Nine Devotionals for Christmas

December 20, 2016

by Peter Amsterdam

Christmas is such a momentous celebration for us Christians, as we commemorate the birth of our Lord, the events surrounding His first coming, and the meaning of His birth. Last year I came across a traditional Christmas service which has been held in Britain every year since 1918 called “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.” I found it to be quite devotional and shared it here on Directors’ Corner. In reviewing it, I was again moved by the selection of Bible verses which combine to tell the full story of the birth of Jesus—starting with the first promise of a Savior in Genesis, and ending with the explanation of the Word made flesh in the Gospel of John. So I’m using the text of the Nine Lessons as an outline again this year, with a different selection of songs.

This year, the Christmas songs included with each devotional were recorded by TFI members, and some of them were also written by TFI members. The main focus of the “Nine Lessons” is what God’s Word tells us about the coming and arrival of God’s promised Savior. The songs that accompany each reading express the joy of the great gift of God’s love that He has given to humanity—salvation through His Son, Jesus. Maria and I pray that you will find these readings and songs spiritually feeding and a means of focusing on the importance of the event we celebrate at this time of year—the birth of our Savior. We pray you’ll have a wonderful and Spirit-filled Christmas.

Opening Song

There Is Born a Child

Gazing out my window on a wondrous winter’s night
At a star that shone so brightly and the beauty of the sight,
I heard shepherds tell of angels who had appeared and shown the way
To a manger here in Bethlehem;
They proclaimed to all this holy day that,

There is born a Child, there will rise a Son,
There is born a Savior for the Lord’s children.
There is born a Child, there will rise a Son,
There is born a Savior for the Lord’s children.

I followed with the shepherds to a lonely manger place,
And there I saw the Child with light upon His face.
His mother Mary held Him, and pondered in her heart
All the wonders that had happened
Right from the very start, and now,

There is born a Child, there will rise a Son,
There is born a Savior for the Lord’s children.
There is born a Child, there will rise a Son,
There is born a Savior for the Lord’s children.

There is no royal palace, no velvet for the King,
But His coming is proclaimed by all
The angels as they sing!

Music and Lyrics: Jerry Paladino

First Reading

God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise and that his seed will bruise the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3)

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”1

What Child Is This?

What Child is this, who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him praise,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

He lies in such a lowly place where ox and ass are feeding.
The end of fear for all who hear
The Silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, confess Him King to all the Earth.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the Babe,
The Son of Mary. Jesus, the Son of Mary

Lyrics: William C. Dix
Melody: Traditional English Melody

Second Reading

God promises to faithful Abraham that in his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 22)

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”2

Let the Whole World Know

The people of the earth sat in darkness;
They saw no light, no comfort or joy
Until the beauty of Heaven showed its power
Through a little baby boy,
Who came to bring us peace
And free our souls from the bondage of sin.
The forces of darkness were trembling;
They knew they would be conquered.
He came to win!

So let the whole world know
That their Messiah has come.
And sing, all ye on bended knee,
To Jesus, God’s Son.

Love is the magic of Christmas;
The birth of Jesus, the greatest gift of love.
And to know Him is to know
The truest meaning of freedom;
Yes, freedom’s what I’m speaking of.
The world will one day grow weary
Of the struggle for gain, the vanity and strife.
There’ll be a mighty cry of rejoicing
When Jesus comes to fill the world
With love and light!

Look up, all ye who are without hope,
And see Jesus, the Truth and the Life,
He’s the way to freedom’s open doors,
The life of liberty in love!

Let the whole world know!

Let the whole world know soon all
Oppression will be over!
Sing, all ye on bended knee,
To Jesus, Jesus!
Let the whole world know He’ll wipe
Away ev’ry sorrow and stain!
Sing, all ye on bended knee,
To Jesus, Jesus!

Let the whole world know
That their Messiah has come!
And sing, all ye on bended knee, to Jesus!

Jesus, Lord Emmanuel!
Let me hear the choir sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Jesus, Child of love,
He wants you, He needs you,
He loves you! Glory, glory!
Jesus is a man of love, the Prince of Peace.
We’re gonna let the whole world know
That their Messiah has come!
Oh Jesus, love of God!

Music and Lyrics: Gideon Sol, Michael Fogarty

Third Reading

The prophet foretells the coming of the Savior. (Isaiah 9)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.3

Christmas in Bethlehem

Winter fires were burning bright,
Travelers journeyed in the night.
A husband led his weary wife through the falling snow
To a humble cattle stall,
Nowhere else to go.
Christmas in Bethlehem, many years ago.

