Saturday, December 27, 2014

January News from the Church of England

In Review new editions


January's edition of InReview, featuring the announcement of a £15million fund for roof repair, and more, is available here


January's edition of InFocus, featuring news of a new catalogue of material from the Board of Social Responsibility, and more, is available here
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from all at Seal Church

The sermon from our Midnight Mass is now online here.

Who'd be a shepherd?

And here is the story I told at our Christmas morning service.

The Gift of the Star.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 24

Our final Carol in this Advent season. I hope you have found plenty to think about as you have followed along day by day, and I pray that you will have a blessed Christmas, wherever and however you celebrate it.

Silent night, holy night,
all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
shepherds quake at the sight,
glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light
radiant beams from thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Joseph Mohr 1792-1848

trans. John Freeman Young 1820-1885

The famous legend about the writing of this carol – that mice had chewed through the organ bellows, so that a new carol was needed which could be accompanied on the guitar– is sadly a complete myth. The carol was first sung to the guitar however, at the Midnight Mass in Oberndorf, Austria, in 1818. The words were written by the local priest, Joseph Mohr, and the music by schoolmaster and organist, Franz Gruber. The other story about this song – that it was sung simultaneously in German, French and English by WW1 soldiers during the “Christmas Truce” in 1914 WW1 does appear to be true though. Perhaps the words reminded the soldiers of their common humanity. Not everyone thought this was a good idea. Christmas Truces were suppressed as the war went on; it was harder to kill people if you saw them as equally human.
If yesterday’s carol (O come all ye faithful) was all about movement, this one is marked by its stillness. It is as if the whole of creation is transfixed for a moment by the birth of Christ, simply watching and wondering as the light of God shines out into the world through him. There is nothing to be said or done. This is a moment simply to be aware of the love of God, which cannot be earned or worked for, but is freely given in this child, who calls us all to live in peace. John’s Gospel calls him the “Word of God”, and this carol invites us simply to listen to what he is saying to us tonight.

·         How will you be marking Christmas? Will it include some time for worship, and perhaps for quiet contemplation amidst all the hustle and busyness?
·         If Jesus is God’s Word to the world, what is he saying to you right now? Where do you need to seek peace and reconciliation in your life?

Bible Reading: “We love, because God first loved us.” 1 John 4.19

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 23

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
come, and behold him,
born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of Light,
lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God, begotten, not created:

See how the shepherds,
Summoned to his cradle
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear
We too will thither
bend our joyful footsteps:

Lo! Star-led chieftains,
Magi, Christ adoring
Offer him incense, gold and myrrh
We to the Christ Child
Bring our hearts oblations

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
glory to God, glory in the highest;

For Christmas Day
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

origin unknown

trans. John Francis Wade  1711-1786


This carol, originally in Latin (Adeste Fidelis) has been attributed to many authors, from a Portuguese king, to a group of Cistercian monks, to St Bonaventura. It may, however, have been an original composition in Latin by John Francis Wade (1711 –1786) a Catholic hymn writer. We shall probably never know!
It’s a carol that is full of movement, as the various characters in the Christmas story come to the scene of Christ’s birth.. The emphasis of the carol, though is that this is not just something that happened long ago and far away, but movement we are also called to join in with. “We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps”. Christ was not just born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but is also born now, in our world and in our lives. If we want to be part of the kingdom of God, says this carol, we need to be prepared to be on the move. If we seek him we will find him today in prayer, in one another and in those in need whom we are called to serve.

·         Looking back at your life, how have you had to move (geographically, emotionally and spiritually) in it? Are you the same person now that you were a decade ago?
·         How has your faith changed over the years?

Bible Reading: Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ John 8.12

Or, for those who prefer the more popular descant, here is this version (rather slow for my tastes).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 22

The first Nowell the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east beyond them far,
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star
three wise men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o'er Bethlehem it took its rest,
and there it did both stop and stay
right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then entered in those wise men three
full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord
sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
that hath made heaven and earth of naught,
and with his blood mankind hath bought.

Text collected by William Sandys c. 1833 

This traditional carol was first collected in the form we know it today in Cornwall in the early 19th Century. The “Nowell” of the chorus may derive from the French “Noël”, meaning Christmas,  from the Latin “natalis” – birth.  Some sources suggest, however, that it means “News” (as in novel). Perhaps we can read it both ways; Christ’s birth is good news, and it is this news that is the cause of our celebration!
Although the carol starts with the shepherds, it mostly tells the story of the wise men, who see the light of a new star in the sky and follow it to Bethlehem. It was a common belief in the ancient world that a star would appear in the sky when a person of significance was born. In Matthew’s Gospel the star doesn’t move, as the carol suggests, but having appeared over the place where the wise men come from , it appears again to them over Bethlehem as confirmation that they are in the right place. It must seem an unlikely place to them – an ordinary house, with an ordinary family living in it, but they realise somehow that God has appeared in this ordinary child. Christmas seems like a special time for us, but the essence of the story is that God comes into the ordinariness of the world.

