Tired of the same old carols? One of our Trustees, Marjory Williamson, shares a bit of fun giving a few of them a makeover...
Angels flew down from heaven
Tune: Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
Angels flew down from heaven
on a dark and chilly night,
sang out a joyful message
to some shepherds, filled with fright.
"Don't be afraid, you shepherds,
down in Beth'lem inn you'll see
a baby, born to Mary,
come to set the people free!"
Down to Bethlehem they ran,
wondering what they'd find;
saw a baby in a crib,
Saviour of all mankind.
Then into town the shepherds
ran, and shouted loud and clear:
"We heard the news from angels,
God's sent the Messiah here!"
Whatever’s that noise, whoever are they?
They’ve each brought a gift,
are they coming to stay?
Three wise men are coming to town.
They’ve stopped at the inn,
and knocked on the door;
The landlord bows low, almost to the floor.
Three wise men have come into town.
They've come from way back yonder,
Just following a star.
They’ve travelled over desert lands,
but look now, here they are.
The stable is there, their gifts now they bring;
They’ve journeyed to give them
to this new King:
Three wise men are all kneeling down.
They’ve seen the King, now it’s time to depart;
They leave Bethlehem with joy in each heart.
Three wise men are changed by this day –
They go home now by another way.
Tune: Santa Clause is Coming to Town
“Gloria, gloria”, hear the angels sing,
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men, News from heav’n we bring:
Gloria, gloria, Jesus Christ the Lord, Will be born in Bethlehem –
God will keep his word.”
Many years ago Isaiah wrote this down
In a book the
Jews held dear, “A babe will wear a crown.
Wond’rous Counsellor and also Prince of Peace:
When he comes, the Servant King, your burdens he’ll release.”
Micah later wrote that Beth’lem was the place
Where the Prince of Peace would come, full of truth and grace:
Not a royal throne, no fawning courtiers there,
Just a cattle feeding trough, and a stable bare.
High up in the sky would rise a shining light,
Leading rulers from the east to a humble site.
Frankincense and Myrrh and golden gifts they’d bring:
Earthly kings would bow the knee to a heavenly king.
Gloria, Gloria ……
On a winter night sheep were in the fold;
Shepherds huddled in their cloaks, keeping out the cold.
All at once they saw high up in the sky
A light so bright it hurt their eyes, then they heard this cry
“Gloria, gloria”, hear the angels sing
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men,News from heav’n we bring:
Gloria, gloria, Jesus Christ the Lord,
Has been born in Bethlehem. God has kept his word!”
Welcome Baby Jesus in the hay
Tune: Winter Wonderland
Do you hear angels singing?
Such good news they are bringing
The Saviour is here, come now and draw near:
Welcome Baby Jesus in the hay.
Shepherds come to the stable,
running fast as they’re able;
they kneel at his feet, their joy is complete:
Welcome Baby Jesus in the hay.
Through the doorway come some foreign strangers,
such a choice of presents that they bring.
They have crossed a desert full of dangers,
just to pay their homage to a king.
Let us now join in chorus
as they did long before us;
come now and draw near, for Jesus is here:
Welcome Baby Jesus in the hay.
3 ladies laden with shopping bags sit in a local café
Whew, I’m ready for a nice cuppa with lots of sugar! This Christmas shopping really exhausts me.
Have you got everything in for tomorrow? Do you know Tesco has run out of sprouts. Christmas dinner’s not the same without sprouts, is it?
Does your family eat them? I’ve got to buy asparagus and ratatouille for my lot.
Well, actually they don’t and I end up throwing them out, but you have to have sprouts. Nigella says so on the telly.
Never mind, after tomorrow you can relax and put your feet up, and we’ll get back to normal again.
Aye, normality again once the tree comes down and the decorations go away for another year.
That nativity play the children did at school was really something. They found parts for so many of them – dozens of shepherds for the boys and angels for the girls as well as the main people. Just reminds you that Christmas is for the children.
