(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them – just be patient – it can be slow)

Our Christmas Carol Service is always a special service, but this year we were asked to record the service to be broadcast on SAFM on Christmas Day and so we put in a big effort to put together something special.
The music team practiced really hard, putting in three long practices in the weeks leading up to the service. The weekend of the service was also the weekend of the Refilwe Christmas party and so we were pretty tired after a busy weekend. Tired but still game!

At 3pm Hannes Reyneke from SAFM arrived to set up all the equipment needed for the broadcast. He was very professional and even helped us sort out a long-standing problem we were having with our own sound system.
The musos arrived at 4pm and we got stuck into practising all the songs. Hannes added to our fun by doing test recordings and then we all gathered around the Outside Broadcast Van and listened to ourselves. He also gave us valuable tips for the recording….
At 6pm all the readers arrived and we did a test run with them on the microphone to check that they were all audible and then our Drummer Boy aka Andrew arrived and we went through some of the songs for one last time….

The congregation started pouring in at 6h30pm and enjoyed tea, coffee and mince-pies and one could feel the energy and excitement buzzing in the air. At 7pm we went inside and got ready for the broadcast.

We needed to do a sound check and so we sang through the first two songs. This was nearly the undoing of the whole thing, because the sound of so many voices lifted up in praise to God, combined with the experience of the Refilwe Orphans the day before, the sense of the awesome privilege of serving God in this congregation and the hope and comfort of the Christmas message was quite overwhelming for me and I found myself choking back the tears and the service hadn’t even begun!

After a bit of an emotional welcome, and a bit of shaky start on the part of the preacher, we settled down into a service that was a mix between carols, scripture readings and short devotional thoughts. All the readers and pray-ers did a great job and read and prayed with joy and passion, Shawn did a great job up in the sound box and the music team did an excellent job while the congregation sang themselves hoarse!

At the end of the service Hannes pronounced himself satisfied with the outcome and so we turned off the lights and sang “a ray of hope” one more time as we lit the candles and shared the light of Christ.

A huge big THANK YOU to all who helped to make this service an awesome experience and a great success. This sheepdog (I wear a dog-collar to prove it!) continues to feel awesomely privileged to work for the Great Shepherd at the flock of Emmanuel and Grace. You can see more photos on Facebook by clicking HERE.

In 2005 Erna Basson wrote this poem about the Carol Service:

Carols by Candlelight

Come to Emmanuel, come and sing
Let your voices gladly ring
Let remembrance of that Night
Fill you with a Holy Light.
Take your candles and rejoice
Sing to God, lift up your voice!
Let the mystery of Bethlehem
Inspire you here, just as it did then:
Gift of God, an Open Door –
That tiny Child brought so much more –
The Lamb of God, our Lion and King,
Our Prince of Peace, our Everything!
The carol service may have passed;
The Christmas feelings seldom last…
Still – light a candle every day:
Jesus Christ has come to stay.
Erna Basson

The outline of the service is below:

Christmas Broadcast Service

SING 1. A ray of hope flickers in the sky


A very warm welcome to you as we join together to celebrate the wonder of Christmas!
Christmas is when we remember that “The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.”
That a brand new morn has come to pass because the CHRIST was born.
We want to especially welcome our listeners who join us by radio and we wish you a blessed and happy Christmas. Our service this morning is going to be a patchwork of Scripture Readings, the well-loved hymns and carols of Christmas and some devotional thoughts. We hope that you find it very meaningful and that you’ll sing with us or at least tap your feet!
We’ll begin with a prayer that was originally written by Robert Louis Stevenson and then look at our first Scripture readings.

Prayer: (Tara Smith)

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus’ sake.


Reading 1: Isaiah 9:2,6,7 (Stephen Njiro)

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.

Reading 2: John 1:1-4 & 14 (Craig Smith)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

SING 2. Long time ago in Bethlehem

SING 3. Joy to the world

Reading 3: Micah 5:2-5 (Thandile Gubevu)

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace.

Reading 4: Luke 2:4-12 (Amy Gouws)

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.
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 Saviour 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.”

