Monday, December 28, 2020

Stories for Christmas: A candle in the window

The next Christmas story in our series: A candle in the window. Based on a scrap of folklore from Ireland. 

There are suggestions that the old Irish custom of putting a candle in the window on Christmas Eve was originally a secret sign to Roman Catholic priests that a Catholic family lived there and wanted him to celebrate Mass with them, at a time when Catholic worship was banned under Oliver Cromwell. This seems unlikely to me; it would have been unlikely to stay a secret long, so it probably wouldn't have been very effective, and might even have attracted the attention of the authorities. It seems far more likely that it was, as the stories say, a welcome for Mary and Joseph. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Stories for Christmas: Old Tom

 The next of my Stories for Christmas: Old Tom. If you like cats, this is a story for you. Check back here tomorrow at 5pm for the next story. 

The Madonna del Gatto by Leonardo da Vinci

Madonna del Gatto by Federico Barocci
National Gallery. 

It is said that tabby cats have an M on their forehead, where Mary stroked them in gratitude for purring the baby to sleep. 

Video of this morning's service

The video of this morning's service, with a sermon from Jess Heeb.

Sunday Worship podcast links

 Dear friends

There's no newsletter this week, (or next) because I am trying to take time off over the next week or so, but there will be podcasts as usual on both Sundays, and also a Zoffee chat at 11.15. Jess Heeb, who is training for Lay Ministry at Seal is preaching on today's podcasts. 
On Dec 27 and Jan 3 there will only be a 10 am service, not Story Church or Evensong. 

Check out the website for our Christmas services and also for the series of Christmas Stories which are being released each day from Christmas Day to Jan 6.

Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas

Dec 27 Christmas 1


Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

In Church today 
10 am Holy Communion

Please note that there will be no Story Church or Evensong today or on Dec 27 and Jan 3

On Zoom this week  email for links
Time: Dec 27, 2020 11:15 AM 

There will be no Wednesday Zoom Church, Children's Choir or Adult Choir until Jan 13

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Worship links and an invitation to Christmas Zoffee this morning


Merry Christmas from Seal Church

Here are the links for our online Christmas worship. You can also find them on our website
Jess Heeb has kindly offered to host a Zoffee at 11.15 am today, so that we can exchange Christmas greetings. The link is below. Do drop in if you'd like to, even if it is only for a few minutes.
Many thanks to all who have read, prayed, sung, filmed, cleaned the church, welcomed people, and cared behind the scenes in the strange times we are in.

Even if it isn't quite the same as usual, or the same as we hoped for, God is with us! May you have a blessed Christmas.
Anne Le Bas

The First Communion of Christmas. A video of the "Midnight" Mass (actually at 9pm) celebrated last night, including a Christmas sermon and the Eucharist.  Service sheet here.

Audio podcast of Christmas Day worship including this year's Christmas story. Service sheet here.

Stories for Christmas. A story a day for the twelve days of Christmas, starting with this year's Christmas story. From Boxing Day each until Jan 6 a different story will be available, from the church blog from 5pm - in time for bed, or a cosy listen on the sofa with a beverage of your choice! I have chosen the stories  from those I've told on previous Christmas Day services at Seal. They come to you in lieu of the many cards and thanks I should have offered, but haven't had time for this year. Please accept these as my Christmas gift to you. I hope you will enjoy them (and Philip's lovely bassoon playing at the end of each story!).

And in case you missed them when they first came out...

Online Crib service, building the crib with the help of Esme, Ana and Isla, with carols from Seal Choir.

Online Carol service with carols from Seal Choir and readings from members of the congregation.

Christmas Day Zoffee (email for the link)

Dec 25, 2020 11:15 AM 

Worship in church
Christmas Day 10 am
There are still a few spaces available, but if you haven't booked it will be on a first come, first served basis. It is important that you consider whether it will be safe and wise for you to come to church in person, and if you are at all in doubt, I hope that you will make use of the many opportunities listed above to join with us in worship online this Christmas. 

Dec 27
Holy Communion 10 am (followed by Zoffee online)
There will be no Story Church or Evensong on Dec 27 and Jan 3. 

I will send an email with the links to Morning and Evening podcasts and the Zoffee on Sunday morning as usual.

Stories for Christmas: Brother Froilan

Stories for Christmas, written and read by Anne Le Bas, with music by Philip Le Bas
Here is the link to the first in a series of thirteen stories for Christmas, which I will release one at a time over the twelve days of Christmas, starting on Christmas Day and going on until (and including) Jan 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. They are all chosen from among the stories I told at Christmas morning services over the years I have been at Seal. The first is this year's story, the story of Brother Froilan.You can also hear this, set in the context of our audio podcast worship here, but the link directly to the story is below - click on the picture to listen.

Check back at any time after 5pm each day from tomorrow onwards for the next story in the series.

The story of Brother Froilan

The story of Brother Froilan is widely told. There is another version of it in Bob Hartmann's "Lion Book of Christmas Stories."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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).

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

More Advent Windows.