It did go on a bit though, they could have done without that Caesar August or whatever his name was, I mean, why did he have to count all his people just for a council tax? The SNP's charges are bad enough with that new tax rate. Messes up our men's tax codes.
That would have meant Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have had to walk that long distance with her nearly gone. Just as well she got to Bethlehem in time.
And that innkeeper – I bet he turned them away because they were dusty from that long walk. I mean look at the pictures of Mary in the Christmas cards, she always looks so nice and clean with her blue dress and golden hair.
And her having to have the baby in a stable – it’s a wonder she didn’t get that MRSA or whatever that new disease is called.
I’d have got rid of that Herod – killing all the babies. It’s like what you see on the telly. I’d have left him out of the story. Really spoils it, so it does. Soldiers have enough to do in Syria with all the fighting there.
Well, that’s as maybe – I’ll need to get going. Will I see you both at the midnight service tonight?
O no, not me, I’ll have enough to do what with hanging up stockings and getting the weans to bed, putting out a glass of milk for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. You can’t miss that out for the sake of the children – Christmas is for them, I can’t wait to see Clarissa’s face when she sees her new dolls house tomorrow morning or Horace with his new trainers.
And I won’t be there – what’s it got to do with Christmas anyway?
Bye, happy Christmas when it comes
I’m sure that, like me, you’ve realised that we are now facing the pre-Christmas frenzy.
But of course, there should be much more to Christmas than ‘frenzy’, and I’ve been thinking very seriously about something that was said at the Christian Aid AGM this year by a bishop from Uganda. He suggested that instead of focusing on making poverty history, we should instead concern ourselves with making greed history. It is greed, he argued, that supports the status quo, ensuring that it is enormously difficult to attempt to challenge and change structures which keep people poor.
I think Christmas is a great time to raise the topic of greed, as it is a time when even the best intentioned of us indulge, over-buy, cave into the pressure of finding the perfect gift, and generate as much waste in a week as we normally do in a couple of months.
This year the Christmas build up begins as climate scientists around the world have hit the panic button – indicating that unless there is a fundamental shift in our behaviours, politics and economics, then we are on course for even more erratic and extreme weather. Weather that is already depriving people of their homes and livelihoods and driving displacement.
So what can we do about it? ALTERnativity exists to support individuals and Churches to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas and reflect on the Christmas story, and specifically Mary’s concern for the poor. Over the years, our conversations have let us hear people share frustrations that Christmas is incredibly busy, very stressful, gifts are given and received without much thought and the pressure to overspend and take on debt is enormous.
Christmas, for all the perfect marketing, can be a very lonely and stressful time for people. ALTERnativity asks people to recognise the poverty of that first Christmas and encourages people to think critically about how we celebrate the coming of the Christ child in a world where more than half of our sisters and brothers are starving. In responding to this, our new resource is aimed at getting people talking - sharing the joys and stresses of Christmas; reflecting on what gifts are most appreciated; and challenging ourselves to cut back on the waste that is generated in our celebrations.
This complements our advent family box that enables families to take a little time each day of advent to reflect on one aspect of the Christmas story. With a reflection for children and another for adults, this is a wonderful gift for Sunday schools, Messy Church and youth organisations.
Thanks to the support of ACTS, we are delighted to be able to offer our new resource for free, and we are now giving away the family box for free as well – only charging postage if people are unable to collect from either the Church of Scotland Office in Edinburgh or the Christian Aid office in Glasgow. If you would like to receive our resources, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JustGodSimplyChristmas/ )
Tomorrow I will help my mum take down her Christmas cards and look through them. She always has to check that everyone who has sent her a card has also received one from her. She wants to do this even though she can no longer remember who most people are - we have to do things properly! As someone with mild Alzheimer’s who was widowed in the last two years and moved to a care home, the whole Christmas card thing can be a challenging exercise. Writing them reminded her of losing my dad when she signed them with one signature. Receiving them with only her name on them is a double whammy of singleness. However, as I look at the ones she has received with her, it is an opportunity to remind her of people who have been significant in her life and to give her a chance to talk about what she does remember about them. These anecdotes are important for me as I store away fragments of information to act as memory prompts at a later date. Mum’s connections are diminishing. The physical connections in her brain are covered in plaque that reduces their functioning. Her social connections are reducing as people of her age die and as she forgets the names of people who visit her. What does remain true is that she loves a visitor, no matter who they are.
