Category Archives: Christmas

Mugging up

My friend Bex Lewis is a cultural communications historian and digital practitioner, with a PhD in Second World War posters, in which she wrote the history of Keep Calm and Carry On (before it was famous).

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I keep an eye out for any links to the original, knowing that Bex likes to store up an image bank.

So my traditional Christmas mug was a natural.

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Christmas Day on The Hub

Tomorrow I make a rare appearance on The Hub with a special two-hour Christmas Day broadcast.

Join me, from 2pm, for a mix of carols and Christmas songs from some great artists.

THE-GRENAWAYS
The Grenaways in full flow.

We’ll have Keith & Kristyn Getty, Deacon Blue, Graham Kendrick, Hillsong, Steeleye Span and Cornish bands The Grenaways (above) and The Claze as well as much more.

Tune in at 106.1 if you’re in mid-Cornwall or online from 2pm.

Heaven’s waiting room

The continuing international crisis over refugee families trying to find a place to be safe is cast into sharp relief as Christmas approaches.

It makes the Bible story of Mary and Joseph travelling the 100 miles on foot and by donkey to Bethlehem all the more a story for our time. It makes the birth of Jesus in a stable all the more potent as a symbol of one who came as an outcast.

This song speaks of the mother who hears the angel’s promise and watches some unlikely pilgrims kneel and hail her refugee baby in the filth of a Bethlehem stable.

You can sing it to the folk song Scarlet Ribbons or, if you have a long memory, to the old Seekers’ hit The Carnival is Over. The metre is 8.7.8.7.D.

 

Mary in the stable waiting.

hears again the angel’s voice:

‘favoured one the Lord is with you,

all Creation sings: ‘Rejoice!’

Mary waits, and heaven wonders,

at the Prince of Glory’s birth

from her womb, inside that stable,

heaven’s waiting room on earth.

 

Shepherds waiting on the mountain,

Wise Men searching for a sign,

hear that outcasts can be welcomed

at the baby Jesus’ side.

So the earth’s unlikely pilgrims

find themselves upon their knees

and a teenage mother watches

as they hail a refugee.

 

Son of God and hope of heaven,

with the waiting ones on earth,

we expect a world of diff’rence

when your justice comes to birth.

So the world is waiting, hoping

for the promised day to dawn;

when our longings find fulfilment

through the babe in Bethlehem born.

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

A song searching for a tune

Come with me to census city
see the child who doesn’t count,
where the refugees are rolling in.
Come with me to find a corner
just a foothold on the earth
– but enough for Christmas to begin.

It’s dark. It’s cold.
She’s young but feels so old,
and every step is a reminder
that she’s out here on her own.
If she cries who cares?
She’s lonely and she’s scared,
but no one wants to know you
when you’re far away from home.

It’s late. Stars shine.
She’s aching all the time,
and every cry is a reminder
that she cradles hope tonight.
If he cries lift him up
‘til he drains the bitter cup:
an outcast in a manger
but his mother holds him tight.

Come with me to census city
see the child who doesn’t count,
where the refugees are rolling in.
Come with me to find a corner
just a foothold on the earth
– but enough for Christmas to begin.

He’s old but proud,
unbeaten and unbowed,
but every day is a reminder
of the burden he has borne.
He finds the place,
finds heaven’s birthing space:
as, carpenter and pilgrim,
he builds the Son of God a home.

Come with me to census city
see the child who doesn’t count,
where the refugees are rolling in.
Come with me to find a corner
just a foothold on the earth
– but enough for Christmas to begin.

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Who killed Christmas?

OK, that’s a bit over-dramatic, but an awful lot of people seem to have taken down their decorations already.

Christmas trees have already gone from front rooms and people are complaining at how empty their rooms – and lives? – seem without sparkling lights and bits of tinsel everywhere.

Well, it’s too early!

One radio presenter had the gall to declare Christmas over on December 27!!

Christmas lasts 12 days and doesn’t finish until Twelfth Night, which is Tuesday. Our tree and decorations are still up.

Mind you – I still think they go up far too early but then I’m a grumpy old man.

Heaven’s waiting room: a hymn

Broken door small

I know we’re in the waiting season still, but many churches and communities are knee deep in straw and tinsel for carol services. Here is a Christmas carol I wrote some years ago reflecting on the various themes of waiting:

  • Mary waiting for the birth
  • the shepherds waiting and being sent to the baby
  • the Magi searching for ages for what the star meant
  • ourselves waiting for justice and peace

The folk tune Scarlet Ribbons works well with the text or you can use the melody from the 1960s pop song The Carnival is Over. As it’s an 8787D (for those who understand hymn metres) it will work with lots of other tunes too.

Mary in the stable waiting.

hears again the angel’s voice:

‘favoured one the Lord is with you,

all Creation sings: ‘Rejoice!’

Mary waits, and heaven wonders,

at the Prince of Glory’s birth

from her womb, inside that stable,

heaven’s waiting room on earth.

