Morning Service for Christmas 2 2023


As is the case with anything that happened in the past, it is difficult to be certain. Yes, the score was 3-3 say, but who played well and why they did so is a matter of judgement. When we think about the Biblical stories of Jesus' birth, we cannot be sure; we were not there at the time and even if we had been, between us, we could come to different conclusions.

Morning Service for Christmas 2 2023

HYMN – Of the Father’s love begotten  BCS17 – Divinum Mysterium

1 Of the Father’s love begotten,
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega;
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore.

2 O that birth for ever blessèd
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,

bare the Saviour of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore.

3 O ye heights of heav’n, adore him;
angel hosts, his praises sing;
pow’rs, dominions, bow before him,
and extol our God and King:
let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev’ry voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Lord of grace and truth, we confess our unworthiness

to stand in your presence as your children.

We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus.

Forgive our disobedience to your will.

We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

Your Son our Saviour was born in poverty in a manger.

Forgive our greed and rejection of your ways.

We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

The shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem.

Forgive our self-interest and lack of vision.

We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King.

Forgive our reluctance to seek you.

We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen


Almighty God,

who wonderfully created us in your own image

and yet more wonderfully restored us

through your Son Jesus Christ:

grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,

so we may share the life of his divinity;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

FIRST READING – Isaiah 63.7-9

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favour to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their saviour in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

HYMN – Joy to the world  BCS 16 – Antioch

1 Joy to the world! the Lord is come;

Let earth receive her King;

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,

And Heav’n and nature sing,

And Heav’n and nature sing,

And Heav’n, and Heav’n and nature sing.

2 Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;

Let us our songs employ,

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 He rules the world with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness,

And wonders of His love,

And wonders of His love,

And wonders, and wonders of His love

GOSPEL – Matthew 2.13-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

SERMON – Keith Atton

As is the case with anything that happened in the past, it is difficult to be certain. Yes, the score was 3-3 say, but who played well and why they did so is a matter of judgement. When we think about the Biblical stories of Jesus’ birth, we cannot be sure; we were not there at the time and even if we had been, between us, we could come to different conclusions.

Recently, having the bad cold and bronchial infection that has been going around, with lots of spare time at home, I went hunting on the internet. I tapped in the village where I grew up and found a sort of village magazine. After the wise words by a local Methodist minister, there was a story written by my first childhood friend. In the story the water had risen in the beck and the errand boy on the shop bike tried to go through the ford only to get stuck in the middle, get very wet and be in trouble with his father, the shop keeper. The boy can be none other than me, but I didn’t remember the incident. Now, I think I do vaguely remember, but it is just my friend’s story I remember or the events of 60 years ago themselves.

Something else that makes our understanding of events in the past difficult is the different ideas of another time; my family have each Christmas, in England, a nativity scene of Santons de Provence, with the Holy Family and others but it also includes characters which were never there at Jesus’ birth – a priest, a baker, a grape picker etc – they are characters from French daily life modelled on what they might have worn at the end of the eighteenth century, when the tradition in modern terms started. To object that these scenes are not true is beside the point; the nativity has been translated to France.

After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples including itinerant preachers had a problem – how to explain who Jesus was. They were going about telling people of a Jesus who was totally extraordinary; he spoke the wisdom of God, healed the sick and “was raised on the third day”(1 Cor 15.4) which was not what Jews were expecting; surely, this was God’s image in human terms. But at the same time this Jesus was a human being; they had seen him eat and drink and sleep, just like they did.

I have had my DNA tested by Ancestry. Now, it is possible to show the DNA of both  my long dead parents. If Jesus could have been tested, would it have shown he only had Mary’s DNA? Unlike our ancestors, we know that whether the baby is a boy or a girl depends on the father; if Jesus only had a human mother and no father, he would have been a girl. It is possible that the whole birth of Jesus is such a miracle that it is impossible to explain in terms of modern science, although, as it stands, the story flies in the face of our scientific knowledge. However, standard theology, does not claim that Jesus was 50% man and 50% God, but 100% man and 100% God. To me that means he was biologically a male human being, but spiritually so linked with God as to be part of the Godhead.