Increasingly we are becoming aware of the importance of social connectedness. I suspect that instinctively many of us know that to be true but some scientists are now claiming that social connectedness is a greater determinant to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.[i] When we think about improving health we often think about reducing smoking and obesity but not about improving social connection, and yet it is well documented that those with poor social connections are likely to be more anxious or depressed. This can then extend to the cellular level by causing more inflammation and physical illness. Being well connected is crucial to our well-being and happiness. For some, this means having a few strong and significant connections and for others it means having many connections.
Christmas is a time that throws this connectedness into sharp focus. In ALTERnativity, work we have done has shown that, for some people, the social aspect of Christmas is very challenging. This can be when you don’t have the people there with whom you would like to socialise or, even worse, when you are forced to socialise with people you would rather not be with! Loneliness at Christmas can be very acute. One of the signs of a healthy church is its degree of social connectedness. People look to the church for support in times of difficulty and an aware church will be alert to the wider community in times of difficulty. However, Christmas Day is frequently a day when many churches are curiously closed. There may be a morning service or mass and then the doors are closed. This Christmas was on a Sunday. How many people in our parishes who are on their own, or who are not on their own but find Christmas difficult, were wishing that there were people to spend Christmas Day with? It’s a challenge we in ALTERnativity have tried to come up with some useful suggestions for. Christmas could provide an opportunity for making new connections in our community or strengthening the ones already there.
This Christmas mum was with us. It’s a context she understands and it makes her feel secure. It’s evident from our interaction with her that having company improves her physical and mental health. Headaches miraculously disappear with a chat and a cup of coffee. This Christmas she was happy as she connected with family and friends, even though by the time she got home she had forgotten what day it was. The connecting moment was important at the time.
Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son John 3.16
Love is a word that we see everywhere at Christmas: sometimes used poignantly; sometimes frivolously; at other times to express our feelings towards those closest to us. To live lives full of love can be challenging – as we know all too well – it’s easy to love those who love us, agree with us and affirm us, but much harder to love those who we disagree profoundly with, or those who dislike us.
We turn our attention to Bethlehem tonight, to the baby born because God loved the whole world so much. That love is unconditional, given freely to people of all creeds, colours, abilities and dispositions. Most of us know that, appreciate it, but don’t really need to give it too much thought on a day-to-day basis.
For the Christians in modern day Bethlehem, however, living out this radical love is not only a daily reality, but an act of profound faith. Bethlehem, a city which sits in the West Bank, cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation barrier, is under occupation today, just as it was at the time of Jesus’ birth. For those who call it home, life is challenging, movement is restricted, and opportunities limited.
Palestinian Christians released a plea to the global Christian community through their Kairos document asking that the global church understand their suffering and struggle, and help them to get their freedom back.
The Kairos document has love as it’s logic. It recognises that resistance to the occupation is both a necessity and a duty, however it should be done non-violently. We are all are made in the image of God.
Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. Either the cycle of violence that destroys both of us or peace that will benefit both. Kairos Palestine 4.3
This approach embodies the ability to recognise the humanity of those you profoundly disagree with and to work non-violently to liberate both oppressed and oppressor. It is a radical love which refuses to hate, refuses to polarise and refuses to diminish the humanity of the other.
This Christmas, as we sing our well-loved carols, let us remember the realities of Bethlehem for all who live there. And as we welcome the prince of peace tonight, inspire in us the desire that we will work for nothing other than peace. A true, lasting peace which must, by definition, have justice for all people at its heart.
Pray not for Arab or Jew,
for Palestinian or Israeli,
but pray rather for ourselves,
that we might not
divide them in our prayers
but keep them both together
in our hearts.
Prayer of a Palestinian Christian
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