Christmas Eve Watchnight Service 11.30 pm

We are sorry not to be able to meet together for our usual Christmas Eve Services, but we have recorded a Family Christingle Service and a Watchnight Service, both of which will go live on our YouTube Channel on Christmas Eve. Here is the service link and order of service for the Watchnight service, so you have it in plenty of time 😊. Wishing you all God’s richest blessings this Christmas 2020.

Carol – Silent night

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.

2 Silent night, holy night.

Shepherds quake at the sight,

glories stream from heaven afar,

heav’nly hosts sing ‘alleluia:

Christ, the Saviour is born’.

3 Silent night, holy night.

Son of God, oh how bright

radiant beams for thy holy face,

with the dawn of redeeming grace:

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Stille nacht! Heilige Nacht! Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), translated Stopford Augustus Brooke (1832-1916)

Prayer

Carol On Christmas night (Sussex Carol)

1 On Christmas night all Christians sing

to hear the news the angels bring;

on Christmas night all Christians sing

to hear the news the angels bring;

news of great joy, news of great mirth,

news of our merciful King’s birth.

2 When sin departs before his grace

then life and health come in its place;

when sin departs before his grace

then life and health come in its place;

angels and men with joy may sing,

all for to see the new-born King.

3 All out of darkness we have light,

which made the angels sing this night:

all out of darkness we have light,

which made the angels sing this night:

‘Glory to God, and peace to men,

now and for evermore. Amen.’

English Traditional collected Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

READING John 1:1-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

New Christmas Carol – Light of the world

TALK

1914-1918 WAR – the GREAT War

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million: estimates range from around 15 to 22 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

However, just at the end of that indescribable world conflict came the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide (THREE TIMES the number that died during the Great War).

The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic.

And here we are, 2020, in the grip of another world-wide viral pandemic. No-one really knows how many people have been infected with COVID-19, or how many have died as a direct or indirect result of it.

We are living in very dark days. Lockdowns to peserve lives and safe-guard the Health Service have caused untold damage to people’s livelihoods and to the worldwide economy.

We are allowed a few days respite at Christmas – allowed to see a few of our family members. But the weight of this darkness over these last 9 months has been very heavy on most of us – not least on our mental health.

What does the Christian Church have to say to a world sagging under the dreadful darkness?

Well, the first thing to say is that God’s Word, the Bible, makes it clear that this universal darkness is acknowledged by the writers.

A man who lived a very long time ago (Job) spoke of the people of the world being:

in darkness with no light; he [GOD] makes them stagger like drunkards. {Job 12:25}

You may actually have heard of that man Job. You may recall that a huge catalogue of bad things happened to him and his family. And when he looks back on happier times he cries out in agony: {Job 29:2-4}

2 “How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,

3 when his lamp shone on my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!

Many years later a little shepherd boy speaks to his God and says:

2 Samuel 22:29

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

Psalm 18:28

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

David had sat manys a night under the stars as a shepherd – he knew about the darkness. He had experienced darkness out there in the countryside that very few city folks ever experience. And he had come to know his God and Maker – Who became his light – his guide – his protection.

Tonight we come to light one candle. It is a candle to remind us that Jesus is our light. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who has come to offer salvation to the world living in darkness.

This year, as no other, all the trimmings have been stripped away from Christmas. The parties, the huge family gatherings, the Amazon lorry full of gifts.

What is left, we cry?

Here we are in darkness.

What is left from the wonderful Christmases that we have known from of old?

Maybe the answer is “Not much” – or even “Nothing” is left from our traditional Christmas. BUT – maybe this year we are being offered something infinitely better than our best Christmas experience.

The prophet Isaiah, writing 2,500 years ago looked to a future generation and says: {Isaiah 9:2}

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Was he looking to the coming of God’s Son, Jesus into the world? Perhaps.

Or was he looking forward to us watching this service tonight? Because later he goes on to say: {Isaiah 42:16}

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

A huge stampede of people year, by year, by year, have trampled over the real Christmas – and trodden down under heavy hooves the baby in the manger. So desperate are we to get to the Christmas party, or to be first in the queue for the Christmas sales, that we have been blinded to the real reason for the season.

You will, undoubtedly, have heard the most famous verse in the whole Bible {John 3:16}

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But what you may not know, is, that immediately after John wrote those unforgetable words, he goes on to say: {John 3:19}

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Yes, almost unbelievably, a vast array of people CHOOSE darkness rather than light. They are content with Bud Light, when they could have Jesus Christ. They are well pleased with the gift of a £200 Amazon Voucher, when they could have the gift of God’s own Son to be their eternal Saviour.

Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

This candle stands as a light for all to see. Jesus is the “Light of the World”. This light is not hidden under a basket. This light is not placed in a cupboard. This light is placed for all see it, because Jesus said (John 12:32), “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

This candle is to remind us of Jesus – He is the reason for the season. He is the reason for our midnight service.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 8, Jesus sparked off a huge argument when He said: {John 8:12}

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

For sure, there is darkness in the world – can you see it? Can you feel it? Maybe you have felt that darkness this year like at no other time in your life.

Yet in the midst of it there shines a light. It is the light of Christ Jesus. It is not darkness that gets rid of the dark – it is the light that dispels the darkness. He has come to overcome the darkness in our lives.

And more than that – Jesus, the Light of the world comes to show us our true calling in this world (yes – we are here for a true and noble purpose – something to take into this New Year 2021). {Matthew 5:14-16}

14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

May you discover this wonderful Light, in the midst of your darkness – a light that will carry you – not just throughout 2021, but throughout all eternity.

Carol O Come all ye faithful

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:

Chorus

3 Sing, choirs of angels,

sing in exultation,

sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above;

glory to God in the highest:

Chorus

4 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,

born this happy morning,

Jesu, to thee be glory giv’n;

word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:

Chorus

Attributed to John Francis Wade (1711-1786), translated by Frederick Oakeley (1802-1880) and others

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