 

Shepherds waiting on the mountain,

Wise Men searching for a sign,

hear that outcasts can be welcomed

at the baby Jesus’ side.

So the earth’s unlikely pilgrims

find themselves upon their knees

and a teenage mother watches

as they hail a refugee.

 

Son of God and hope of heaven,

with the waiting ones on earth,

we expect a world of diff’rence

when your justice comes to birth.

So the world is waiting, hoping

for the promised day to dawn;

when our longings find fulfilment

through the babe in Bethlehem born.

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Three hymns for Christmas

If you’re planning worship over Christmas, here are three contemporary hymns you may want to consider. As usual, they are written to go with known tunes, although there is an original tune written for Mary in the stable waiting.

You can include them in your CCLI returns as well.

Mary in the stable waiting.

hears again the angel’s voice:

‘favoured one the Lord is with you,

all Creation sings: ‘Rejoice!’

Mary waits, and heaven wonders,

at the Prince of Glory’s birth

from her womb, inside that stable,

heaven’s waiting room on earth.

 

Shepherds waiting on the mountain,

Wise Men searching for a sign,

hear that outcasts can be welcomed

at the baby Jesus’ side.

So the earth’s unlikely pilgrims

find themselves upon their knees

and a teenage mother watches

as they hail a refugee.

 

Son of God and hope of heaven,

with the waiting ones on earth,

we expect a world of diff’rence

when your justice comes to birth.

So the world is waiting, hoping

for the promised day to dawn;

when our longings find fulfilment

through the babe in Bethlehem born.

Metre      8.7.8.7.D

Recommended tune: The Carnival is Over, Scarlet Ribbons or an appropriate traditional tune

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

 

The mystery of God on high

lies wrapped in frail humanity.

The Word of truth is now revealed

and echoes in a baby’s cry.

Here as we celebrate and sing

Be born in us, our Lord and King.

 

As shepherds bring their gifts to him

who left behind his majesty,

the shadow of a cross is seen

against the star-lit eastern sky.

Here as we celebrate and sing

Be born in us, our Lord and King.

 

Glory and grace are laid in straw

while hosts of angels testify.

A stable for the Son of God:

his mother sees and wonders “Why?”

Here as we celebrate and sing

Be born in us, our Lord and King.

 

The paradox of Bethlehem

is captured in that mother’s sigh.

As God, who brought a world to life,

must learn to live and then to die.

Here as we celebrate and sing

Be born in us, our Lord and King.

 

And all the dreams we dare to own

find refuge in this baby’s eyes;

we see the truth of God revealed

in one who laid his glory by.

Here as we celebrate and sing

Be born in us, our Lord and King.

Recommended tune: Companion

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

 

We do not look for angel choirs

or visions in the sky,

but simply pray that peace on earth

comes nearer through the Christ child’s birth

in Bethlehem for us,

in Bethlehem for us. 

 

We do not look for frankincense

or wise ones at our door

but simply ask our prayers be heard

and that our restless hearts be stirred

by Jesus’ newborn cry,

by Jesus’ newborn cry.

 

We will not rest until we know

that God makes all things new;

until our search for answered prayer

transforms the lives of all who dare

to put their trust in you,

to put their trust in you.

 

But still you send us songs of peace

and wisdom whispers near.

You call us to the way of Christ,

that in our living hope will rise

from Bethlehem to here,

from Bethlehem to here.

Recommended tune: Repton

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Don’t run on too far

I was trying to resist once again telling you about my favourite Christmas track but then Radio 2 went and played it on Sunday, so any excuse …

Hardeep_singh_kohliHardeep Singh Kholi (left) was interviewing Deacon Blue’s frontman Ricky Ross on Good Morning Sunday and dropped into the conversation that HIS favourite was Calvary, a track from Ross’ solo album Pale Rider. The track very definitely has nothing to do with the crucifixion – the whole point is about celebrating the baby and not trying to rush past the birth to seeing all that Jesus would accomplish on the cross.

It’s a failing of many of us that we want to point at the stable and say: “There you are. The Saviour of the world, destined for a cross.”

But surely one of the most stunning things in human history is to understand that lying in a manger is the Word made flesh? Also, the Incarnation is the way in which God identifies with us and shows his commitment to helping us live “life in all its fulness”, so Ross (right) sings:

One child grows and people noticeRicky Ross
he’s breaking chains
and making poor folks’ lives so heavenly
(the way it’s meant to be)

What a story – God made human and vulnerable and small and surprising and available to us.

The implications, however, are not small at all. A child destined to break chains demands a people who will continue that work – speaking up and living a life where everyone has value.

Night falls, still a broken step
this old mule’s legs
will take you many days from here
Tired limbs and ruddy cheeks
will bandage up your aching hands and feet

I don’t need to know what everyone sees
different roads can take you where other paths lead
I’m not even trying to get as far as Calvary

The challenge is in not running ahead too quickly but allowing the stunning reality of Immanuel – God with us – to shape our Christmas celebrations and affect the way we live beyond the festive period.