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

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