Sunday December 18th was our carol service at Wesley Chapel led by our minister Rev Trevor Dixon. Before the service we had the lighting of the fourth Advent Candle as we look forward to the birth of Jesus. Trevor introduced the service explaining that there would be readings and carols and some meditations by the main characters. He reminded us about how the ordinary shepherds were the first to see the baby Jesus and what that means now. Mary would have wondered how such a frail and tiny baby could be great. She would have wondered how she could have been chosen to have the Messiah. Watching the child sleep it would impossible to imagine the future facing him. No way could God have taken such a gamble! Jesus awoke hungry and screamed; he needed her for food, warmth and protection. She would realise that his very future was in her hands. Would God allow it? Would he need us as much as we needed him? It never could be; could it? Could it?
We sang all the verses of ‘O come, all ye faithful’ before Trevor led the opening prayers. John read Luke 1.26-34, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. We sang ‘The angel Gabriel from heaven came’ before there was the first duet. It had been written 30 years ago by Jenny’s father and was called, ‘The way to Bethlehem’ sung by Jenny and Christine. I read Matthew 1.18-25 which described how Joseph after a dream took Mary as his wife and she gave birth to Jesus. We sang, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ before Catherine read Luke 2.1-7, the birth of Jesus. Christine read a meditation by Mary. We sang, ‘Away in a manger’ before Shelagh read Luke 2.8-14. We heard a second duet sung by two of Jenny’s daughters. We sang, ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night’, before Rosemary read Luke.2.15-20.
Jennie then read a meditation of a resident of Bethlehem. She commented that it had been said that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. She wondered if she believed it. She was not sure; a friend had heard it from a shepherd. Maybe he had been mistaken or it was just some yarn he told. Her friend was absolutely full of it and convinced it was the actual truth and it was a message for everyone. She felt that she too must share the good news. However she knew she had to go and see for herself, as it was vitally important to be sure of her facts. She was certain it was not some grand delusion. If she found it was just like she had been told she would go and tell others. To be honest what else could she or anyone do?
We then sang the carol, ‘The virgin Mary had a baby boy’, before Ken read Matthew 2.1-12. Mike read the meditation of the Magi. One of the Magi wondered about the gifts which they had given, as they were not for a normal boy. He had given gold, and the others had brought frankincense and myrrh. They felt amazed not at the costliness of the gifts but their associations and the meaning of the presents; gold fit for a king; frankincense to sweeten a sacrifice or burnt offerings were not appropriate for a baby. Myrrh was used to soothe pain for a funeral, suffering and death. What could the significance be for a child? Were we right he wondered? He hoped not; it would mean a king who would die as a sacrifice, not a king in splendour; not a kingdom of this world, different from any kingdom he had known.
We sang ‘Silent Night’ before Trevor read John 1.1-5,10-14. Trevor then read the Meditation of John the Apostle. He wondered where it all started. John would have known the story of the stable, shepherds and wise men. Which of us has not reflected on the Word who became flesh? Wonderful as that image is, it is not where it started. Do we stop there or do we glimpse of what God has done? Before the prophets, before the Law, was the beginning of God’s creative redeeming word; the shaping of heaven and earth then the creation of men, women and children. God came in Christ to share and identify with our ugly lives. God wanted us to know him as his children, not as puppets but people responding to his love. There was a glimpse of the Word made flesh planned from the dawn of time. Soon we will hear the stories of Christmas, the stable, the shepherds and the magi and we will reflect on the eternal purpose which made it possible. Are we prepared to meet Christ? Are we prepared to respond to his coming? Trevor led the prayers and we sang ‘Hark the herald angels sing’ to conclude our carol service. It was a worshipful and thoughtful act of worship.