Devotional Thought #1: Paradox

There is a paradox in the Christmas message:
The birth of Christ was predicted well in advance and was highly anticipated,
and yet, when it finally took place, these incredible events took place in the context of bureaucratic chaos and rural poverty.
As Stuart Townend puts it, Christ was born “in the squalor of a borrowed stable” and the first to hear of his birth, were the far-from-merry gentleman – namely the shepherds in the fields. In general, shepherds were not highly esteemed members of society. But our Saviour came to seek and save that which was lost and even His birth indicates this intention. These are indeed “tidings of comfort and joy.”

SING 4. From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable

SING 5. God rest ye merry gentlemen

Reading 5: Matthew 2:1,2 & 9-12 (Babs de Nysschen)

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.”
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 worshipped 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.

Devotional Thought #2: Gifts

Why do we give gifts at Christmas time?
I think it’s for two reasons:
Firstly it echoes the gift-giving of the Magi. We are not able to give physical gifts to Christ, but in the gifts we offer to one another should remind us that we should give ourselves in God’s service. The song of the little drummer boy is a beautiful reminder that the best gift we can give is the gift of ourselves.
Secondly, we give gifts out of a sense of abundance.
Jesus has given us so much. The final verse of the Calypso Carol reminds us of this:
Mine are riches from Your poverty
From Your innocence, eternity
Mine forgiveness by Your death for me
Child of sorrow for my joy

SING 6. Come they told me parapapapum

SING 7. See Him lying in a bed of straw

Reading 6: 1Timothy 3:16 (Ben Gouws)

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

Devotional Thought #3: Mystery

The highly educated and very qualified Apostle Paul was a trained CUM Laude Pharisee. He admits that the coming of Christ is a mystery.
It seems hard to fathom that God, the Creator, would appear in a body.
It seems unthinkable that Christ would leave behind the glory of heaven for us
It seems impossible that the Maker of DNA would be implanted in Mary’s womb
It seems incredible that He who spoke creation into being would cry out “My God my God…”
But this is the wonderful mystery of faith – when we could not get to God, He came to us. These are the deep theological truths that the angels saw and sing of.

SING 8. Hark the herald angels sing

Reading 7: Luke 2:16-19 (Mike Hulley)

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.

Devotional Thought #4: Silent Night

In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel recorded the album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” The 12th track was an overdubbing of two contrasting recordings: a simple arrangement of the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, and a simulated “7 O’Clock News” bulletin of the actual events of 3 August 1966. In the recording, the carol gets softer and softer and the “bad news” gets louder and louder. The interesting thing is that we are still singing the carol while that bad news is pretty much history. We, like Mary, must ponder the message of Christ’s incarnation and treasure it in our hearts so that it will comfort and strengthen us no matter what challenges the news brings us.
Story of Christmas in the world war 1 trenches…
My colleague Lentikile Mashoko is going to lead us in prayer for our country and our world and then we will sing Silent Night.

Prayer: Lentikile Mashoko

SING 9. Silent Night

Devotional Thought #5: Wonder

I’ve always loved singing “We three Kings of Orient are.” I know there were probably more than three wise men, but we don’t know. We do know that they brought three gifts. The song highlights how the gifts anticipate the role of Christ as our prophet, priest and king and it reminds us the cross, resurrection and ascension, essentially combining Christmas and Easter. But I also like the sense of wonder it celebrates.
Why did God bother with the star? He could have told the wise men where to go in a vision or dream? I think it is all about wonder. As a family we love going to displays of Christmas lights and we enjoy the decorations that people put up. While it may be true that many modern decorations have very little to do with the real Christmas message, I think we can still detect the ripples of the wonder of the first Christmas and we should throw ourselves into that wonder and worship the Prince of Peace.

SING 10. We three Kings of Orient are

SING 11. O come all you faithful


Go in peace and may the joy and triumph of the first Christmas continue to ripple through our lives that we may transform our world to the glory of God and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and remain with us.

SING 12. May the Lord bless (Tash Townsend)

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