December 2018 - Rector's Ramblings

Don’t you just hate it?!

… All those ‘list’ programmes’?

.. Compilations of the fifty greatest Premier League goals; or the twenty most soulful Elvis songs; or the hundred funniest moments on British TV ..

 No one person has a right to make those judgements.

 How did they ever include that one?  … And what about such-and-such: they must be mad to miss her out!

 And those lists all appear at Christmas and the New Year.

 Well, in full appreciation of your infuriation at these league tables of kitsch, I’m risking everything with ‘The Rector’s Countdown of Favourite Carols’. Put another log on the fire for me, pull on your Santa Slippers, and steel yourself ..

 Be prepared for some surprises. And try not to look ahead to the end!


At Number Five …

Ding-dong! Merrily on high

Popular with bell-ringers, but no mere sop to that noble band, this is a real challenge to sing; but onethat has you try, and try, till every ounce of air has fled your lungs.  It’s breathy, and needs very much to be sung along with other people.  You catch their eye, in the shadows of The Square, and pass that unspoken communication: yes, this is difficult, but we’ll manage it together; when I run out of breath, you’ll still be there  -  and vice versa.   This is a physical work-out, like ringing itself, and that delicious enduring ‘Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ri-a’ is a celebration as – just like the angels of heaven sing their lung-bursting, lasting, song of praise – so we, too, give our all in raising bells and voices to God’s glory.

 A Ding-Dong, Cracker of a Carol!


Then, at Number Four …

Infant holy, infant lowly

 Our first surprise, maybe.  A nativity meditation offering a really lovely alternative to that other treasured song, ‘Silent Night’.    Gentle, at the beginning; respectful, scene-setting.   Then growing, rising in volume and richness: a wonderful affirmation of Christ the Babe: ‘Lord of all’; ‘born for you!’

 Seldom can rhyming schemes have been used to such rousing effect: ‘Swift are winging, Angels singing, Nowells ringing, Tidings bringing ..’ and ‘Thus rejoicing, Free from sorrow, Praises voicing, Greet the morrow’.   When I have sung those words, I feel my heart has been drawn into a willing offering of myself to God.   Sublime!


So, we’re onto Number Three …

On Christmas Night, all Christians sing.

Appropriately enough, in these parts: ‘The Sussex Carol’.

And it’s another that relies on the company of others to sing.  It is for me one of those that reminds me of the Victorian Christmas, with roasting chestnuts, mutton-chop whiskers, Tiny Tim, and good will to one and all.    This is good news: ‘news of great joy, news of great mirth’.    It is an invitation to congregate with others and sing, and smile, and raise a toast: and to end all with a loud and grateful, ‘Amen’.

Jaunty and joyful!


Just two to go now; … and at Number Two …

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour

Well, I’m betting that came as a shock.   Little known, perhaps, but a twentieth century wording (by Frank Houghton 1894-1972) to a traditional French melody.  This is an item I have always chosen to include, if not in the Christmas Season then in the early weeks of Epiphany.   It is a hymn to the Incarnation (God becoming flesh in Jesus).   The tune is exquisite; especially on the organ.  The words are a delightful portrayal of the humility of God: ‘Thrones for a manger didst surrender; sapphire-paved courts for stable floor’.   The hymn lends itself to a single voice, just as well as to a congregation.

 This moves my heart to prayer!


And, wait for it: … at Number One .. it is …

Hark the Herald-Angels sing

Charles Wesley, prolific and inspiring song-writer, at his best!   Fantastic theology (as ever).  Eternal mysteries conveyed into words we will remember: ‘veiled in flesh the Godhead see’; ‘risen with healing in his wings’.  And what a mighty tune.  But best of all, comes at the end, and the exhilaration of that soprano descant on the last verse.   I like nothing more in the world of the Spirit than to hear my wife belt out that spine-tingling harmony.

 This is the Carol to sing loud and long, in praise of God, come down at Christmas-time.   

 It is a beautiful time to come and share in the company of others; to lose yourself in wonder at the celebration of the gift of God: the Christ-child born among us; and to worship with all that you are.

Blessings of this wonderful season.  Do join me.

Revd Andrew Doye



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