Our Carol Service (Sunday 16th December at 5pm) was a little different this year. All but two of the carols were sung by the entire congregation and all the carols we sang were chosen by popular vote. On the day I announced the winning carols ‘Top of the Pops’ style, in reverse order, so that we sang the most popular carol at the end of the service. It was a lot of fun and there was a clear presentation of the Christmas message so it was a good service for people who don’t usually come to church.
What is your favourite carol? One of my favourites is ‘Away in a manger’ because it’s a sweet song and it has some good words too. In the 3rd verse we pray:
Be near me Lord Jesus;
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me for ever,
and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there.
It is a lovely prayer but what are we asking for when we sing, “fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there”?
It doesn’t mean, “please God make me good enough so that I deserve a place in heaven when I die.” If entry into heaven depended on us being good enough then no one would get in! Thankfully, a person is saved by God’s grace. That means He forgives and accepts us even though we don’t deserve it, when we put our trust in Jesus. As the bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (2:10). Later on Paul writes, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (4:1). In other words, God has done so much for us, and promised us such a wonderful future with him, that we should try to live in a way that is worthy, fitting, right and suitable. So what does it mean when we pray, “fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there”? It means if we are going to live a life worthy of the free gift of eternal life then we are going to need God’s help. When we sing this line we are asking God to make us more and more like Jesus. Over the course of our lives God will help us grow increasingly fit for heaven, but we are not going to be perfect this side of heaven. However, when we die and go to be with the Lord he will make us perfect and therefore truly fit for, and worthy of, our place in his presence (Heb. 12:23, 1 John 3:3).
Have a very happy and joy filled Christmas,
Revd. Matt Williams
(Vicar, St. Paul’s Church)
For details of our Christmas services visit Upcoming Services
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