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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Second Sunday of Christmas

(Bible Readings as for First Sunday of Christmas)

Liturgical Colour - White

May God who makes all things new,
yet who is for ever the same,  
bless you, this year and guard you in all that you do.

That you may live in his service and abide in him always.


Take a look at your Christmas cards before you throw them away after Christmas. Ask yourself how many of them give a real picture of what the birthplace of Jesus might have been like. It is true that the Gospels do not actually tell us, but they give us clues when they tell us that Mary and Joseph couldn't get a room and the baby Jesus was laid in a manger. The painting by Caravaggio is probably as good as it gets. Mary has a couple of haloes, but apart from that the scene is basic with animals standing around.

If we want to know what life was like for Jesus when he was born then we would have to learn to be poor, really poor. We would have to go back to basics and discover the rejection felt by the holy family as they their first born son in a feeding trough.


Opening Verses of Scripture  Matthew 1:21

”You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” 

Collect Prayers for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship

Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end: bring us with the whole creation to your glory, hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship - additional

Almighty God, in the birth of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word, and shown us the fullness of your love: help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love that we may know the fullness of his joy; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

God our Father, in love you sent your Son that the world may have life: lead us to seek him among the outcast and to find him in those in need, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: accept our heartfelt praise as we worship you, our Saviour and our eternal God.

Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so may we share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen

God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love: gather the nations to be one family, and draw us into your holy life through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ.

First Bible Reading  Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Second Reading   Galatians 4:4-7

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Gospel Reading Luke 2:15-21

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Post Communion Sentence

God of glory, you nourish us with your Word who is the bread of life: fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home: help your Son to live as one family, united in love and obedience and bring us all at last to our home in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


In truth we do not know what the birthplace of Jesus was exactly like. By the time the Magi arrived Mary and Joseph have moved into a house in Bethlehem. However we know from Luke that when Jesus was born he was laid in a  manger because there was no room for them at the inn. The manger became important, it was the fact that Jesus was lying in a manger which identified him to the shepherds as the baby spoken of by the angels.

So what was the birthplace like? Some have suggested a kind of cave, or a stable and others have proposed the underneath of a house where animals were sometimes kept, we will never know. However we can reasonably assume that it was a place where animals lived, because we are told about the manger. It is difficult to find good pictures or paintings of the nativity scene, so many are romanticised and unlike anything which might have taken place. The painting shown today by Caravaggio is good at least for its simplicity and honesty, we can almost smell the earthiness associated with animals and straw. In the wooden stable stand a donkey and an ox. There is a realism with straw on the floor  and a simple basket contains bread. There is a bag with the tools of the carpenter and Joseph in a red cloak shows the shepherds the young Virgin Mother, lying on the floor in a red dress. Mary is shown cuddling her baby with two haloes around her head, but at least she is shown lying down, giving some semblance of the fact that she has been through an ordeal.

Since we do not know what the birthplace is really like there is a need for imagination and guesswork. Nevertheless it is important that the scene reflects the harsh reality that Jesus found his birthplace not among the expected comforts of a normal place of birth. The artists has not tried to show Mary in way which pretends that she has given birth without effort, the theological pretence of Mary the perpetual virgin. This is a real baby in a real mucky barn and real mother who has many things on her mind.

This is important, because if we loose the reality of the birth of Jesus, then we risk making our faith remote and God becomes out of touch with our real lives. Thank God that Jesus was born in a real place, surrounded by real animals and visited by real people at a particular moment in our world history. Jesus became flesh, with all of its issues, this is not an abstract theological idea, he really did make his dwelling among us. 

The reading today finishes with the information that on the eight day Jesus was circumcised and named Jesus. According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean after the birth of a child. On the eight day the male child was circumcised (Gen 17:12). The mother remained unclean for an additional 33 days, sixty six if the child was female (Leviticus 12:1-5). At the end of this time the mother offered a sacrifice, either a lamb, or if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons. (Leviticus 12:6-8). If the child was the first son, then he was to be presented to the Lord, and then bought back with an offering ( Numbers 18:15, 1 Samuel 1:24-28). Mary and Joseph showed conformity to this law and they offered birds instead of a lamb, which shows their poverty.



