Leading up to Christmas Day, I thought it would be good to look at 15 of the most popular carols (chosen by Classic FM listeners) and consider the content and what we can learn from them.
A reflection based on AWAY IN A MANGER, number 15 in our chart of most popular carols.
Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay
The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love You, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side
Until morning is nigh
Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask You to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Your tender care
And fit us for heaven
To live with You there
Over the years, there have been various lyrics. The lyrics and tune included here (‘Cradle Song’) that many of us are familiar with, were first published by John Kirkpatrick in 1895.
This carol is designed to take us back to the context of Jesus’ birth in a stable and in a manger. We read:
‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.’ (Luke 2:1-7)
SOVEREIGNTY AND SUFFERING
It’s always inspiring to remember that Jesus - King of Kings - was born in such poverty. Although God is sovereign over all things, He didn’t make space for His Son to be born in a palace or even an inn! The Son of God was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough - that’s what a manger is.
The details of the incarnation remind us that trials and want are sometimes a part of God’s will for us. Our identity as children of God does not shield us from trying circumstances. Jesus’ birth and life were humble. As such, He shows that He’s a Saviour that empathises and is accessible to all. The poor of this world can see in Jesus, one who understands and receives them.
FIT US FOR HEAVEN
We may wonder what it means to pray for Jesus to ‘fit us for heaven’? We could view this as some sort of request that God help us to live the kind of righteous life that earns us a place in heaven. We cannot be sure what was originally meant by these words, but I encourage you to read them (and encourage children to sing them) as a prayer for God to make us more like Jesus as we prepare to go to heaven, as we read in 1 Peter:
‘So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this [Seeing Jesus and being with Him], make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.’ (2 Peter 3:14)
TAKE A MOMENT TO LISTEN TO THIS CAROL:
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What do you most enjoy about Christmas and why? What do you most dislike about Christmas and why?
3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
On Sunday, Nev Floyd finished our series in 1 Corinthians. The title of his message was:
DO EVERYTHING IN LOVE
'Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.14 Do everything in love.' (1 Corinthians 16:13)
The book of Corinthians encourages us to be loving, particularly within the church community. Despite being very 'spiritual', the Corinthians were failing to love each other in many ways. Many people who are devoted to Jesus, can fail to be devoted, kind, forgiving, serving, generous... to their local church. Here are a few ways that we can 'do everything in love' from 1 Corinthians 16:
1. (16:1-4) TO LOVE IS TO BE GENEROUS (FINANCIALLY)
Paul opens this section with directions on how to give in order to support his ministry.
The church family at CCP is very generous. It's inspiring to see how this church community gives financially. Let's continue to be thankful and open to the Spirit's leading in our giving.
2. (16:5-9) TO LOVE IS TO WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD'S PEOPLE
These verses reveal Paul's desire to visit the churches he's in relationship with. He writes: 'I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you...'
Do we want to spend time with our church family? How can we give quality time to our community? During this Christmas season, who can we include in our lives?
3. (16:10-12) TO LOVE IS TO HONOUR WITH OUR WORDS
Nev encouraged us to speak of others when they are absent as if they were present.
4. (16:15-18) TO LOVE IS TO REFRESH OTHERS
When we meet others, do we seek to love and refresh others or are we only seeking our benefit?
5. (16:19-24) TO LOVE IS TO SHOW LOVING AFFECTION
Paul speaks of his love for a number of people and encourages them to 'Greet one another with a holy kiss.' He ends with 'The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.'
Do express our love for people? How can we seek to do this?
i. Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?
ii. What of the above 5 ways to love from this chapter do you find most difficult and why?
PRAYER AND SIV
SIV - Let's give time to sharing and praying for the carol service, this coming Sunday.
SIC - Could you copy the image below and share it with someone?