Dec. 27, 2020 Carols & Their Stories

Dec. 27, 2020 Carols & Their Stories

Pre-recorded, made available at 10:45 am

Welcome & Announcements

  • Welcome to St. Andrew’s River Heights
  • Next Sunday join St. Andrew’s River Heights for their online service beginning at 10:30 am
  • 10 we welcome Rev. Earl Gould to lead us in online worship. He will be on call for emergency pastoral care Jan. 7-13
  • The Outreach Team expresses profound gratitude for the support so many of you have given to initiatives since the pandemic began in in March.

This month seventeen turkeys, cut and sliced along with gravy have been delivered to Rossbrook House, and dozens upon dozens of home baked cookies have been delivered to West Broadway to help them celebrate the “12 Days of Christmas”. The Pantry at WB will receive your gift of close to $3000.00 and you will be funding the “12 Days of Christmas” Bar-B-Que next week.

Your commitment to others in our community and beyond is truly inspiring.


Candle Lighting & Prelude

As we light the Christ Candle, we will take its light for the peace candle. We pray that the light of the risen Christ will shine forth peace through us, the body of Christ.

Prelude:  “Carol Medley”       arr. Mark Hayes

Treaty Acknowledgement (picture of Star blanket)

We acknowledge with gratitude and respect the Indigenous peoples of this land. We share the responsibilities and privileges of this land as we live, work and worship on Treaty 1 territory and receive water from Shoal Lake on Treaty 3 territory. We are all Treaty People.

Opening Prayer

Morning Star, Light of lights, Holy Flame, we welcome your presence and your gift of growing light. As the days lengthen, so let our hope strengthen. We ask for a taste of joy today. Gladden our hearts as we remember days of yore and look ahead to days of yonder glow. Amen.


Carols of the Angels

For the first part of our service, we will sing carols of the angels.

James Montgomery was born in 1771 in Scotland. His parents were Moravian missionaries, who died while serving in the West Indies. The faith that he had learned from his parents kept him going as an orphan through boarding schools, failure at school, homelessness and loneliness. He began to express his faith through poetry at the age of 10. In his early teens, he put together some of his poetry and tried to sell it to publishers unsuccessfully. However, one person decided to buy one of his poems as a way to give him a bit of money to survive.

Eventually, at the age of 21, he finally found his dream job on the staff of a radical newspaper in Sheffield. When the editor fled the country when he was threatened with prosecution for his critical editorials, Montgomery bought the newspaper company and renamed it The Sheffield Iris. Like the previous editor, Montgomery also had a fiery passion for social justice and was able to express this passion through his own cutting-edge articles, which placed him in prison twice—once for inciting the British public to support the fall of the Bastille in Paris and another time for expressing the sentiments of the workers who had rioted in a local mill. Upon his release after serving six months in prison for this second inflammatory article, Montgomery was stunned to find that his first book had become a best seller and the circulation of his newspaper was larger than ever before.

Montgomery continued supporting various causes in his writing, many of which were unpopular. Montgomery was ahead of his time and he had significant influence in pushing the public forward. He pressed them to abolish the slave trade and to humanize the belittled chimney sweepers. Many of the reforms for which Montgomery argued were eventually adopted by the British government. In gratitude, the government gave him a generous royal pension.

Montgomery’s faith continued to deepen throughout his life and he wrote many articles about it. He promoted the widespread reading of the Bible. Encouraged by the response to some hymns he wrote, he began to dedicate more time and energy to the writing of hymns.

As Montgomery was preparing an article for the Christmas Eve edition of his paper in 1816, he was inspired by the Gospel of Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth to pen the words to “Angels, From the Realms of Glory.” He initially wrote 5 verses, but the last verse was omitted by publishers. It’s a shame, because that last verse combines his passion for social justice with his faith. It’s a hard verse to sing for Christmas, which is why it was probably omitted, but it contains the core of the social gospel—that God’ justice and mercy shall break the chains of oppression. Let’s now sing all five of the original verses of this hymn.

VU 36   Angels, From the Realms of Glory    REGENT SQUARE

Angels, from the realms of glory,

Wing your flight o’er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story,

Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the new-born King.


Shepherds in the field abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with us is now residing,

Yonder shines the infant Light:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the new-born King.


Sages, leave your contemplations;

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great desire of nations;

Ye have seen his natal star:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the new-born King.


Saints before the altar bending,

Watching long in hope and fear,

Suddenly the Lord, descending,

In his temple shall appear:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the new-born King.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,

Doomed for guilt to endless pains,

Justice now revokes the sentence;

Mercy calls you, break your chains.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ the new-born King.


Our second carol of the angels takes us back to the late 1700s in England.

