. To hear carols being sung, we recommend that you watch a programme on television, such as the UK’s Favourite Carol on Sunday 20th at 1:15pm on BBC One and ‘Carols from King’s’ on Christmas Eve at 5:30pm on BBC Two.

The birth of Jesus foretold: Isaiah 9: 2 – 7

2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

6 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. 7 Of the increase 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 for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Opening Prayers

Dear Lord Jesus, I worship you as the Prince of Peace who brought light into this world, to shine in the darkness amidst the chaos. I worship you because you love us and came into this world as a vulnerable baby to save us.

Lord, our minds are full of worries and lists of things we need to do. Help me to empty my mind of distracting and unhelpful thoughts now. Help me to be still. Help me to focus on the words I hear and sing, so that you can speak to me and remind me what Christmas is really about. Help me to become aware of your presence with me now so that I feel your love and reassurance in my heart. Amen.

And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name;

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Angel Gabriel visits Mary: Luke 1: 26 – 38

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,

27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

28 The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

30 But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.

31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.

34 How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin?

35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon 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.

36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.

37 For nothing is impossible with God.

38 I am the Lord's servant, Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said. Then the angel left her.




Carol: O little town of Bethlehem

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.

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.

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 in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us,

Our Lord Immanuel!

Jesus is born in Bethlehem: Luke 2: 1 – 7

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (2 This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Prayers for the world

Dear Lord, as I think of Joseph who must have been desperate to find somewhere to stay for the night, I pray for the homeless people searching for somewhere to live.  I pray that they will find your peace and welcome in unexpected places.  I pray for the charities that work with the homeless in Manchester, such as Barnabus and Embassy.

Lord, as I think of Mary, expecting a baby a long way from home, I remember those today who need professional care and who are unable to get it.  I pray for people in the poor parts of the world who have to walk for many days to get to a doctor.  I pray for people who need to pay for medical care or treatment and cannot afford what they need. I remember those whose operations and treatments have been postponed due to COVID-19 and pray that they can quickly get the care they need.

As I think of Jesus being born in dirty, smelly conditions in a stable, I remember those today living in unhygienic, unsanitary conditions, and especially those with no supply of clean water. I pray that they get the help they need to permanently improve their living conditions

As I think of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, away from their friends and families, I remember those who are alone at Christmas and throughout the year.  I pray that you will comfort the bereaved, particularly people who have lost loved ones during the past year and who will be spending their first Christmas without them. I pray that those who are lonely will get visits and phone calls.

As I think of Mary and Joseph fleeing from Herod into Egypt with their new baby, I pray for refugees today, fleeing from threats of violence and injustice.  I pray that they will find shelter and safety, enough to eat and drink, education for their children and medical care. I pray for refugees newly arrived in their new home, facing an uncertain future, having to fit in to a new culture and learning a new language.  I thank you for the work of the Boaz Trust in Manchester and pray for all those who work to provide a welcome and help for refugees.

Lord, in a moment of quiet, help me to bring to mind all the people who I know need my prayers this Christmas…………

Lord, I pray for healing, comfort and help for each one of these people, through the power of your Spirit. Amen.


Angels tell shepherds the good news: Luke 2: 8 – 20

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The Shepherd’s monologue

The angel said “Don’t be afraid”. It was a bit late for that, I thought.

Who wouldn’t have been terrified when they saw an angel suddenly appear in front of them, shining with a brilliant white light in the darkness, lighting up the faces of the other shepherds who looked just as terrified as me. We’re a tough bunch of lads who don’t get scared easily. We often have to fight off bears and wolves to protect our sheep, but this was something else!

The angel said that he’d come to tell us that the Messiah had just been born in the nearby town of Bethlehem and we would find him lying in a manger. Then, as if we weren’t shocked enough already, hundreds of other angels suddenly appeared in the night sky, worshipping God with beautiful singing.

After the angels had disappeared and it became dark and silent again, as if nothing had happened, we looked at each other. Nobody had to ask the question, we all knew that we just had to go into Bethlehem and see this baby for ourselves.

But on the way into Bethlehem, I started thinking. Did the angel really say the Messiah? The Messiah who had been promised by the prophets so many years ago? The Messiah sent by God to save us all? Could this really be happening now? How could it be possible that I would be one of the very first people to see the Messiah? Why me? I’m just a shepherd and not an educated religious type.

I also started wondering why the angel had said we’d find the baby in a manger? Did we hear him right? Surely the Messiah would be in something like a golden cradle lined with silk and not a wooden box full of hay.

We soon found a stable door with light around its edges and heard the cry of a new born baby coming from inside. We nervously opened the door and went in. And there was the baby – the Messiah - lying in a manger as the angel had said.  His parents turned and looked at us. We told them what the angel had said, half expecting them to laugh at us, but they already knew. They already knew that their baby was the long-awaited Messiah sent by God to save us.