We could accuse God of bad taste, choosing to be born to a poor lowly teenager who ends up giving birth in a stable. God uses the juxtaposition, God arranges for something which might offend and certainly contradicts our expectations. Jesus is born to the wrong person in the wrong place. That is God’s decision not ours and it should challenge us. Gods ways to us are incongruous. God chooses to behave in this contradictory way and in so doing shows that his authority and power are quite unlike anything which meets our expectations. The birth of Jesus was unremarkable, few people saw, heard or understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were heard only by poor shepherds, there was perhaps an unusually bright star in the sky, but not so brilliantly obvious that Herod, his royal advisors and soldiers were able to follow it. If our faith sometimes lacks the spectacular, the reassuring glimpses of the divine splendour, then get used to it. Ours is a saviour who becomes flesh, who is born in a stable.


  1. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning (Tune Epiphany Hymn)

  2. Come and praise the Lord our King Junior Praise (Tune: Michael Row: See Below)

  3. In the bleak mid winter

  4. When our God came to earth (Tune Personent Hodie Pies Cantiones (See below)

  5. What if the one who shapes the stars? (Tune Banks and Braes, see Below)


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.


With the angels and saints, each day and each night, each shade and each light, I bend my knee in the eye of the Father who created me, in the eye of the Son who redeemed me, in the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me. In love and affection, in wisdom and grace, in love and in fear, for ever and ever. Amen.  Gaelic Prayer to the Trinity

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
ring out the narrowing lust of gold,
ring out the thousand wars of old,
ring in the thousand years of peace. Alfred Lord Tennyson

"O God, all holy one, you are our Mother and our Father and we are your children. Open our eyes and our hearts so that we may be able to discern your work in the universe. And be able to see Your features in every one of Your children. May we learn that there are many paths but all lead to You. Help us to know that you have created us for family, for togetherness, for peace, for gentleness, for compassion, for caring, for sharing.

“May we know that You want us to care for one another as those who know that they are sisters and brothers, members of the same family, Your family, the human family. Help us to beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, so that we may be able to live in peace and harmony, wiping away the tears from the eyes of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And may we know war no more, as we strive to be what You want us to be: Your children. Amen.”
Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa

O Child, who willed to have for your crib a manger; O Creator of the universe, who stripped yourself of divine glory; O Redeemer, who offered your vulnerable body in sacrifice for the salvation of humanity! May the radiance of your birth light up the night of the world. May the power of your message of love thwart the proud snares of the evil one. May the gift of your life make us understand ever more clearly the worth of the life of each human being. Too much blood is still being shed on the earth! Too much violence and too many conflicts trouble the peaceful coexistence of nations! You come to bring us peace. You are our peace! You alone can make of us "a people purified" and belonging to you for ever, a people "zealous for good deeds" (Tit 2:14). John Paul II, Christmas Homily 2003

When the song of the angels is stilled.

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home.

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among others,

To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman, African-American mystic

Save us from the great evils which rend humanity in these first years of the third millennium. Save us from the wars and armed conflicts which lay waste whole areas of the world, from the scourge of terrorism and from the many forms of violence which assail the weak and the vulnerable. Save us from discouragement as we face the paths to peace, difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary; paths which are always and everywhere urgent, especially in the Land where You were born, the Prince of Peace.

God of power and life, the glory of all who believe in you; fill the world with your splendour and show the nations the light of your truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Methodist Worship Collect Second Sunday of Christmas

God of beauty and light, with the appearing of your Son you have brought us into your new creation. Renew in us your image and likeness that our lives may reflect your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Methodist Worship Collect Second Sunday of Christmas  

Eternal Father, we give thanks for your incarnate Son, whose name is our salvation. Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Saviour of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
(From Common Order)

Come near to God and He will come near to you. Amen

May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will and do through you everything which pleases Him, to His glory; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Grant me grace, O God, to take your Son for my Redeemer; his life for my example, his work for my rule, his Spirit for my guide, his wounds for my healing and his cross for my salvation, that he may take possession of my heart, now and for ever. Amen.  Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1657

Additional Material

Kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendour is above the earth and the heavens. From Psalm 148 v 11 - 13

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, in the birth of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word, and shown us the fullness of your love: help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love that we may know the fullness of his joy; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen


  1. In the bleak mid winter

  2. Come on and celebrate

  3. The angel Gabriel from heaven came

  4. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

  5. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning (Tune Epiphany Hymn)

  6. When our God came to earth (See below)

  7. Come and praise the Lord our King

  8. What if the one who shapes the stars? (Tune Banks and Braes)


1 When our God came to earth,
not for him noble birth:
he affirmed human worth
from a humble manger,
just another stranger.
Let the poor rejoice!
Let the mute give voice!
Love is shown,
God is known,
Christ is born of Mary.

2 Not for kings was the word
which the poor shepherds heard:
hope renewed, grace conferred,
and the hillside ringing
with the angels' singing.

