And so, 9 Lessons & Carols is nearly upon us. The lessons themselves are already determined. But as for the carols, now that’s another matter altogether. We all have our favourites. We all have at least one carol that we just cannot stand. Well, convention has it that we start with, ‘One in Royal David’s City’, and at the Free Church we invariably end with, ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing.’ But in between? Well, if truth be known we are a very traditional congregation and so there are unlikely to be any surprises, and anyway, those carols that are not sung at ‘9 Lessons’, they may well come in useful on Christmas morning itself. But then, Christmas has proved to be an inspiration to many writers. I want to share with you two poems that have influenced my thinking about Christmas and what it ‘really’ ought to mean… Steve Turner dares us to realise that without Easter, Christmas is really nothing at all…
‘…Christmas is really for the children.
Especially for children who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men, kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a hint of rich perfume.
Easter is not really for the children
unless accompanied by a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails, a spear and allegations
of body snatching. It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world. It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop of spring.
Or they’d do better to wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up or whether there’s any connection…’
While Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us that for the Christian, the life of faith and devotion begins at Bethlehem…
‘…Moonless darkness stands between. Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me to the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been. Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly; Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day…’
And by the way, my favourite carol is ‘See amid the winter’s snow’, that’s why we have it every year…