Candlemas

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a course in Salisbury and went to choral evensong at the cathedral (which is one of my favourite cathedrals).

Salisbury Cathedral

One evening, the girls’ choir sang as an anthem Dorothy Parker’s poem, Prayer For A New Mother, set to music by Richard Shephard.  I found it very moving.

I thought I might use it in church this Sunday, but I don’t think it’s going to fit into an already over-crowded liturgy.  However, I want to share it, so I’ll share it with you . . .

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The things she knew, let her forget again –

The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold,

The gaping shepherds, and the queer old men

Piling their clumsy gifts of foreign gold.

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Let her have laughter with her little one;

Teach her the endless, tuneless songs to sing,

Grant her the right to whisper to her son

The foolish names one dare not call a king.

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Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd,

The smell of rough-cut wood, the trail of red,

The thick and chilly whiteness of the shroud

That wraps the strange new body of the dead.

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Ah, let her go, kind Lord, where mothers go

And boast his pretty words and ways, and plan

The proud and happy years that they shall know

Together, when her son is grown a man.

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And here’s a link to it being sung (although not by a choir in Salisbury Cathedral).

Santa the Wise Man

This was a skit I performed (with the Big Man himself, of course) at our Christmas Eve fancy-dress crib service in 2010 (and repeated at our monthly cafe service, The Junction, last Sunday evening).  I thought it might be appropriate to post it on St Nicholas’ Day today.

 

Conversation between Father Christmas & Alex the Elf.

Elf: Father Christmas – thank you for taking time to come and see us on your busiest day.

FC: Good to have an excuse to get out of my workshop.  The real elves (no offence (none taken)) are driving me mad – always under my feet and chat chat chat chat chat.  I long for some peace and quiet.  I’m getting old, you know.  Too old, perhaps.

Elf: Take the weight off your feet & have a rest.  You’ve been doing this job for a long time, Father Christmas.  Just how old are you?

FC: I lost count a long time ago.  Somehow I just keep going.

Elf: You must have met some famous people over the years.

FC: Well, of course, I only visit children.  It’s only later, when they grow up, that I remember the little child who ended up doing something amazing.

Elf: And I guess they’re always asleep, too.

FC: Yes, that’s right.  But, you know, talking about this does remind me of one time, a very long time ago, when I visited this baby who I just knew was going to be amazing – who was amazing, even as a baby.

Elf: Aren’t all babies amazing?

FC: They are, but I didn’t think so then.  Back then, I was in a different line of work – still magical but different.  There was me and two others in a partnership, looking at the stars and re-telling the stories they told.  One night, we saw this incredible star – one we hadn’t seen before, and as we stared at it and tried to listen to it, we started to think the most amazing thought.  God was up to something, something that would change the world.

Elf: And the star was telling you this?

FC: In its own way, yes.  The trouble was, as we looked at it, it started to move west.  We lost sight of it and quickly packed some bags of supplies and set off to find the star again.  Every night we found it and followed it as it moved, all the time with the thought growing in our minds that it was leading us to a baby – a baby born to be a King – a baby sent from God.

Elf: So where did you end up?

FC: The star led us to a country far from our home, a country called Judea.  We lost sight of the star for a rainy night or two, but we figured that a baby born to be a king would be in the king’s palace, so that’s where we went.

Elf: And did you find him?

FC: No, but the king was very helpful.  He asked his advisors and they looked in the bible and said that we should look in a village not far away, called Bethlehem.  And when we left the palace, the sky had cleared, and there was the star again!

Elf: And was it still moving?

FC: Yes.  It was moving south towards Bethlehem.  But we suddenly realised that we were about to visit the most amazing child ever born – a baby sent from God – and we had nothing to give him.

Elf: So what did you do?

FC: We went back into the city and sold our camels. (In those days I didn’t know there was such an animal as a reindeer.  I’d rather have a reindeer than a camel any day.)  Anyway, with the money, we bought some gifts for the baby.  Well – the others bought gifts – incense and myrhh – but I thought the money might be more useful, and decided I’d give him the gold coins I’d been paid for my camel.

Elf: So you had to walk now?

FC: Yes, but it wasn’t very far, and the next night, the star stopped over this mean little house – more of a stable really – full of animals.   But there, inside, was the baby and his mother.  There was a man there too, but I don’t think he was the father, because we knew, as soon as we saw the child, that this baby was God’s own son, and all we could do was fall to our knees in front of him and worship.

Elf: This is a really amazing story.  Are you sure it’s true?  Were you really there for the birth of Jesus?  Are you telling me that one of the three wise men became Father Christmas?

FC: Well, Alex, hmm, I think it’s true, but then I’m very old and I’ve heard a lot of stories in my long life and sometimes I think I get the stories a bit muddled.  But one thing I know is true is that there was a baby born in Bethlehem all those years ago who was God’s son, and he showed the world how much God loves everyone.  And another thing I know is true – every time I leave a proper present by the bedside of a sleeping child, I look at each of their faces and I think of that baby in Bethlehem.  I remember Jesus in that little hut, lying in the straw, and I think how much God must love these children, that he would become like them – even the poorest of them.  And I wonder what they will do with the gifts God gives them and if they will become like him?  Wouldn’t the world be amazing if children grew up to be like Jesus?  And so all I want to do is visit them on a special night and help them to believe that they are special – because God loves them.

Elf (probably wiping away a little tear): Thank you very much, Father Christmas.  I think I can hear the reindeer pawing impatiently on the roof, and I know you’ll be coming back in a few hours time to visit these children, so I think we’d better say goodbye for now.

FC: Goodbye everybody!  Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I Had A Tractor

This is a rewrite of ‘If I had a hammer’.  It’ll never make the hymnals, but we had fun with it at a children’s harvest service last year.  Feel free …

If I had a tractor

I’d drive it in the morning

I’d drive it in the evening,

all over this land.

I’d plough through the hunger,

I’d plough through the mourning,

I’d plough in God’s love

between my brothers and my sisters,

All over this land.

 

If I had some seed,

I’d sow it in the morning,

I’d sow it in the evening,

all over this land.

I’d sow it for hunger,

I’d sow it for mourning,

I’d sow all God’s love

between my brothers and my sisters,

all over this land.

 

If I had a combine,

I’d drive it in the morning

I’d drive it in the evening

all over this land.

I’d thresh out the hunger,

I’d thresh out the mourning,

I’d harvest God’s love

between my brothers and my sisters,

all over this land.

 

Well we’ve got a plough

and we’ve got some good seed,

and we’ve got a harvest

and all that we need.

There’ll be no more hunger

there’ll be no more mourning

There’ll just be God’s love

between our brothers and our sisters,

all over this land.

 

(Apologies to Pete Seeger & Lee Hays.)