3 Bethlehem, humble town
where the babe wears the crown,
turns the world upside down:
God so unexpected,
homeless and rejected.

4 Let us sing Mary's song,
bringing hope, righting wrong,
heard with fear by the strong,
poor and humble raising,
God of justice praising.

Tune: Personent Hodie (Pies Cantiones)

Hymn  Tune Banks and Braes

1 What if the One who shapes the stars
and puts the planets in their place
should set all majesty aside
and move amongst the human race?
What if the One who engineers
the eye, the ear, the heart, the brain,
should make his home here as a child
at Mary's breast in Bethlehem?

2 What if the One who spoke the word
when all was dark, 'Let there be light!'
should enter this disordered world
to make our fading hopes more bright?
What if the God who waits outside
should all at once be found within,
and Mary's child be given the strength
to overturn the power of sin?

3 What if the One who always was,
creation's hidden energy,
should-for love's sake-inhabit time,
God's living Word for all to see?
Yes, true it is: Christ's Gospel truth,
the truth on which we all may build!
So let this be the truth for us
as now we welcome Mary's child.

Hymn   Tune Michael Row

Come and praise the Lord our King, alleluia,
Come and praise the Lord our King, alleluia.
1 Christ was born in Bethlehem, alleluia,
Son of God and Son of Man: alleluia.

2 He grew up an earthly child, alleluia,
Of the world but undefiled: alleluia.

3 From him love and wisdom came, alleluia;
All his life was free from blame, alleluia.

4 Jesus died at Calvary, alleluia,
Rose again triumphantly! alleluia.

5 He will cleanse us from our sin, alleluia,
If we live by faith in Him: alleluia.

6 He will be with us today, alleluia,
And forever with us stay, alleluia.



We don’t hear very much in the Gospels about the family life of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. But we can piece together quite a lot about them from the hints given in the accounts and from the work that Bible scholars and historians have contributed. Over time, beliefs about Mary and Joseph were formed by the expectations and values of the different ages in which the Bible was read. 

In Victorian times, for example, much emphasis was placed on Mary as a meek and mild wife. Jesus was described as a dutiful and obedient child. This sort of moral and social belief about the Holy Family is fantasy, because we simply don’t know these details about their life. 

At some periods of history, things that we do know about the holy Family from the Gospels have been ignored or denied. For example, the fact that Jesus’ brothers are referred to on several occasions, was quietly ignored by those who wished to focus on Mary’s eternal sexual purity. The fact that she was a mother to anyone other than Jesus did not suit their ideas and the scriptural references were passed over. 

The facts of Jesus’ early life suggest that it was lived in fear and upheaval as Joseph moved his family from Judea to Egypt and then on to Galilee, because Judea was too dangerous for them. The Holy Family was what we would now call political refugees or asylum seekers. Does this change our perspective on modern day refugees? 

It is all too easy to concentrate on the bits of the Bible that we agree with and to ignore the uncomfortable teachings. Jesus says far more about greed and meanness being spiritually dangerous than he said about sexual morals. Yet Christians have over centuries been happy to use the Bible as a weapon to beat the “immoral” with while hoarding up wealth. 

The teachings of Jesus make uncomfortable reading for us, just as they did for the people who first heard them, and God understands our pain and anxiety. Yet painful choices have to be made in order to gain a greater, eternal kind of security.  


  • Mary could not have known what she was saying “yes” to: we pray for her trust. 
  • Joseph could not have known where his trust was leading him, we pray for his patience. 
  • The wise men could not have known the end of their journey, we pray for their boldness and adventure. 
  • The shepherds could not have known the meaning of their vision: we pray for their open minds. 
  • The Christ-child could not have known what was happening to him, we join with him in his fragile humanity in bringing before the unknown of divinity our prayer, praise and wonder this Christmas. Peter Armstrong

A Meditation for Today 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude


  1. In the Bleak Midwinter
  2. Go tell it on the mountain 
  3. See amid the winter’s snow
  4. Joy to the world

God who became as we are, may we become as you are. Amen. (after William Blake)

We thank you Lord, that we are citizens of a world made up of different races. Your grace touches us all, whatever our race and colour. We rejoice in the richness of our cultures, our music and dance, our folklore and legends. We thank you for all these gifts. We delight in the joy they bring to our lives. Amen. (Women of Brazil)

Enlarge our souls, O God, with the gift of divine grace, that hoping all things and enduring all things we may become for others instruments of your healing mercy. In all things attune our hearts to the impulse of your Kingdom and our lives to the harmony of eternal love; that your will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen James Martineau, 1805-1900