The Gospel writers picked and used the written and oral stories about Jesus, as Luke explains(Luke 1.1-4); they were not themselves eye witnesses. I suspect that, having worked out that Jesus was more than just a normal human being, those whose material the gospel writers used in writing their own accounts, were totally convinced that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies that were found in the Jewish scriptures; in our reading from Matthew’s gospel this morning we have three examples of references to, in this case, the flight to Egypt fulfilling scriptural prophesies; as William pointed out two weeks ago, Matthew was picturing Jesus as a second Moses, so Jesus, like Moses had to have come out of Egypt .I believe the gospel writers and Paul were not making it up, but genuinely believed that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies, so the events they described must have happened. In a sense, they translated the evidence which they had, to make sense of it for first century people, especially Jews, in terms of the Hebrew scriptures.

Today, our understanding of the world is different from the people of earlier centuries. We can, of course, dismiss modern scientific understanding like a former member of  the congregation of our benefice, who said to me “either you believe it or you don’t” i.e you accept the literal truth of what has come down through successive translations or you are a non-believer. I think this is a mistaken view. I believe the best we can do is to look at the nativity story with modern eyes, not to worry about the details but to translate its meaning to our here and now, just as has happened throughout the last 2000 years.


Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

HYMN –  Good King Wenceslas  BCS 29 – Tempus Adest

1 Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep, and crisp, and even;
brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gath’ring winter fuel.

2 ‘Hither, page, and stand by me,
if thou know’st it, telling:
yonder peasant, who is he,
where and what his dwelling?’
‘Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence,
by St. Agnes’ fountain.’

3 ‘Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither;
thou and I will see him dine,
when we bear them thither.’
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together;
through the rude wind’s wild lament,
and the bitter weather.

4 ‘Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger;
fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.’
‘Mark my footsteps, my good page;
tread thou in them boldly:
thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze your blood less coldly.’

5 In his master’s steps he trod,
where the snow lay dinted;
heat was in the very sod
which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christians all, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing

INTERCESSIONS – Kristin Tridimas

Dear God, as we greet the new year, let us look forward with faith, hope and humility.

At the end of a week of celebration we remember all those who were unable to celebrate for whatever reason:  through illness, because of war, through poverty or need.  We think especially of everyone in Ukraine, struggling through a cold winter, and of others in situations of conflict who are unable to enjoy their religious feasts.  We think also of all those in our own country who have been pushed into homelessness or who could not afford a big Christmas.  Lord, send them your love and hope and help us never to forget to be thankful for our situation.

Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

As we go forward in Christ’s light, as the days begin to lengthen, we pray for our churches to be places of light and warmth.  Thank you for everyone who worked extra hard over Christmas and for William, Myra, Warwick and Keith and all who help to lead the services.  Help us to be a beacon of comfort and hope to our communities.  May the benefice of Compton, Hursley and Otterbourne continue to work together for everyone and go from strength to strength.

Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we think today of anyone who is suffering in body, mind or spirit, especially at this time of year when people are cold and lonely.  We think this year of anyone affected by strikes of nurses and paramedics but we also remember all the emergency workers and medical staff who look after us all year round.  We pray that there will be a speedy resolution to their dispute that will be of benefit to everyone.  We remember anyone known to us personally and pray for their suffering to ease.

Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Remembering all those who have died, we commend them to Your eternal care.  We think of anyone known to us personally and those who are left behind to mourn and we also remember all the famous people who have died this year.  We think especially of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and of Pope Benedict who died yesterday, also Diana Axford, Sue Cook and Wayne Nailor.  Let us offer up our prayers of condolence and hope.

Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

We thank you for our communities and all who help out in them and pray for the ties between the churches and the wider community to strengthen and deepen.  Let us start the new year with hope for the future, peace in our minds, mercy at heart and faith and love at the centre of all.

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

May the eagerness of the shepherds,

the joy of the angels,

the perseverance of the wise men,

the obedience of Joseph and Mary,

and the peace of the Christ-child

be yours this Christmastide,

and the blessing of God Almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be upon you and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN – Unto us a Son is given  BCS 1 – Puer Nobis

1 Unto us a boy is born!

King of all creation,

Came he to a world forlorn,

The Lord of every nation.

2 Cradled in a stall was he

With sleepy cows and asses;

But the very beasts could see

That he all men surpasses.

3 Herod then with fear was filled:

‘A prince,’ he said, ‘in Jewry!’

And all the little boys he killed

At Bethlem in his fury.

4 Now may Mary’s son, who came

So long ago to love us,

Lead us all with hearts aflame

Unto the joys above us.

5 Omega and Alpha he!

Let the organ thunder,

While the choir with peals of glee

Doth rend the air asunder.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

Log in/out