God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.
God makes a big promise to the smallest of places.
“When He acts this way we can't boast in the merits or achievements of men but only in the glorious mercy of God. We can't say, ‘Well, of course He set his favor on Bethlehem, look at the human glory Bethlehem has achieved!’ All we can say is, ‘God is wonderfully free; He is not impressed by our bigness; He does nothing in order to attract attention to our accomplishments; He does everything to magnify his glorious freedom and mercy.’"
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
God makes a big promise to the smallest of people.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
3We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
14Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. 15Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. 16He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel;
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.*
19For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!*
O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.*
21Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the Lord? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me. 22Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other.
23I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to me.” 24The people will declare, “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.” And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed. 25In the Lord all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in him they will boast.
O come Thou, Dayspring, Come and Cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel will ransom captive Israel.*
76And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.
But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
*O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
John Mason Neale & Thomas Helmore | Public Domain
5When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
What do you hear in this passage?
11While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
What do you hear in this passage?
23When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25“How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
What do you hear in this passage? Relief and Resolve, Joy
13After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
16Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
Jesus comes in the context of evil and suffering in the world.
1O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.