Knowing, Loving, Serving…
So the World Will Know Christ’s Love

12.27.20 “Better Together”

Mark 6:30-44

Mark 8:1-10

Sunday Worship at Home
Bethel UMC Columbia | Rev. Julie Songer Belman
December 27, 2020

Preparation:  Find a spot in your home for yourself/your family to engage in worship. Include your Bible, a candle, and a lighter or matches (or battery operated candle or low wattage table lamp), if possible. You might consider a small cross as well.

Welcome: Thank you for joining us! We pray you will be blessed by your time of worship with us today.

Prelude“O Come, All Ye Faithful
While Bill plays the prelude, we invite you to light or turn on the candle/lamp to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in your worship. Take a deep breath and give thanks for God’s presence. 

Special Music:  “Knock! Knock! Knock!” 
We know you will be filled with Christmas JOY when you watch this special song performed by our Bethel Preschool students. 

Offertory:  “In dulci jubilo”
Your continued support of God’s ongoing work at Bethel UMC is sincerely appreciated. Contributions to the mission of Bethel {Knowing, Loving, Serving: so the world may experience Christ’s Love!} may be made by mailing a check to 4600 Daniel Drive, Columbia SC 29206, or giving online at:  You may also contact your bank to have them draft a check on your behalf.

Pastoral Prayer:  Please join with Pastor Reggie as he prays today. Pray for yourself, your family, your church community, your city, your state, your country, our world. Pray for the global health situation, particularly for those who are sick, those who are lonely, those who are gripped by fear, those who are facing financial hardship, those without safe shelter, those who are hungry, our healthcare workers, our leaders in every realm. Give thanks, once again, for God’s faithfulness and seek God’s guidance for ways to offer love and grace in the world right now.

The Lord’s Prayer:  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, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Anthem: “Christmas Grace”  
Enjoy this lovely anthem sung by our Bethel Choir with special accompaniment on the flute by Nancy Burkhalter

Scripture:  After a short break over the holidays, we return this morning to our year long journey through the Gospel of Mark. Today is Week 15 and Pastor Julie is preaching on Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8:1-10.  We invite you to open your Bibles (or the Bible app on your phone!) at home and read along.

Sermon:  Better Together  Rev. Julie Songer Belman

Hymn Meditation:  “It Came upon a Midnight Clear” vocals by Jason Barrs, Nancy Burkhalter on Flute
(Thank you, Marian Scullion, for providing this lovely Christmas Hymn meditation!)

Words by Edmund H. Sears  Music (CAROL) by Richard Storrs Willis

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o’er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold
when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

This may be the only commonly sung Christmas carol in our hymnals that does not mention the birth of Christ! The focus is rather on the song of the angels, “Peace on the earth, good will to men,” taken from Luke 2:14.

The historical context sheds some light. Massachusetts native Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) earned a degree from Harvard Divinity School and was ordained a Unitarian minister in 1839, serving congregations throughout Massachusetts.

As UM Hymnal editor Carlton Young puts it so well, the “hymn’s central theme contrasts the scourge of war with the song of the angels’ ‘peace to God’s people on earth.’” He observes that this is one of the earliest social gospel hymns written in the U.S.

Sears’ context was the social strife that plagued the country as the Civil War approached. This hymn comes from a Boston publication, Christian Register, published on Dec. 29, 1849. The original stanza three, missing from our hymnals, sheds light on the poet’s concerns about the social situation in the U.S. in the mid-19th century

But with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song, which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!”

The current stanza three in The United Methodist Hymnal poignantly articulates the situation of so many with images of those “beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow….” The second half of this stanza offers hope that the song of the “blessed angels” who “bend on hovering wings” would soothe the “Babel sounds” of a suffering world.

It is right that we should joyfully sing “Hark! the herald angels sing” and “Joy to the world” each Christmas season. But always there are moments when we realize the message of peace has not yet been fully realized on earth. Then we sing “It came upon the midnight clear,” and the power of the Incarnation and the message of the gospel touch us even more deeply.

This week’s hymn mediation is from the UMC Discipleship Ministries History of Hymns website (

Benediction:  Say these words aloud:  Go into God’s world, bearing the light of hope and peace. Bring the Good News of the love of God through Jesus Christ to all the people. Go in peace. AMEN.

Go in Peace:  Check on someone you love today.