Rev. Charles Wesley is described as our most prolific and profound hymn writer. He was inspired by Rev. Isaac Watts, another great hymn writer. While studying at Oxford University, Charles and his brother John founded a group in 1779 that gathered for three or four evenings a week to skim through and discuss the great classics. On Sundays, they would read and discuss a religious book.  They would also pray together and be accountable to each other for their spiritual growth. In addition, they took food to poor families, visited prisoners and taught orphans how to read. They certainly stood out from the other university students and became objects of ridicule for their vigorous comportment and spiritual discipline. The other students derided them with names such as the Holy Club and the Methodists. These names of ridicule stuck and eventually became respectable descriptions of a spiritual movement that began within the Anglican Church.

One evening around Christmas time, Charles Wesley was meditating on the birth of Jesus and inspired to write a ten-verse hymn. The first line read, “Hark! How all the welkin rings, ‘Glory to the King of Kings.’ ”  This hymn was published and underwent a number of revisions in future publications until another Methodist preacher, George Whitefield, wrote his revision of the hymn for his own publication. Whitefield changed the cumbersome phrase “how all the welkin rings” to “the herald angels sing”. Whitefield’s revision became the standard.

Our story doesn’t end with the author. It continues with the composer of the tune we know so well. Felix Mendelssohn was commissioned to write music for the anniversary of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Commenting on this music, Mendelssohn said, “I am sure that this piece will be liked very much by singers and hearers but it will never do to sacred words.” Fifteen years later, William Cummings discovered that this piece of music was a perfect fit for Charles Wesley’s hymn.

Let us now sing Whitefield’s revised version of Charles Wesley’s hymn set to Mendelssohn’s music that Mendelssohn himself deemed unfit for the church.


VU 48    Hark! the Herald Angels Sing    MENDELSSOHN

Hark! the herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King,

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With the angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord,

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail, the incarnate deity,

Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King!”


Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and Life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that we no more may die,

Born to raise us from the earth,

Born to give us second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King!”


Carols of the Magi

In the second part of our service, we will sing carols of the Magi. We begin with a reading from the Gospel of Matthew


Matthew 2:9b-11

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The First Nowell, composed in the 17th century, is one of the oldest English carols. Both the author and composer are unknown.

There is some disagreement about the etymology of the word “Nowell”. Most believe that it is

rooted in the Latin natalis meaning day of birth. In early 14th century France, it was shouted as a term of joy. One author suggests that Nowell is a contraction of the phrase Now all is well, just as Goodbye is a contraction of God be with you and Farewell is a contraction of Fare thee well. This author continues to suggest that on Christmas morning, people greeted each other with the phrase Now all is well. Christ’s birth brings hope in the midst of darkness and strife, and Christians can assure each other that now, even in the midst of COVID, all is well—nowell for short.VU91 The First Nowell (sing refrain only after vs 1 & 6)

The first Nowell the angel did say

Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;

In fields where they lay a-keeping their sheep

On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.


Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,

Born is the King of Israel.


They looked up, and saw a star

Shining in the east, beyond them far,

And to the earth it gave great light,

And so it continued both day and night.


And by the light of that same star

Three wise men came from country far;

To seek for a king was their intent,

And to follow the star wherever it went.


The star drew nigh to the northwest;

O’er Bethlehem it took its rest,

And there it did both stop and stay,

Right over the place where Jesus lay.


Then entered in those wise men three,

Full reverently upon their knee,

And offered there in his presence

Their gold and myrrh and francincense.


Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,

That hath made heaven and earth of nought,

And with his blood our life hath bought.


Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,

Born is the King of Israel.

In the mid-1800s Rev. John Hopkins was drawn into the mystic of the magi as he wrote the carol “We Three Kings”. Some dispute whether or not it is a carol or even a hymn because it perpetuates fake news. And yet, this is one of the few Christmas carols that connects the celebration of Jesus’ birth with the sacrifice of his death. So what are the falsehoods within this text? Biblical scholars tell us the three kings bearing gifts for Jesus were neither kings, nor necessarily three in number. And they certainly weren’t wise, going to a ruler known for his sadistic jealousy and asking where they might worship the new-born king. They bore three gifts, but we do not know how many they were in numbers. To carry wealthy gifts, they would need to travel with a large entourage.

Magi is the Greek word used to describe them in the Gospel of Matthew. Magi refers to court priests who were practitioners of astrology and magic, studying the skies for portents of things to come. They would know the deep significance of the confluence of two bright bodies of light that merged into one to form the Christmas Star. Perchance Jupiter and Saturn?

We Three Kings        John Hokpins                       

We three kings of Orient are.

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.


Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.


Born a babe on Bethlehem’s plain

Gold I bring to crown Him again

King forever, ceasing never

Over us all to reign.


Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.


Francincense to offer have I.

Incense owns a Deity nigh.

Prayer and praising, voices raising,

Worshipping God on high.


Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.


Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume

Breathes a life of gathering gloom.

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.


Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.


Glorious now, behold Him arise;

King and God and sacrifice.

Allelujah, Allelujah,

Sounds through the earth and skies.


Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.


