Yesterday I experienced my first online, global carol service. I started the day looking forward to joining my colleagues across the world in singing and worshipping God together.
There was an air of anticipation as a group of 30 or so UK-based staff filed into a meeting room for our first livestreamed carol service. The meeting room looked much the same as it does the rest of the year, with the addition of a festively decorated Christmas tree – and quite a few festively decorated staff wearing tinsel, Christmas sweaters, and snazzy ties!
When I looked closely I noticed a web camera, some speakers, a microphone and a colleague deeply engrossed in his laptop. Through this technology, staff in other countries joined in our carol service to make it a truly international affair. Here’s what we saw and heard:
- 5 colleagues from 3 continents playing in our worship band
- 3 Bible readings by staff in Australia, Ghana and UK
- 1 talk from our Malaysian leader
- 6 unique cartoon illustrations created by our talented French finance manager
- 50 people singing carols together and watching each other on screen!
We sang some of the old classics we all enjoy each Christmas, including ‘O Come all ye Faithful’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, but somehow there was a new dimension to these carols this year. Singing the familiar words together with colleagues living in other countries reminded me that Jesus’ birth is a cause for celebration all over the world. His birth represents a new message of hope for all people, everywhere.
But how will people know this if they can’t read the Bible for themselves? There are many people who still haven’t heard the Gospel message and many more who haven’t realised it’s an invitation to be embraced by God. That’s why Bible Societies need to press on with the task of translating the Bible, sharing it with people and helping them to understand it.
During our service we reflected on the beautiful images created by our colleague Dominique. I was particularly moved by the picture of Mary and Joseph holding their young son Jesus before them in delight. Surely an action copied by parents down the centuries and across the globe. But look again and you see the future foreshadowed as a cross appears on the wall behind Jesus. What a poignant reminder that, even as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we cannot avoid thinking of his death. Yet, it was no ordinary death. When Jesus rose from the tomb he triumphed over death and reconciled us with our Heavenly Father.
Let’s remember that as we celebrate Christmas and let’s say a prayer for those who are still waiting for the good news.