A Christmas Carol Service

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I led this Carol service in St. David’s Tirabad a small church in a remote village in the Welsh hills. It is an attempt to put an explicit narrative into the traditional Carol service and through that develop a theme of longing and searching.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Into the stars we gaze. Into the mystery. Into the universe unimaginably vast. And we wonder who are we on this thin crust of earth. Do our hopes and fears have any meaning or are they just brief whispers of breath in a cosmic story beyond our comprehension?

John 1:1-14

We look to the heavens wondering if in those bright stars there might be a prophet or an angel who could bring us a message from beyond the limits of time and space. Is there some heavenly music to bring peace and good news to our weary world?

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

So as we toil along the climbing way with steps painful and slow we stop a while to listen. To look. To open our hearts. Hoping that into our world an angel might descend, a messenger from God, to speak into our weary world and bring a message of hope and joy.

Luke 1:26-38

And when God does speak what do I do? Do I remain locked in my cold, safe, frozen world? Or can I truly open my heart and begin to receive from the One who comes and speaks the gentle word of Love

In the Bleak Mid Winter

And so in our journey we come to the heart of the matter. Two young people caught up in the machinations of emperors and governors. Seeking to find a path through the ordinary struggles of life, then in the midst of bureaucracy and registrars and family and expectations they experience something special, something unique: the miracle of birth

Luke 2:1-7

So hush now let us listen to the silence of the sleeping baby and his exhausted mother

Away in a Manger

And waiting there after the midwife has left, another person ponders the meaning of this birth

Joseph's lullaby

Sleep now little one.
I will watch you while you and your mother sleep.
I wish I could do more.
This straw is not good enough for you.
Back in Nazareth I'll make a proper bed for you
Of seasoned wood, smooth, strong, well made.
A bed fit for a carpenter's son.
 
Just wait till we get back to Nazareth.
I'll teach you everything I know.
You'll learn to use the Cedarwood, eucalyptus and fir.
You'll learn to use to drawshave, axe, and saw.
Your arms will grow strong, your hands rough -- like these.
You will bear the pungent smell of new wood
and wear shavings and sawdust in your hair.
 
You'll be a man whose life centers
on hammer and nails and wood.
But for now,
sleep, little Jesus, sleep.

©Ron Klug in the Lion Book of Christian Poetry from Decision, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

 And we too are quiet. And we too ponder the meaning of this birth. We share the mystery

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Then, into the intimacy of mother and baby, and waiting father, breaks the noise and bustle of working men from the fields for they too have been led by the own angels

Luke 2:8-16

The angels have come also to these rough working men. Living on the margins of respectable society they are not able to be religious even if they wanted to, but this does not separate them from the word of God. Through their fear, through their incredulity God speaks and what can they do but respond?

While Shepherds Watched

The shepherds came. Men of the open air, barely respectable but God was speaking to others too. Scholars. Astrologers. Men of wisdom and learning from far away. They too are being challenged to break the ordinary pattern of their lives and respond to the calling of the star.

The Wise Men

Now for the search.
We have played around for long enough
with all the theories about God,
poured over ancient manuscripts,
and studied ancient mysteries;
the time has come to venture all.
 
Leave behind the books and arguments,
the quiet days in shady cloisters,
and all the cleverness we have mutually admired.
Hardest of all we must say goodbye
to our reputation as 'wise men'.
We must now face the road, wherever it leads.
 
A blazing star, royal sign of Judah in the heavens,
crystallizes all our thinking.
We must be fools to follow.
We will seek the face of God,
reach out for the ultimate mystery,
down the dusty road ahead.
 
Will fiery serpents bar our way?
Will there be cunning riddles to answer?
Will our path lead into the heart of fire?
Will it shrivel us to dust
when we finally see The Face?
No more questions. Saddle the camels.

© Ian Cowie, Iona community

And so they begin the journey. Following the Star of wonder. The star of royal beauty bright

We Three Kings

Prayer

God of the starlight. God of the angels. God of the baby born in a stable. Come close to us this Christmas time we pray. Challenge our assumptions about the way the world must be and place in our hearts a longing for your love, your justice and your peace. Show us the way we must go and lead us on our journey into the mystery

Hark the Herald Angels

Blessing

This Christmas may the God of the starlight shine on you

This Christmas may the God of the angels speak to you

This Christmas may the God of the baby born in a stable come close to you, and may you catch one glimpse of the mystery which makes us and feeds us and calls us all into the promise of light and love.