For many people, Christmas Day marked the start of the holidays. But I’m thankful to have been part of a faithful music team that sacrificed some family and present-opening time to serve our church family here at HBC.
Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, it meant that we ran two consective-day services, and kept the same music team for both days. Interestingly, we ended up having an overflowing auditorium on Christmas Day, followed by a congregation half the size the very next day! No doubt most people had already departed for their well-deserved holiday.
Here’s a recap of the service and the songs we chose this past weekend (You can find links to the set lists of this church and many other churches each week at theworshipcommunity.com).
Order of Service – 25 December
(worship leader: Craig Starrenburg)
1. Joy to the World – Isaac Watts, F.G. Handel. If it wasn’t so ingrained into the Christmas season, I’d love to use this one more often during the rest of the year. It’s a great way to start a service by inviting everyone to “Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing” – the arrival of God’s son. I liked what Craig said to precede this song – “we are the reason for the season” – for it is because of our sinful state that God came down as man to redeem and reconcile us back to Him.
2. Silent Night – Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber, John Freeman Young. The lyrics in the third verse stand out to me most with its proclamation of the baby Jesus’s divinity – something that’s still hard to fully fathom the importance of:
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Reading: Luke 1:26-38. This passage describes the annunciation, as Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she’ll be the mother of the Son of God.
Musical item: Mary Did You Know – Mark Lowry, Buddy Greene. We followed the reading with this song, which helps us to picture what might have gone through Mary’s mind as she contemplated what her child would grow to become:
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
We were privileged to have a good friend David Chua sing the solo for this piece (you can watch it here).
Reading: Luke 2:1-14. This passage described the birth of Jesus, and the subsequent angelic chorus that startled shepherds at night, singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
3. Hark the Herald Angels – Charles Wesley, Felix Mendelssohn. A fitting song to follow the reading.
4. O Holy Night – Adolphe Adam, John Dwight. This is a favourite of many people at HBC, young and old. I enjoy singing this one, though my personal wish is that it the words would be clearer on how exactly “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.” Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the English translation was penned by a Unitarian minister, John Dwight in 1855 – but I’m not too sure. In any case, before using it next time I’d like to explain exactly how oppression ceases in Christ’s name, and be clearer on the gospel of peace that the song refers to.
Sermon: Peter shared a short message, taking a slightly different account of the story of God coming to earth as a man. In the first chapter of John’s gospel, there’s no sign of Joseph and Mary, no angels, no shepherd, no wise men….
5. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend. We closed with this song, which sums up the gospel really well and spells out the reason why he sent his only Son (to make a wretch His treasure).
Order of Service – 26 December
(worship leader: William Chong)
This was my opening call to worship (penned about 20 minutes before the start of practice):
As I left church yesterday, one point Peter made during the message stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. He made the point that’s particularly relevant in this holiday season of shopping, celebrating, and partying – that everyone, Christian or not, has some sort of a Saviour. Yet for many this festive season, it’s not Jesus Christ – instead, it’s a whole range of functional saviours, to save us from our respective hells.
This morning, your Lord and Saviour could be:
– some Christmas present you didn’t get, to save you from the hell of not having what you wanted
– popularity and prestige, to save you from the hell of being called a loser
– getting married, to save you from singleness hell
– even your children, who you worship above all else, to save you from your childless hell.
But really, all these things if accepted correctly as part of God’s abundant gifts towards us should lead us to praise and worship our ultimate saviour, Jesus – who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11 ESV)
We’ll start our singing with a song that’s an invitation to continue our worship of our God, by asking Him to tune our wayward heart to sing of His grace.
3. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend.
Sermon: Peter gave the church an end-of-year message, challenging us to be steadfast, watchful, and thankful in our prayer life.
It was a very busy weekend – in the morning prayer on Sunday morning, everyone looked shattered from a full-on Christmas Day with family and friends. But by God’s grace we made it through, and the gospel was proclaimed this weekend. So we happily cry out soli deo gloria – to God be the glory!
– William Chong