This Christmas service of songs and readings examines Jesus’ birth and how he is the fulfillment of God’s covenant from four perspectives: Isaiah the prophet, Mary the mother of Jesus, Paul the apostle, and the believers living in the present time. As the covenant people living under God’s faithfulness, we shall re-examine our role or responsibility in this grand story.
The service uses a variety of hymns and songs from different sources, including several popular and accessible selections from two well-known Chinese hymnals. Special thanks to Elaine Chu, who wrote the monologues of Mary and Paul.
Jesus, Lord of the Covenant
Prelude: “There Is a God” Wan, CP 38
This song was included on Stream of Praise Music Ministries’ first CD in June 1996. Since then it has become one of the most popular worship songs in Chinese churches around the world. The text contrasts various attributes of the triune God—the creator God who is all-powerful but also tender in comforting the wounded, for example, or the God who both judges every evil but also shows mercy for human weakness. May be performed as an instrumental or vocal solo.
Call to Worship
Let us worship the triune God:
The Creator God,
by whom all things were made;
our Redeeming God,
in whom all things are saved;
our Sustaining God,
who is our counselor—correcting, guiding, and renewing.
Let us worship the triune God,
Lord of all times and all places,
who calls each of us into covenant relationship.
—Rev. Joyce Borger, 2018
Our Lord has called us to worship. Let us praise him, for he is the faithful God that keeps his promises to us.
Option: “I Exalt Thee” Sanchez, CP 22, WR 47
Jesus Was Promised
Let us hear again the gracious promises of God,
and know that all of God’s promises
are brought to completion through Jesus Christ!
—The Worship Sourcebook, 7.2. © 2004, Faith Alive Christian Resources. Reprinted by permission.
Song: “The God of Abraham Praise” Olivers, LUYH 39
Option: “Surely It Is God Who Saves Me” Daw, PsH 193
In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, LORD.
I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
—based on Isaiah 12
Option: “Litany of Praise: Our Covenanting God” Hoekema, LUYH 36
Fulfillment of the Promise
Voice 1: While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, 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.
Voice 2: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Voice 1: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Voice 2: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Voice 1: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Voice 2: (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
—Luke 2:6–14 and John 1:14–18
Song: “Holy Night, Pure and Quiet” Zhu, CP 154
This Chinese Christmas hymn was written in 1921. Like many Chinese tunes, this melody uses a pentatonic scale. Some people refer to this piece as the Chinese “Silent Night.” On YouTube: goo.gl/xkduWC
Mary (a reflection from many years later): I will never forget that day when the divine messenger, the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, told me about the most joyful news of my life: the coming of the Messiah through me! I was puzzled, but at the same time joyful! I was puzzled because he told me that I would give birth to the long-promised Messiah, the King and the Savior of all mankind! How could such a thing happen? A virgin gives birth to a son?! In the most divine and comforting way, the angel reminded me, “With the Lord, all things are possible!” I kept asking myself, “Who am I that the Lord is mindful of me?” I am just a poor and lowly girl with nothing to offer the Lord, and yet I am chosen to be the blessed mother of the Christ child. For this, my heart was filled with great joy. I tried very hard to contain it within my heart until Elizabeth blessed me when I visited her. At that moment, I could hold it in no longer, and I burst out in praise:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors” (Luke 1:46–55).
Song: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Wesley, LUYH 80, CP 147, HUP 162
Option: “Midnight Stars Make Bright the Skies” Yang, HUP 154
This accessible Chinese tune, written in 1934 for a 1930 Christmas poem, became well known when the hymn was included in an earlier version of Hymns of Universal Praise. As a congregational song, the hymn has since been included in several Western hymnals. Choral versions are available for SATB and children’s choir. On YouTube: goo.gl/SzT8gC
The Universality of the Covenant
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1–11
Apostle Paul: Since the day I was blinded by the unspeakable glory of the living Christ and fell on the road to Damascus, my life has been transformed at its core. Every inner part of me died on that road. My core being was consumed by the great light that shone on me. I heard the voice of my Lord, indescribably divine and unimaginably tender, call out: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). The resurrected Christ, whose death on the cross I’d witnessed so vividly, spoke to me that day. In great trembling, I inquired, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). My Lord’s reply will be etched in my memory all through eternity. Oh, what a wretched sinner I am! Yes, I have been a persecutor of the Christ, who died for my sin and the sin of the world. On that cross, he bore the sin burden of the entire human race. The voice that cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” turned into yet another voice, a tender whisper that penetrated deeply into my very being. I know I will be living with this tension for the rest of my life! On the one hand, I have been his persecutor; on the other hand, I became the object of his undying love. My memory as a persecutor of Christ tortures me, but the tender, loving voice of my Lord comforts me. Christ died so that I can live; Christ lives again and now I must die for him. It is my turn to give. Since that day when I was blinded by the unspeakable glory of the living Christ, by faith I now declare that I no longer live, but Christ, the one who came back from the dead, lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
Song: “As He Gathered at His Table” Richardson, LUYH 155
Option for Choir: “To Thee I Die” Scott
Living under God’s Faithfulness as His Covenanted People
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient,
deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.
We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us,
not because of righteous things we had done,
but because of his mercy.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
—John 1:17; Romans 5:8, 20; Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:3–7; 2:11‒12
Benediction: Philippians 4:7
Song: “May the Lord, Mighty God” Chinese folk tune, LUYH 940, HUP 878