·         Has an ordinary day, or an ordinary person, ever turned out to be far more significant than you thought?
·         When all the glitter and magic of Christmas has passed, how will you seek for God’s presence in your everyday life, and try to grow in faith?

Bible Reading: Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” Genesis 28.16

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thanks for a wonderful carol service.

Many thanks to the choir, choirmaster Philip Le Bas, and organists Stephen Bloxham and Nick Castell for a FANTASTIC carol service tonight. Very well sung and played, everyone.
Thanks too, to the sidespeople and those who provided refreshments after the service. It all added to a great atmosphere.

Sing Christmas: Dec 21

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing. 
John Mason Neale 1818-1866

Neale published this carol in 1853. He was an Anglican priest who had been much influenced by the High Church “Oxford Movement”. He co-founded an Anglican order of nuns, the Sisters of St Margaret, who still work with marginalised people around the world. 
The carol retells a legend about Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, (907-935) who was made a saint because of his reputation for goodness. Whether there is any truth to the story in the carol no one knows, but it reminds us of one of the central messages of Christ, that his followers are called to serve others, and that worldly rank has no significance in the kingdom of God. The carol is very much of its time, however. There is no challenge to the structural inequality which leads to a king and a peasant having such different lives!

·         How important is it to you that your celebration of Christmas should include some charitable giving? Is it an assumption you grew up with?
·         What might make it difficult for us to resist the urge to over spend and over consume at Christmas? How can we make it fairer for everyone?

Bible Reading : What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6.8

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 20

We three kings of Orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright;
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light!

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King for ever, ceasing never
over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I:
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, all men raising,
 worship him, God Most High.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Glorious now behold him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice;
heaven sings alleluia; alleluia
the earth replies.

John Henry Hopkins 1820-1891

John Henry Hopkins, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania wrote both words and music of this carol for a Christmas Pageant. Each of the central three verses is intended as a solo, with the singer explaining the significance of the gift he has brought and pointing to the future ministry of Jesus as “King and God and Sacrifice”.
In fact almost all of the carol is guess work, embroidering on the brief account in Matthew’s Gospel from which it is drawn. Matthew simply tells us that some (number unspecified) Magi (Zoroastrian astrologers, not Kings) come to visit Jesus, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew’s account of the nativity, like Luke’s is really an imaginative introduction to the later ministry of Jesus and points to its main themes. Matthew tells us about these foreign visitors who recognise the presence of God in this child despite coming from a very different belief system and nationality. Matthew wants to highlight that Jesus message is for all people, whatever their background or culture. He cannot be “owned” by any one nation or group.

·         Have you ever worshipped or lived alongside others – Christian or of other faiths – whose beliefs or ways of worship are very different from yours. How did it make you feel?
·         When the Magi returned to their own lands, how do you think they might have been changed by their visit?

Bible Reading:  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3.29

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 19

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.

"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind;
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.

"To you, in David's town, this day
is born of David's line
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
and this shall be the sign:

The heavenly Babe you there shall find 
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
and in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song:

"All glory be to God on high
and to the earth be peace;
good will henceforth from heaven to men
begin and never cease."

Nahum Tate (1652-1715)

This carol was one of the earliest to receive official approval by the Anglican Church after the Reformation. Hymns not drawn directly from Bible texts were regarded with suspicion, but this follows Luke’s account of the Nativity very closely, so it was permitted. We usually sing it to “Old Winchester”, but it was often sung to “Old Foster” – the choir will be singing this setting at the carol service on 21st Dec at 6.30pm – or “Cranbrook”, better known today as “Ilkla Moor Baht 'at.”

Shepherds were important economically and symbolically to Israel; both Moses and King David had been shepherds and God was often likened to one. However, shepherds were often regarded as rather disreputable, unable to keep the rituals and practices a good Jewish person should as they moved around with their flocks and lived in the open. It’s no accident, therefore, that they feature in the story of Christ’s birth. Their presence at the manger crib points forward to the kind of ministry Jesus would have among people marginalised by his society, and the value he placed on them.

·         The angel says “Fear not”. What do you think the shepherds were afraid of?
·         Who do you think would least expect to hear that the Good News was for them today, and would struggle most to believe it?

Bible Reading: God will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. Isaiah 40.11

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 18

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur.
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you.
See the fur to keep you warm,
Snugly 'round your tiny form.

