Morning Service for Christmas 2021


HYMN – Once in royal David’s city  BCS 4 – Irby

1 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.

2 He came down to earth from heaven

Who is God and Lord of all,

And his shelter was a stable,

And his cradle was a stall:

With the poor and mean and lowly,

Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

3 And through all his wondrous childhood

Day by day like us he grew,

He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us he knew:

And he feeleth for our sadness,

And he shareth in our gladness.

5 Not in that poor lowly stable,

With the oxen standing by,

We shall we 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.

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,

you have given us your only-begotten Son

to take our nature upon him

and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:

grant that we, who have been born again

and made your children by adoption and grace,

may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

FIRST READING – Isaiah 52.7-10.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

HYMN – Silent Night BCS 15

1. Silent night, holy night,

all is calm, all is bright

round yon virgin

mother and child.

Holy infant, so tender and mild,

sleep in heavenly peace,

sleep in heavenly peace.

2. Silent night, holy night,

shepherds quake at the sight;

glories stream from heaven afar,

heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ the Saviour is born,

Christ the Saviour is born!

3. Silent night, holy night,

Son of God, love’s pure light;

radiant beams from thy holy face

with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

GOSPEL – John 1.1-14

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.


There is a line in St John’s Gospel that I have just read that is, I believe, most truly profound. “The light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The Greek the St John used, Katalambano, can mean “apprehend” rather than “comprehend”, “to lay hold of”, but the sense that darkness could not, cannot, understand this light that has come into the world is an extraordinary idea. The suggestion that God, the author and creator of all things, could be present in this world, could be of his very nature wrapped up in its materiality – be incarnated, be enfleshed. The idea that God should care, could care, that much is beyond the understanding of what John calls “darkness”. It just does not get it.

St Luke expresses such extraordinary behaviour by God somewhat differently, but to much the same purpose. He tells us that Jesus was born in an animal feeding trough and his witnesses were the poorest working men, shepherds. His mother and father were displaced persons, far from home. But this poverty is not the darkness – the darkness comes in the shape of the powerful, the comfortable, the well off, and those who simply refused to see another way – the Pharisees and Scribes, Temple authorities and rulers of the status quo. What the world – the darkness – cannot comprehend is life lived with a new set of priorities, where getting and having, keeping and holding that fills so much of our lives is dropped in favour of sharing and giving, caring and loving.

Christmas as we celebrate it is so nearly right – the giving and sharing, presents and meals, family re-united and that feeling of good will that seems that bit stronger. But it can look just a parody of all that it could be – the crowded shops, the post Christmas debt and depression, the frenzy of shops desperate to sell, sell, sell. 

But no parody can displace the simple truth that we celebrate tonight. That the light came into the world and will never leave it – that we can never claim we have not been shown a “more excellent way”. That the gospel of the crucified God that meets us in bread and wine, that calls us to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable, is now in the world never to be lost to it. 

This, in the end, is the message of the God born in a feeding trough; this is the “light that enlightens all men that come into the world”. Turn again and see our God in every neighbour we have, whoever and however they are – and worship and serve him there.


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 –  In the bleak mid winter BCS 22

1 In the bleak midwinter
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 midwinter,
Long ago.

2 Our God, heaven cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

3 Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay:
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore. 

4 Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and Seraphim
Thronged the air
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5 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 hear

INTERCESSIONS – Jenny Walmsley

On this holy night Christians the world over begin to celebrate Christ’s birth, open our hearts that he may be with us this Christmastide. Angels, shepherds and wise men worshipped him in the stable, we pray that he receives the worship we offer tonight and ask him to bless all our congregation gathered here together.

Lord in thy mercy hear our prayer

On this holy night the angels sang ‘Peace to God’s people on earth’. Strengthen all those who work for peace and justice throughout the world and inspire those in power to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation. 

We remember there was no room for your Son in the inn as he travelled far from his home, protect with your love those who are living rough or in refugee camps, all who live in poverty and fear, and those who have lost their homes or loved ones. At this moment we pray especially for all those in the Philippines affected by the recent typhoon, the Malaysians affected by the floods and the starving people of Yemen affected by the UN food aid cuts.

Lord in thy mercy hear our prayer

Father, on this holy night your Son our Saviour was born in human flesh, renew your Church as the body of Christ. Bless our archbishops, bishops and priests and all who work to maintain the Christian faith. Here in our church, we thank you especially for William and all his team, and, as we pray, let us remember the centuries in which this ancient building has absorbed the prayers of thousands of parishioners living through difficult times and pandemics, while remaining an unchanged beacon of hope for the future.

Lord in thy mercy hear our prayer

On this holy night our Christ came as a light shining in the darkness. In our parish let this light bring comfort to all who suffer through ill health, bereavement or other problems in their lives. We pray for the loved ones who are no longer with us and ask that you teach us to reach out to others who need our help.

Bless our homes and all whom we love. In this strange time let us pray for our own families and our friends and trust in God that, with the vaccine, life will go on and some form of normality will re-emerge. We give thanks for the scientists who have made this optimism possible and the NHS together with the huge army of volunteers who have enabled the inoculation of so many people.

Lord in thy mercy hear our prayer

And because there is so much uncertainty in the world let us concentrate on what really matters this Christmastide as encapsulated in the last verse of John Betjeman’s famous Christmas poem:

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

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 Christmas,

and the blessing of God Almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be upon you and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN – O come all ye faithful BCS 13 – Adeste Fidelis

1 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!

2 God of God,

Light of Light,

Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

Very God,

Begotten, not created: [Refrain]

6 Sing, choirs of Angels,

Sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;

Glory to God

In the Highest: [Refrain]

7 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,

Born this happy morning,

Jesu, to thee be glory given;

Word of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing: [Refrain]

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

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