Christmas Eve Carol Service
at St Columba’s Brora
A programme that you may be interested tomorrow evening (9th December) is:
It is on BBC Four at 9pm.
The blurb on the BBC web site says:
Lucy Worsley reveals that there’s much more to our best-loved carols than meets the eye. She reveals how their stories add up to a special kind of history of Christmas itself. In the ancient past, the wassail, a pagan fertility ritual, gave us door-to-door carol singing. Wassailing was also an integral part of an older midwinter festival that was adopted by Christianity when it came to Britain, and was rebranded as ‘Christmas’.
Religion, however, soon turned its back on carols. They were far too frivolous for the Puritans, who wanted to ban Christmas altogether. In strict Protestant Britain, the carol survived outside the Church and new ones turned up in some surprising places. Lucy visits the British Library, where she discovers an 18th-century children’s book that contains a little memory game called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas carols could also be politically dangerous and subversive.
Eventually, the Church of England couldn’t resist the power of the carol, and finally opened its doors to all of them, thanks to a chance pairing of words and music in Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In the 20th century, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s passion for English folk music took him to the villages of Surrey.
Finally, in the snowy Austrian Alps, Lucy discovers the simple story of a young parish priest with a poem in search of a tune. When he found one, the result was Silent Night. During the First World War, this simple carol would become a hymn for peace during the famous Christmas truce of 1914. Silent Night also reminds us that carols are, and have always been, ‘popular music’, music for the people, fulfilling an enduring need to celebrate and sing together at Christmas.
St. Andrew’sScottish Episcopal Church
Glebe Crescent, Tain
SUNDAY 22 December
Followed by Mulled Wine, mince pies & other seasonal refreshments
People are often critical of some Carols on the basis that they’re unbiblical:
“What a load of nonsense is written in some Christmas carols. Of course, many are excellent. But along with the gold there is a lot of dross. Take the line in ‘Away in a manger’ which asserts boldly: ‘Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes’. Really? On what basis is that stated? It’s certainly not in the Bible. And then there is ‘We Three Kings’ – in the Bible: no kings, not three, etc.etc.” – David Barker in Christian Today
Others however take a very different view:
“It’s a kind of bland puritanism which demands literal truism at this level. Next thing we’ll be arguing is that Noah’s ark is parked in Essex, The Good Samaritan was a real bloke called Eli from Shechem and the Johannine vine still grows in an Ephesian cave.” – a post on twitter
Professor Jeremy Begbie from Duke Divinity School and the University of Cambridge, who isn’t in any sense a wooden literalist, when asked whether we should continue to sing traditional carols, said:
“Only with great care. For thousands, carols will be their only link with a church. At the same time, sentimentality is perhaps the single most dangerous feature of our Church and culture—and the sentimental air is never thicker than at Christmas. The Incarnation is messy, dirty, and resonates with the crucifixion. We need a new wave of carol writing that can gradually swill out the nonsense and catch the piercing, joy-through-pain refrains of the New Testament.”
These three sessions will try to cut through all of this and explore what we can learn from a variety of Christmas Carols. We will explore where the ideas come from: the Old or New Testament, the Creeds, Theological Doctrine or simply from the imagination of the writers.
This year there will be two parallel Groups with one session at 2pm on each of the Wednesdays 4th, 11th and 18th at James and Anna’s house in Spinningdale and a second session in the evenings at 7pm in St Andrew’s hall.
Yesterday, the Feast of St Andrew, was also the eve of the new Church Year, which begins with Advent today.
The congregation of St Andrew’s, together with family and friends celebrated with a lovely service in Church, followed by Soup, Haggis, Neaps, shortbread and tablet, during which those gathered mused over a wide-ranging quiz. This was followed by a variety of entertainments, including: a monologue, poetry and musical numbers accompanied by the assembled company on bell plates.
Suffice to say, a good time was had by all.
Usually by the beginning of December, there is a very obvious focus on what is often referred to as “The Run Up to Christmas”. I don’t know if it’s just me, but this year it feels as though several things have pushed that to one side. If the full power of the consumer bonanza that ‘preparation for Christmas’ represents is knocked out of kilter this year, then I suppose that I feel a sense of relief, but how heartfelt that is probably depends on why!!
Firstly, there’s the General Election, which is dominating the news agenda. Politicians from of all hues trying to woo us with promises, lots of promises. Now many of these promises are for things that we might feel might make our lives, our country and perhaps the world better; but I would have to say that you don’t have to be a financial genius to realise that some of these promises are perhaps rather more realistic than others and few stand much detailed scrutiny. Advent (the name we as Christians would give to this ‘run up to Christmas’) is also about a promise: the promise that God’s future and our future are entwined in Christ. Christ is coming into our world and our world never being the same again.
Secondly, there’s a growing call, encapsulated in protests across the world on what has come to be called ‘Black Friday’, to address the very serious and increasing problem of Climate Change. Black Friday is all about consumption about buying more and more ‘stuff’ by making it appear cheaper though at what environmental cost isn’t clear. The protesters argue that if we want to save the planet, Christmas shouldn’t be about excessive consumption – what’s needed is a serious change in the way that we live our lives. Well I’ll happily say “Alleluia” to that. In Christianity, we also have a name for a change in the way that we live our lives, and that’s ‘Repentance’ (which literally means ‘to turn around or to change the mind’) and surprise surprise, that’s also a theme of Advent.
The final theme of Advent is hope, and as we look forward to a time when the General Election will be over and the buying spree will be finished, there’ll be Christmas, when we celebrate God coming amongst us, as one of us. Now that’s a promise that we can trust and it won’t cost a penny or destroy the planet!!
Enjoy the waiting and the anticipation and I wish you all the Joy of Christmas when it arrives.
All are welcome to share with us in celebrating Christ’s Birth at any of our services in this part of the world:
Dec 10th – Carols for Christian Aid at Dornoch Cathedral at 7:00pm
Dec 24th – Christmas Midnight Sung Eucharist at St Finnbarr’s at 11:00pm
Dec 25th – Christmas Day Holy Communion from the Reserved Sacrament at St Finnbarr’s at 9:30am
Dec 22nd – Carol Service at St Andrew’s at 3:00pm
Dec 24th – Christmas Midnight Sung Eucharist at St Andrew’s at 11:00pm
Dec 25th – Christmas Day Sung Eucharist at St Andrew’s at 10:30am
Dec 24th – Carol Service at St Columba’s at 5:00pm
Dec 25th – Christmas Day Sung Eucharist at St Columba’s at 9:00am
Dec 25th – Christmas Day Sung Eucharist in Lairg Parish Church at 8:15am
Dec 19th – Monthly Thursday service at the Crask Inn at 12 Noon
Dec 28th – Carols at the Crask Inn at 2:00pm
Dec 17th – Carols at the Hub at 5:30pm