Mary's little baby, sleep, sweetly sleep,
Sleep in comfort, slumber deep.
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you.
We will serve you all we can,
Darling, darling little man.

Traditional Czech, translated by Percy Dearmer 1867-1936

This carol is a translation of a traditional Czech carol by Percy Dearmer. It has the form of a lullaby. There was a medieval tradition in parts of Northern Europe (particularly Germany) to set up a cradle in Church, with the figure of the baby Jesus in it, which the priests and people would rock as they sang lullabies to the child Jesus. Rather like our Crib services, this enabled people imaginatively to enter into the story of the birth of Christ. This carol may have its origins in this practice.

The carol evokes the scene of the birth of Christ as if the singers were there, able to be involved in the action. It imagines that the onlookers could give a fur blanket to wrap around the baby to protect him from the cold, if not from all the other dangers he faces. Some people find it sentimental, but it taps into the natural protective instincts we have towards babies, and it emphasizes the vulnerability of this child, born in an animal shelter, with not even a warm cot to lie in. That vulnerability will be evident later when he dies on the cross. This is not some superman, who feels no pain or fear.

·         Christmas is a season filled with traditions which help us imagine the scene of the birth of Christ. What traditions do you observe or value at Christmas at home or at church? Do you have crib set, or favourite tree decorations which depict the story? If not, could you make or buy some this year?
·         Spend some time imagining the scene this carol depicts. If you were there and could say something to Mary and Joseph or do something for them, what would it be?

Bible Reading: Then Simeon blessed Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Luke 2.34-35

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 17

Angels, from the realms of glory,
wing your flight o'er all the earth;
ye who sang creation's story,
now proclaim Messiah's birth:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Shepherds in the field abiding,
watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
yonder shines the infant Light:

Sages, leave your contemplations;
brighter visions beam afar:
seek the great desire of nations;
ye have seen his natal star:

Saints before the altar bending,
watching long in hope and fear,
suddenly the Lord, descending,

in his temple shall appear:

Though an infant now we view him,
He shall fill his Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to him
Every knee shall then bow down.

James Montgomery 1771 -1854

James Montgomery was a Scottish poet, the child of a Moravian pastor. He became the editor of a Sheffield newspaper, called the Sheffield Iris, but although he wrote thought provoking articles, he never really had much of a head for business, and eventually had to sell the paper. He was a passionate campaigner, however, both for the abolition of slavery and the end of the exploitation of child chimney sweeps, and in a time of political repression and his views sometimes got him into trouble; he was twice imprisoned for sedition, although he ended his life very highly respected. He wrote a number of hymns, including “Hail to the Lord’s anointed” and “Stand up and bless the Lord”.

Perhaps it is especially appropriate that a newspaper man should be best known for a carol about angels, God’s messengers (the Greek “angelos” literally means “messenger”). In the carol we are taken, as if on the angels’ wings, on a guided tour of those to whom the news of Christ’s birth is announced. Shepherds, sages, and saints witness the birth of Christ. This is good news, for them and for us.

·         How did your first interest in Christian faith begin? Were there people or circumstances which drew you towards it?
·         How can you be good news to others today, in your words and deeds – the “angel” which brings them the message they need to hear?

Bible Reading: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ Isaiah 52.7

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 16

See amid the winter's snow,
born for us on earth below,
see, the tender Lamb appears,
promised from eternal years.

Hail thou ever blessèd morn,
hail redemption's happy dawn,
sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
he who built the starry skies;
he who, throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
what your joyful news today.
wherefore have ye left your sheep
on the lonely mountain steep?

"As we watched at dead of night,
lo, we saw a wondrous light;
angels singing 'Peace on earth'
told us of the Saviour's birth."

Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was thine,
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us Holy Child,
By thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble thee,
In thy sweet humility.

Edward Caswell 1814 -1878

Edward Caswell’s carol, originally called “A Hymn for Christmas Day” is written for the “blessed morn” of the chorus’ first line. It celebrates the moment when hope dawns, when something happens that changes everything. As the carol points out, though, what has happened is very small and apparently fragile; a tender lamb, a sacred infant, something so tiny that it fits in a manger. Yet in the birth of that baby, as vulnerable and helpless as all babies are, “he who built the starry skies” comes into the mess of earth, “down to such a world as this”.

The carol finishes with a reminder that this “blessed morn” was not simply a one-day wonder, though. The birth of Christ is beginning of the building of a new kingdom of love and justice, in which we all have our part to play. “Teach us to resemble thee, in thy sweet humility”. We are invited to lay down our delusions of grandeur and see ourselves as God’s children, with a lifetime of learning and growing to do.

·         Can you recall times when your life has changed for the better in a moment, when a “blessed morn” has dawned for you in something that looked quite small and insignificant at the time?
·         What does “humility” mean to you? How might it be seen in your life?

