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  • Carols and Adverts

    I wonder if you have seen the Sainsbury's 'Perfect Christmas' advert and, if so, like me you have been bewildered by the (presumably Welsh) choir singing the tune Ar Hyd y Nos.  What, I found myself wondering, had that to do with Christmas, beyond being a nice feel-good kind of a tune.  This morning as we sang carols round the piano I was reminded that this tune does have its place in this season, even if it is highly debatable that the advertising agency knew that!  Thank you whoever chose this carol (I forgot, shame on me)...

    Come and sing the Christmas story
    this holy night!
    Christ is born: the hope of glory
    dawns on our sight.
    Alleluia! earth is ringing
    with a thousand angels singing-
    hear the message they are bringing
    this holy night.

    Jesus, Saviour, child of Mary
    this holy night,
    in a world confused and weary
    you are our light.
    God is in a manger lying,
    self effacing, wealth denying
    life embracing, death defying
    this holy night.

    Lord of all! Let us acclaim him
    this holy night;
    king of our salvation name him,
    throned in the height.
    Son of Man-let us adore him,
    all the earth is waiting for him;
    Son of God-we bow before him
    this holy night.

    From Psalm 8. Michael Perry (1942-1996) © Mrs B Perry/Jubilate Hymns
    (BPW 161 for any Bappies out there)




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    Photos (c) Ken Fisher... we take our singing, and our supping, very seriously, as you can tell!  (And yes, that tinselled hat is probably the only halo I'll ever get!)


  • Carols and a Cuppa

    Possibly the simplest formula around, and I am looking forward to it.

    Today our Coffee Club meet around the piano to do carol-oake... picking carols to be sung - and to sup tea/coffee and maybe munch the odd treat.  O Latte Town of Bethlehem maybe?  There may be a few more awful alternatives if someone has the brain to spot them.

    It will be a good morning, an important morning, as last week we had to postpone lunch due to the ice-on-snow-on-ice (the good news is the restaurant were fine about it and even relieved as their staff were struggling to get in; come Jnauary we have a treat to anticipate).  Some of these folk have not been able to get out much in the last week or two, and if the met. office are right we have more snow on its way.

    Simply let the songs tell the story, let laughter fiull the air, let the warmth of friendship wrap us round... and the mystery of Christmas, albeit sneaking into Advent, will occur.

    Great excuse to don the tinsel methinks.

  • Your Word I Have Hidden in My Heart

    Just checking in on a day when my brain resembles that of a certain Scarecrow from Oz and my joints are worthy of a Tin Man in need of a dose of oil.  Inspiration has flown today... yet I know that there are many generous people who call by each day and for them it is important to say something.

    Over recent nights when sleep has been evasive, I have been very glad of all the bits an bobs of hymns, songs and Bible verses (without their chapter and verses references) that have found their way into my subconscious down the years which have floated from there into consciousness in the wee small hours.  Sometimes when we feel below par, praying is beyond us (or beyond me anyway) and it is good to have these bits to draw on.

    For whatever reason, three of the last four services I've been at have employed the same song, a paraphrase of the start of Isaiah 40, and over the last few nights I have woken up 'singing' it more than a few times.  So, here it is... enjoy:

    1    Comfort, comfort now my people;
        speak of peace - so says your God.
        Comfort those who sit in darkness,
        burdened by a heavy load.
        To Jerusalem proclaim:
        God shall take away your shame.
        Now get ready to recover;
        guilt and suffering are over

    2    Hear the herald's proclamation
        in the desert far and near,
        calling all to true repentance,
        telling that the Lord is near.
        Oh, that warning cry obey!
        For your God prepare a way.
        Let the valleys rise to greet him
        and the hills bow down to meet him.

    3    Straighten out what has been crooked;
        make the roughest places plain.
        Let your hearts be true and humble,
        live as fits God's holy reign.
        Soon the glory of the Lord
        shall on earth be shed abroad.
        Human flesh shall surely see it;
        God is ready to decree it.

