Love them or hate them?! Christmas carols are part of the Christmas culture. Some people complain about the number of verses in some carols or the speed that others are played, some people love the tradition, the tunes and for many it's the closest that they ever come to church or anything religious whatsoever!
I love carols by candlelight when everything is cosy and glowing ... the familiar melodies, most of which tell the story of Jesus' birth in one way or another. 'While shepherd's watched', 'Away in a manger', 'Once in Royal David's City' ... if you think about it, this could be the only gospel some people hear in their lifetime.
But how often do we actually think about it? Do we just sing the familiar words without considering the meaning? From various Facebook updates in the last week or so, I've seen that many people who would never set foot in a church the rest of the year, have been thoroughly enjoying both carol services and nativity plays.
We had the opportunity to take part in the Live Drive-Thru Nativity at our church in Coshocton before we left the States. Mark and I played Mary and Joseph and spent an hour and a half sitting in a stable cuddling the 'Baby Jesus'.
In a strange way it helped me see the nativity in a new light this year, putting myself in Mary's shoes, with a new baby and all it's immediate needs in an empty stable, with nothing but what they got to take with them on a donkey, staring adoringly at her son. In Luke 2:19, it says 'Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself' ... special memories of a mother regardless of the situation, something that all other mother's can relate to.
The story of that first Christmas is below ... I hope you have a great one with your own families!
Luke 2 - from The Message
The Birth of Jesus
1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone
8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!