Bible Reading: Weeping may linger for the night: but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30.5

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas services at Seal

Sing Christmas: Dec 15

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
'Christ is born in Bethlehem.'

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.

Charles Wesley 1707-88, George Whitfield 1714-70,
Martin Madan 1726-90, and others.

This carol has been much altered since Charles Wesley originally wrote it (with ten verses! and a request that it be set to a solemn tune. It’s probably just as well that others got their hands on it and changed it, reducing the verses to the three we know, and giving it the upbeat tune to which it is now sung, written by Mendelssohn.
It is a celebration of the Incarnation, the belief that in Christ we see God’s very essence. That essence may be “veiled in flesh” but that does not lessen its glory. The truly wonderful thing, according to Wesley, is that Jesus’ birth changes everything, giving us “second birth”. We receive a new start in his love; we are reconciled to God and to one another. His resurrection will defeat death for us all. He is the one who will show us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and it all starts here, as “Christ is born in Bethlehem”.

·         Wesley celebrates reconciliation, the bringing together of God and humanity, of people with one another. Where in your life do you need reconciliation this Advent? Are there people you have fallen out with? Have you fallen out with God?
·         What is the “second birth”, the new start you long for?

Bible Reading: St Paul said: “Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made Jews and Gentiles into one, and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Ephesians 2.14

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 14

See him lying on a bed of straw;
a draughty stable with an open door,
Mary cradling the babe she bore;
The prince of glory is his name.

Oh, now carry me to Bethlehem
To see the Lord of love again
Just as poor as was the stable then,
The prince of glory when he came

Star of silver sweep across the skies,
Show where Jesus in the manger lies.
Shepherds swiftly from your stupor rise
To see the Saviour of the world.

Angels, sing again the song you sang, 
sing the glory of God’s gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl’em’s little baby can
Be the saviour of us all.

Mine are riches from your poverty,
From your innocence, eternity;
Mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
Child of sorrow for my joy.

Michael Perry, 1942-1996

Not all popular carols are ancient (and you may have been surprised by earlier carols in this series that aren’t as old as they seem, like “Ding Dong Merrily”, written in 1924). Every “traditional carol” was new once, of course, and this favourite of many, sometimes known as the Calypso Carol, was written in 1965. Although the title might make it sound as if it should be West Indian, it was written by an Englishman, Michael Perry, when he was at Oak Hill Theological College, training for ministry. He wrote it for a college carol concert, but it was somehow picked up by Cliff Richard, and used to fill a gap in a carol programme he was presenting. The rest is history. Michael Perry went on to be one of our most prolific modern hymn writers , and ended up as vicar of St Peter and St Paul, Tonbridge.
The carol is a joyful evocation of the scene in the stable. Mary, shepherds and angels gather around to wonder at this child, the prince of glory. But the point of the carol is that they aren’t the only ones invited to kneel at the manger. The chorus is a prayer for all those who sing it. “Oh, now carry me to Bethlehem…” This carol stands in an ancient tradition of imaginative engagement with Biblical scenes; St Francis built Christmas cribs so that people could imagine what it might have been like to be there, and countless artists have tried to help us be part of Jesus’ birth.

·         Imagine yourself in the scene. Where are you? Hovering by the door, or right in the centre of the action?
·         What do you feel and what do you want to say and do?

Bible Reading: Jesus’ mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Luke 2.51

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sing Christmas: Dec 13

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

"For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name."
Most highly favoured lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say--
"Most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

traditional Basque carol, paraphrased by Sabine Baring-Gould 1834-1924 

 Sabine Baring-Gould was a Devonshire vicar and prolific collector of folk songs, dances and traditions mainly from the West Country. This carol, however, was a paraphrase of a carol from the Basque country (Northern Spain), collected by Charles Bordes.

The carol celebrates the moment in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1.26-38) when Mary is told that she will become the mother of the Messiah, the long promised saviour whom the Jewish people looked for and believed God would send to them.
It has been a favourite scene for artists over the centuries, and in their various depictions Mary seems to respond with every emotion possible, from joyful welcome to absolute terror.
In the carol, Mary’s response is one of humble acceptance. We don’t know how she feels. We don’t know whether she is worried or overwhelmed. “To me be as it pleaseth God” is her answer. She seems to have an absolute trust that if it seems good to God, it will be good. In fact, she will have agony to face as well as joy as her child grows, teaches and eventually dies, so this trust in God will be something she needs to call on often.

·         Have you ever been chosen for something that seemed daunting?
·         Have you ever not been chosen for something you felt you should be?
·         Have there been things you’ve had to face which were not of your choosing? How did you cope?

Bible Reading: “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare,not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29.11