We quickly left the stable and went and told everyone what we’d seen and been told. I thanked God for sending His Messiah and allowing me to be one of the first to see him. But I can’t help wondering: why did God choose me?

The Magi visit Jesus: Matthew 2: 1 – 12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”’

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.



The Magi’s monologue

Oh, I’m so stiff and sore. Not surprising, I suppose, as I’ve spent most of the last two months sat on a camel. Quite a change from staying at home and looking up at the stars. They call us wise men, but there’s been times over the past couple of months when I’ve not felt very wise at all!

It all started when we saw a bright star that had suddenly appeared. When we examined our charts, we realised that it meant that the King of the Jews had been born.  This was very exciting, and it only seemed right and proper for us to go and worship him.  So we set off for Jerusalem, as we’d assumed that’s where a new born king of the Jews would be. Oh, it’s such a long way to Jerusalem and I did begin to wonder how wise I’d been.

And when we got to the palace in Jerusalem, King Herod didn’t know anything about a baby being born. It was all rather embarrassing, and I certainly didn’t feel very wise then, either! I expected Herod to laugh at us and kick us out, but actually he took the whole thing rather seriously.  He met with his priests and then told us that we should go to a small town just south of Jerusalem, called Bethlehem, as the baby was probably there. This is because the Jews have been expecting this King, who they call the Messiah, for hundreds of years, and their scriptures say that he will be born in Bethlehem.

So off we went to Bethlehem and soon found a house where there was a baby boy. But it was a very ordinary house, not where you’d expect to find a king! I was starting to wonder again how wise we’d been, but as soon as we spoke to the parents, we knew we were right. They knew that their baby was very special. They weren’t even surprised that we wanted to come in and worship him! They’ve called him Jesus, which means “God saves”, because God sent him to save everyone in the world.

So was it wise to travel all that way and get so sore, just to see a baby? Oh yes, definitely! I feel so privileged to have been one of the first people to bow down and worship the Messiah, the saviour of the world, the most important person to ever be born. But I can’t help wondering: why did God choose me?

The Light of the World: John 1: 1 – 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Talk: Jesus offers to hope to everyone

Hope, hold on pain ends.  Not a feel-good platitude to jolly us along through hard times, but solid fact.  Jesus offers hope to everyone.  In the narratives, the shepherd and the wise man wondered why God chose them.  The wonderful news is that God has chosen everyone, he offers everyone hope through Jesus.

The first Christmas changed everything.

Earlier in our service we heard St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. He tells us that an angel appeared to some shepherds looking after their flocks just outside Bethlehem.  The angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds saying, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave us his only Son, Jesus, to rescue us from the mess of the world and the mess of our lives and to bring us God’s love, God’s forgiveness for the things we do wrong, God’s healing for our hurts and a new life as part of God’s family.  This Good News gives us hope whatever the circumstances we’re in.

When He grew up, Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

Jesus taught us and showed us how to live in the light of his love.  He went to the cross to bring us forgiveness for our faults and failings and a new life that lasts forever as part of God’s family.  God raised Jesus from death to life to prove that the promise of forgiveness and new, eternal life was true.  One day Jesus will return to earth in glory and all pain and suffering will end, everything will be put right for ever.  Meanwhile, Jesus lives to bring you real hope in every circumstance of life.  Jesus is with you, he shares in your pain and wants to help you.

There is no place or situation so dark that the light of Jesus can’t shine in it and transform it.  In fact, Jesus the Light of the World shines most brightly when things are at their darkest.

Christmas is so much more than the things we may be missing this year.  The real message of Christmas can change your life for ever.

The love, light and hope of Jesus are what Christmas is all about.

You are loved and you have been chosen.  Let Jesus into your heart this Christmas and you can live a new life with his help, not alone, but held safely in His love for you.  A life filled with the hope and light of Jesus.

Closing Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that you came to earth at Christmas as God’s priceless gift of forgiveness and love for everyone. Come and live in my heart now and always.  Come, Lord Jesus, I welcome you…….

Lord, you are the light of the world, a light that no darkness can quench.  Let your light shine into the darkness in our towns and villages so that people will see the truth about you. I pray that your churches will shine brightly, like a beacon, and draw people to you.  Let the true light of the world shine from within each one of us for all to see.

Lord, I pray that our lives and our homes will be full of the joy and peace that only your love brings. Bless me this Christmas and in the months to come. Protect me from sickness, hurt and worry. Keep me close to you, filled with your hope and peace. Amen.

Carol: 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 Immanuel.

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 men no more may die;

Born to raise the sons of earth;

Born to give them second birth.