Christmas is coming and preparations have begun. The darkness in the late afternoons beckons us home where we can be warm and safe. We start thinking about other people, those we will see over the Christmas period, those who we will buy presents for and who we will write cards to. It can be a strain but underlying it all there is thought for others and anticipation of something different. Unless of course like Mr Scrooge you think it’s all “Humbug” – tempting I know.
One of the things I like most about Christmas is singing carols and in November I sit down with Sandra and begin to look at what we will sing and when. We all have our favourites don’t we? Once in Royal David City, Silent Night, In the Bleak Mid Winter, While Shepherds Watch… Each one conjures up evocative images of babies, and angels and shepherds and even donkeys, supported by the images we see on Christmas cards and in nativity scenes.
Beneath it all however is a deeper reality, a young unmarried mother, a father who is confused, shepherds who are seen as unclean by their fellow Jews, wise men – scientists of their time, travelling from a great civilisation to greet a child in a stable. There are echoes of homelessness, struggle and danger. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t romantic and sweet – not really.
However, when we understand that there is a depth to the story it changes the way we sing our carols and we add these other images into the meaning of the words and appreciate how hard it must have been but also how amazing. God speaks to us through these hymns and songs, invites us to sing heartily and ‘enter in’ to the story. There’s a new song in ‘Singing the Faith’, it goes like this:
Beneath the paper wrappings, there’s an open stable door,
Beneath the fir tree trappings, there’s a welcome and there’s more.
Beyond the tinsel fairy is a presence that’s divine,
There’s a child to change the future, turning water into wine.
The miracle of childbirth now reveals God’s only Son,
A miracle beginning that continues on and on.
The stable holds the echo of the tomb that’s yet to be,
On the manger lies the shadow of the cross he’s yet to see.
Look inside, look above, look beyond and see the love,
Look inside and you will see.
Look inside, look below, look beyond, and you will know
The one who came to give his life for you and me.
This year we will be having a Café Service on 16 December that will include a Nativity and Christingle. It will give us the opportunity to think and sing some traditional and some new carols. On 24 December, the Candlelit Midnight Communion will be at Forest Hill Church in Normanton St this year, starting at 11.15pm, all are welcome. Finally, I’ll be with you on Christmas Day to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child in word, song and fellowship.
I do hope you can come to some of these services so that we can be together for a while at this important time.
God Bless and Happy Christmas.