Saturday, December 21, 2013

Home for Christmas? 21

The word became flesh and dwelt among us

The shepherds in the Christmas story were out on the hillside. They were probably living in temporary shelters, wherever they could find pasture for the sheep, as many shepherds across the world still do today. They were there because the flock needed guarding against the dangers of wild animals and bandits who might steal them. They were, therefore, at risk themselves, and probably sometimes in danger. No doubt they sometimes longed for the comfort of their own beds in their own homes, with their own families, especially in the small hours of a long night. 

The last thing they expected was to be the ones to receive the news that the Messiah had been born. The angels come to them, where they are, in the middle of nowhere very important in the world's eyes. Heaven comes home to earth, even on this cold, dark hillside. 

Luke 2. 8-20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

  • Have you ever "kept watch" by night - worked the night shift, sat with a sick relative or a tiny baby? What is it like to be up in the middle of the night?
  • Here is a prayer you might like to say as night falls.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who wake,
or watch or weep this night,
give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, give rest to the weary,
sustain the dying, calm the suffering,
and pity the distressed; all for your love’s sake,
O Christ our Redeemer. Amen

We stood on the hills, Lady,

Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.

The evening was calm, Lady, 
The air so still, 
Silence more lovely than music 
Folded the hill.

There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.

And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your son.

Composer: Bob Chilcott (b. 1956)


  1. Molehil8:16 am

    The music and poem for today are so appropriate for each other. I must confess I had not heard of the poet . As I don't sleep well I am often awake in the middle of the night - my first action is to look out of the window to see if any of my neighbours are awake. The beautiful prayer is very familiar to me and very comforting.

  2. It's a very beautiful setting, and beautifully performed. I think the text of the poem is by that famous poet "Anon.", but I like Bob Chilcott's music. The prayer is a great favourite of mine. Many people are all too familiar with those involuntary vigils in the middle of the night when sleep won't come; I went through a phase when for weeks I woke at 2.18am precisely... There is some comfort in the reminder that God is awake with us!