There was born a baby boy,
Mother’s heart was filled with joy,
Shepherds heard the angel voices fill the night with song,
Wise men wondered at a star,
With strange celestial glow.
Christmas in Bethlehem, many years ago.

And in Bethlehem today
Children fear, yet still they play
While mothers cry and fathers pray for peace to come again.
And around the weary world echoes the refrain:
“Christmas in Bethlehem, when shall true love reign?”

One day soon the Prince of Love
Will return from skies above
And His pow’r shall overcome all pain and tears and war.
Then shall songs of joy and praise
Ring out from shore to shore.

Christmas in Bethlehem, peace on Earth once more.

Lyrics and Music: Michael Dooley

Fourth Reading

The peace that Christ will bring is foreshown. (Isaiah 11)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. With righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.4

Ring Christmas Bells

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring,
Tell all the world, Jesus is King,
Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord

Ring Christmas bells, sound far and near,
The birthday of Jesus is here,
Herald the news to old and young,
Tell it to all in every tongue

Ring Christmas bells, toll loud and long,
Your message sweet, peal and prolong,
Come, all ye people, join in the singing,
Repeat the story told by the ringing,
Ring, ring, ring Christmas bells,
Ring, ring, ring Christmas bells

Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord,
Ring Christmas bells, ring Christmas bells,
Merrily ring, tell all the world

Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord,
Ring Christmas bells, ring Christmas bells,
Merrily ring, tell all the world Jesus is King

Lyrics and Music: This song originated as a Ukrainian choral chant which was put to new music and lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky in 1936.

Fifth Reading

The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Luke 1)

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.5

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and sorrow pining,
’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’;

Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus sing we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord, oh, praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

Music: Adolphe Adam
Lyrics: Placide Cappeau

Sixth Reading

St. Luke tells of the birth of Jesus. (Luke 2)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, 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 room for them in the inn.6

Unto You Is Born This Day

Unto you is born this day, in the city of David

Unto you is born this day a Savior.

Hallelujah, hallelujah!
Oh, glory to God! Glory in the highest!
Peace on earth to men of good will.

Hallelujah, hallelujah!
Unto you is born, unto you is born a,
Is born a Savior.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
Which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
And lying in a manger.”

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
The Prince of Peace,
He shall be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
The Prince of Peace,
The Savior!

Unto you is born this day,

Is born a Savior this day.

Music and Lyrics: John Listen

Seventh Reading

The shepherds go to the manger. (Luke 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. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

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.7

Run with Torches

Run with torches to light the dim stable;
Run with torches, good villagers, run!
Christ is born, O come and adore Him.
Mary calls you, kneel before Him.

Come, come, come and behold the Child;
Come, come, come and see Christ, the Lord.

Tell the others to hurry to greet Him;
Tell the others to come to His side.
One and all as you come and adore Him;
Quietly, quietly kneel before Him.

Come and behold the Child,
Come, come, come and see Christ the Lord.
Come and see Christ the Lord!

Music and Lyrics: Traditional Carol

Eighth Reading

The wise men are led by the star to Jesus. (Matthew 2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.8

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are.
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Oh, oh, star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

“Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again.
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.”

“Frankincense to offer have I,
King and God and deity nigh.
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worshipping God on High.”

“Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes the sign of gathering doom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a cold, stone tomb.”

Glorious now, behold Him arise,
King and God and sacrifice.
“Alleluya, Alleluya!”
Earth to heaven replies.

Music and Lyrics: John H. Hopkins Jr.

Ninth Reading

St. John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation. (John 1)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.9

Christmas Medley

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart
Prepare Him room;
Let Heaven and nature sing!

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ!
While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world
With truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Lyrics: Isaac Watts
Music: Unknown

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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 angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the Heav'n-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 man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Lyrics: Charles Wesley, adapted by George Whitefield
Music: Felix Mendelssohn, adapted by William H. Cummings

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
O sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God,
In the Highest!
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

Lyrics: John F. Wade
Music: John Reading

1 Genesis 3:8–15, 17–19 NIV.

2 Genesis 22:15–18 NIV.

3 Isaiah 9:2, 6–7 NIV.

4 Isaiah 11:1–4, 6–9 NIV.

5 Luke 1:26–35, 38 NIV.

6 Luke 2:1, 3–7 NIV.

7 Luke 2:8–16 NIV.

8 Matthew 2:1–12 NIV.

9 John 1:1–14 NAU.