By the time you read this our Christmas season will be almost upon us. For many people the season is defined by parties and (over) consumption but for me it is defined by music.
Christmas carols which proclaim the wonder of Christ’s birth have been part of our worship for centuries. New carols slowly find their way into our songbook, but for almost everyone favourite carols are the wonderful background to Christmas.
Carols are songs of joy and praise. The word carol apparently comes the old French word ‘carole’ which meant a circle dance accompanied with singing. You won’t be required to dance round the church at Christmas (though we will accommodate that if you want to try) but you will be encouraged to sing about the birth of Jesus and the love of God as joyfully and cheerily as we can.
Many of the carols we sing are from the 19th and 20th centuries, though the tunes can often be much older. They can reflect more about how the modern church thinks and speaks than offer the Asian feel of a Middle Eastern nativity. But the meaning isn’t lost, and it is always relevant.
O Little Town of Bethlehem for example was written by an American minister when the remembered his own journey to Bethlehem in the 19th century. He wrote of peace as he was recovering from the American Civil War. His words are a reminder of the peace that Christ brings, and of God’s presence in his creation. They are no less relevant today than they were then.
Christmas is a time to resist the usual pressures that we feel and to reflect instead on the need for peace, hope and love in our lives.
The words of carols are a great way of reminding people about the events of the first Christmas and the difference those events still have on the lives of people today. Even for non-churchgoers there is nothing quite like listening to people sing, or joining in, Once in Royal David’s City, or joining with children to sing Away in a Manger.
So, don’t forget to do your non-churchgoing friends a good turn and invite them to join you at a service this Christmas. If they are afraid of sermons bring them to the Carols and Readings service on the 9th of December, or to the Nativity Play on the 16th.
If they like oranges and Christmas treats bring them to the Christingle service on the 9th at 4pm, and we have a baptism on the 23rd which will surely help everyone to sing of the Bethlehem birth more joyfully.
In all of this we need also to pay attention to those who will not enjoy the season so much, for it reminds them of those who will not be around this year, or because they are homeless or ill. Others have to work to keep us safe or serve us in some way.
You will see posters at church for the annual Cooker Appeal from Fresh Start. It is a reminder, if we need people always need our help and support. Do remember to bring food/cleaning materials for the Fresh Start boxes no later than December 16th so that it reaches them before Christmas.
Wishing you a very happy carolling Christmas,
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