Offering Prayer

As the Magi brought their gifts to the infant Jesus, so we bring ours for the ministry of Westworth. We are grateful for the support of those both within and beyond our congregation. Donations must be received by Dec. 31 to be included in 2020 tax receipts. You may give to Westworth through the donation button on the website, e-transfer or cheques mailed to the office. Donations may be mailed or dropped off for St. Andrew’s River Heights.

We humbly offer our gifts to you, as the Magi offered theirs to the infant Prince of Peace. Use our gifts to further St. Andrew’s and Westworth’s ministries of compassion and justice for this world. Amen.

Christina Rossetti imaginatively placed the holy birth not in warm Bethlehem, but in her chillier and snow-bound native England. Her poem first appeared as a hymn with Gustav Holst’s music in 1906. Let us now sing Christina Rossetti’s hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” set to Gustav Holst’s tune.


VU 55   In the Bleak Midwinter            CRANHAM

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.


Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;

In the bleak midwinter, a stable sufficed

The Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.


Enough for him, whom cherubim worship night and day,

A breast full of milk and a manger full of hay.

Enough for him, whom angels fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel which adore.


What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give him – give my heart.


Prayers of the People


We now continue with the words of Jesus, who taught us to pray to God,

our Mother and our Father,

who art in heaven

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

for thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

forever and ever, Amen.

Carols of Joy

We will now move into the third part of our service where we will sing carols of joy. Our first carol comes from a medieval German cradle song. It was used in mystery plays about the nativity where it was associated with the carol “Joseph Lieber, Joseph mein,” (My dear Joseph). The author and the composer are unknown, but the music we will hear was arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906.

VU 45     Joy is Now in Every Place     RESONET IN LAUDIBUS

Joy is now in every place,

Christmas lightens every face,

Now be with us, in your grace,

O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.


May the star that shone that night,

Making your poor stable bright,

Fill our hearts with love and light,

O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.


Through the New Year let it stay,

Leading us upon your way,

Making Christmas every day,

O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.


Now and ever may we find

Your good news to fill our mind:

Peace and love to humankind,

O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.


Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.



Every year at our post-Christmas Worship Around the Breakfast Table service, we have ended the service by having everyone stand up and join hands in a large circle, where we attempt to dance the Horah while singing “You Shall Go Out with Joy”. This hymn comes from Psalm 98. Before we sing it, though, we will sing one last Christmas Carol that was also inspired by Psalm 98.

Rev. Isaac Watts was declining in health at the age of 38. With reluctance, the congregation he was serving agreed to accept his resignation and he went to recuperate at the estate of London Mayor Sir Thomas Abney and his wife. What was to be a brief stay of only a few weeks turned into 36 years, where Watts served as their private chaplain. Lady Abney wrote, “It was the shortest visit a friend ever paid a friend.”

While Watts was in their employ, he had time to work on a number of major projects, one of which was to write Christian hymns based on the Psalms. Psalm 98 was originally written as a hymn celebrating victory in a war, culminating in God ruling the whole earth with justice and peace. When Watts read Psalm 98, he was reminded of the joy of Christ’s birth, and of God’s incarnated rule of justice, which is one of the meanings of the Hebrew word we translate as righteousness. It can also be translated as justice.


VU 59   Joy to the World   ANTIOCH

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare him room

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns:

Let all their songs employ,

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.


No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground:

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the earth with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of his righteousness

And wonders of his love,

And wonders of his love

And wonders, wonders of his love.



May God lead us into this new year with new hope, renewed health and relationships deepened anew. Amen.

If you have room in your home and energy, please stand and dance as you are able. At the very least, there are some clapping parts that you can join in.


VU 884    You Shall Go Out with Joy   TREES OF THE FIELD

You shall go out with joy

And be led forth with peace;

The mountains and the hills will break forth before you;

There’ll be shouts of joy,

And all the trees of the field will clap,

Will clap their hands!

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands,

The trees of the field will clap their hands,

The trees of the field will clap their hands,

While you go out with joy.


Postlude:  “Ding Dong Merrily! He is Born!”  arr. Anna Laura Page

Bettina N., flute


Rolling Credits

Stories of the carols have largely come from Stories of Christmas Carols by Ernest K. Emurian (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1958).


Due to the Red Alert for Winnipeg, the building for Westworth United Church is closed to the public. The office will be closed at noon on Dec. 24 and will re-open Jan. 2, 2021.

Staff at Westworth extend to all of you a joyous Christmas and hopeful New Year.

For pastoral care, please do not hesitate to contact Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd at home (204) 775-8817 or through email

If you would like to receive weekly updates about what is happening in our congregation, please make sure that our office has your email address. Check the congregational email tab.

Permission to podcast the music in this service has been obtained from One License—License # A-732847


Thank you to those who have helped to put this service together:

Service leaders:

Christina T.-S. soloist and reader

Dorcas W., organist/pianist

Debbie M., music researcher

Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, minister

Peter S. and Kevin S. production & camera

Westworth United Church’s stained-glass windows, which you see here, were created by Leo Mol.