    Isaiah 40: 1-5 paraphrased Johannes Olearius translated Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) amended John L Bell (born 1949) © Panel on Worship of the Church of Scotland


  • A Bit Slow on the Uptake...

    For those following 'traditional' Advent schemes, yesterday was Gaudete Sunday - 'rejoice' Sunday, the say off from fasting if you are doing it, the day when solemnity is supplanted by anticpatory joy.  As we pondered John the Baptist as a harbinger and bringer of joy, I guess we were doing a bit of gaudate-ing... even if I only realised it retrospectively.  Duh!

    A bit slow generally today... St Eroid has moved on to pester other people, so sleep returns, but drug-induced stiffness coupled with freezing fog outside mean a gentle start to my day off from work.

    Looking forward to a week of gentle preparation for our community carol service and then on into the Christmas celebrations... more gaudete-ing in prospect.

  • Waiting with Liz and Zec

    This mornng we begin our John the Baptist reflections with the incident in the Temple which left Zechariah literally speechless - a state that evidently lasted nine months.  Last night I found myself pondering what life was like for this elderly couple during that period of time.

    I imagined Liz (Elizabeth) waiting at home for Zec(-heriah) to get home from the Temple, wondering how his day had been and making sure that his tea was ready on the table.  Did she find neighbours coming to her door with rumours of what was happening at the Temple?  Did she wait anxiously for her beloved Zec, the man who could so easily have divorced her for her failings as a wife, wondering if he was ill, wondering if it was all true?  Did she stand in the doorway scanning the horizon? 

    Was Zec, when he arrived home a little more amorous than usual, anxious to play his part in fulfilling the promise?  Or was he too bewildered and too befuddled to find a way to communicate to Liz, the woman who has shared the highs and lows of their long lives?  Was there a kind of 'chemistry' or 'telepathy' that led them to understand each other without need for words?

    And as the days passed, was there renewed intimacy for this couple, mysteriously rejuvenated by hope?  Did Liz laugh as Zec tried to explain with hand gestures what he needed to say?  Was he able to continue to work at the Temple, or was he forced to endure solitude as well as silence?

    How did they feel as Liz woke one day and dashed from the house, compelled to vomit?  Did they dare to believe it was beginning, that new life filled her arid womb? A gentle hug befitting the years or a crazy, if a little stiff, dance?  And as the weeks passed, her belly swelled and the first flicks of life confirmed their dreams, did their smiles grow wider, the glow of love shine brighter?

    And fear... they were old, their bodies were worn, could Liz successfully carry this precious life to term?  And Zec, unable to speak, unable to say how he felt as he watched and dreamed and dreaded...

    Nine months of silence must have worn thin at times.  Frustration that feelings and information could not be spoken or acknowledged.  The rest from conversation, at first perhaps strange, briefly welcomed, must have been a real nuisance at times.  Yet other ways of communication must have emerged... the touch, the glance, the facial expression... did they discover new ways of expressing their love, their fears, their needs?

    And then the labour.  Young midwives supporting this old woman who had seen so much of life.  neighbours wondering how it would all come out.  Hearing Liz scream did they fear this would destroy her?  Watching Zec stand, silent, outside the house did they ache to see the concern in his eyes?  Did they see that despite this there was joy, hope, anticipation?

    A baby's shrill cry cut through the air.  A smile spread across the wrinkled face of Zec as he rushed in to embrace his beloved Liz.  Tired, aching, tears of joy streaming down her wizened face, and a gentle smile that said 'God's promise has been kept.'

    Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of a deep chuckle... then a hearty laugh and the neighbours looked round.  The silence was broken and Zec let out a cry of praise!  God had remembered after all.

    Taking his new son in his arms, Zec welcomed John the Joy-bringer, John the Path-clearer, John the herald of hope, with a smile and a new kind of silence... awe and wonder.  And Liz, exhausted but thrilled, reached out to draw her son to her breast, assured that something new was just beginning.  New waiting, new wondering... a silence to be filled