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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#711. THE COVENTRY CAROL (14/12/22)

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 THE COVENTRY CAROL, number 8 in our chart of most popular carols.


Lullay you little tiny child Bye bye lully lullay You little tiny child

Bye bye lully lullay

O sisters too how may we do For to preserve this day This poor youngling for whom we sing

Bye bye lully lullay

Herod the king in his raging

Charged he hath this dreadful day His men of might in his sight All young children to slay

Then woe is me poor child for thee And ever mourn and say For this parting neither say nor sing Bye bye lully lullay

This is a very bleak carol with a haunting melody. It’s about Herod’s order to kill the male children in Bethlehem after the magi (wise men) fail to return and report to him where he can find Jesus. Bethlehem, at that time, it is estimated may have had around 10-30 boys of this age. Matthew records:

‘When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’’ (Matthew 2:16-18)

It’s sung from the perspective of a mother as she seeks to soothe her baby whilst at the same time fearing the pending murder of her child.

This carol reminds us that the Christmas story has many dark elements. There is the impoverished nature of Jesus’ birth. There is also Herod’s demonically inspired attack on Christ. This is an attempt by the devil to destroy God’s Son.

This is a carol that speaks of deep grief. It’s important that we remember that many do grieve over the loss of children. Christmas is a time when grief is brought to mind as we miss those who have been taken from us.




1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


2. Icebreaker

What has God been speaking to you about from your Bible reading recently?


3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

This study is based upon our carol service on Sunday.


This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’ (Matthew 1:18-19)

All of us have problems. Christmas often highlights our difficulties. Jesus was coming into the world to bring great joy, but, initially, all that Mary and Joseph could see on that first Christmas were their big problems.

  • ROMANS: Jesus is born into a nation that has been invaded and are being controlled by a foreign power.

  • PREGNANT: Mary, a virgin, is pregnant and not by Joseph her Fiancé! This was a disgrace in their culture.

  • DIVORCE: He was going to ‘divorce her quietly’ - end their engagement.

  • STABLE & MANGER: He was going to be born in a stable and manger because they were poor and disrespected. This is far from ideal!

  • HATED: Herod was going to try to kill Jesus. They are going to have to escape to Egypt and live in a foreign land as refugees.

They had a lot of problems on that first Christmas.


But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:20-21)

For us to handle our troubles with peace, like Joseph and Mary, God wants us to know what Jesus’ name means. His name means 'God saves.'

In their many problems that first Christmas, they are told that joy will come by knowing His name is Jesus.

In the culture of Jesus’ day, names had meanings that you wanted the child to have. God gives Him the name Jesus because that’s what He will be - the Saviour.


'All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’ (Matthew 1:22-25)

In our troubles, to know peace, we have to actually receive Jesus into our lives by putting our faith in His name. We must name Him Jesus - God who saves - for ourselves. Like Joseph, we have to 'wake up' and 'give Him the name Jesus'.

This Christmas, may we give Him the name ‘Jesus’ - may we believe that Jesus is our Saviour and invite Him into our lives.


i. Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii. What are the 'names' or titles given to Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25?

ii. How does knowing the various names and titles given to Jesus help us in our lives?

iii. What other names can you think of that are given to God or Jesus?

iv. How can you grow in knowing God's names better?


SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith?

SIV- Let's pray for those that God has put on our hearts.

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