Some of our third week of Advent windows. Look out for this week's windows, finishing with the Christmas Crib. You can drop in to see the Crib on Christmas Eve between 3 and 5pm, when there will be take home bags for children to take away. 

Shepherds in an advent window
While shepherds watched.... In the window of our own genuine local shepherds.

A musical window.

A feast of lights in Zion Street.

Angels in Robinwood Drive.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Online carol service

Our Online Carol Service will be available from 6pm today, with carols recorded by Seal Choir, and readings from members of our congregation. There's even a remotely recorded version of "Away in a Manger" stitched together from individual recordings made at home, which I guarantee will melt your heart! Check out the link here from 6pm (it won't work before then). The service sheet, with all the carol words, is here,so you can join in with the singing.

Our short outdoor carol service at 3pm will still be going ahead, but we recognise that with the proper concerns around about the new variant of Covid many people will, quite reasonably, decide to stay at home. We will be being ultra cautious, but we won't be at all upset if there are just a few of us there, so please don't feel you should come, even if you had planned to, if it doesn't feel wise or safe for you. 

I know how sad and disappointed many people are feeling this weekend, as I am too, and I will be holding in prayer all who are dealing with the stress of having to abandon plans to gather with loved ones. It's ok to feel really fed up, and to shout at God if you need to - I certainly am!

Sunday worship podcast links and other news...

The links to our worship this week, and other news and resources for reflection are below. 

The news that we are now in Tier 4, with added restrictions on our daily lives came after I had written this week's newsletter. We haven't had any detailed guidance yet, but it has been made clear that public worship can continue, so our plan is that the services and events we have organised for Christmas will still take place, including our Outdoor Carol Service this afternoon. We have carefully planned for all our worship to comply with Covid regulations and be as safe as we can make it. I trust, though, that each person will make their own decision about whether it is wise and safe for them to attend, and will keep a safe distance from others and not mingle at all with others in and around the church. There will be a full range of worship available online and on the phone, so if you are at all anxious about coming to church, even if you had originally planned to,  please do worship at home instead. If there are any changes to our plans I will put them on the church website, and on the church noticeboards.  

I am very aware that the new Tier 4 regulations will come as a blow to many who had hoped to see family over Christmas - it has been a tough year for everyone. There is justified anxiety around as case numbers rise again, and the care we take to avoid catching and spreading Covid is an important way of showing our love for one another. Christmas is not cancelled, however. Neither the Roman Emperor nor King Herod could cancel the first Christmas. God found a way, and he was born among us then, even if he had to make do with a manger for a bed. He will be born in our hearts again this year, wherever we worship him. 
Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas

Dec 20 Advent 4

Check on the church website from 6pm today  for our online Carol Service

Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

In Church today 
10 am Holy Communion
3pm    Outdoor Carol Service. 30 minutes of socially distanced carol singing in the churchyard.
Please note that there will be no Story Church or Evensong today or on Dec 27 and Jan 3

On Zoom this week  email for links

Zoffee  Sunday at 11.15 - coffee and chat online.

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas (No children's choir on Dec 30 or Jan 6)
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact for the link.( No choir on Dec 30 or Jan 6)

Advent 4

The annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary has been a favourite subject for artists for almost the whole of Christian history. Painters treat it very differently, though. Here are a few of my favourite versions. Which one appeals to you most? Why do you think that is?

Top left: Antonello da Messina's Virgin Annunciate, simply shows Mary. There is no angel in the picture. The open Bible in front of her implies that her realisation of what is happening is an inner one
Top right: Botticelli's annunciation is full of movement. The angel looks up at Mary with a questioning expression and Mary seems to be trying to fold herself away from him. What do you think they might be feeling?
Bottom left: Mary seems entirely absorbed in her book -  a prayer book or Bible - and doesn't even seem to have noticed the angel in this annunciation, by Robert Campin 1425-28
Bottom right: Fra Angelico's fresco, from the Monastery of San Marco in Florence between 1440 and 1445 shows the encounter taking place in a garden with a fence around it. This is a symbol of Mary's virginity, linking her with a phrase from the Song of Solomon "A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride”.

Antonello da Messina Annunciation
Robert Campin Annunciation
Fra Angelico annunciation
All Age ideas
There will be plenty on for families over the Christmas season, both online and in church. On Christmas Eve, in place of our usual Crib service, you can drop into church between 3 and 5pm to see the crib, add a prayer to our tree, have a special Christmas prayer of blessing and pick up a take home bag with some crafts for children. 
There will be a videoed Crib service in which we will build our crib and sing carols available to watch on Christmas Eve.
Each day from Christmas Day to Jan 6 there will be an audio podcast of  Stories for Christmas, chosen from those I have told on Christmas Day over the years. Snuggle down and listen!

There are still spaces available at both the Christmas Eve (9pm) service and the Christmas Day (10am) service. I know that some people have held back on booking because they didn’t want to take a space that someone else might need, but please do book a place if you would like one! It will help, though, if you only book for one of the two services and PLEASE BOOK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, so that I know whether we will be full or not, and whether I will need to do a repeat of the 10 am service at 11.15 am. Booking links are below – please book on Eventbrite if you can - or you can phone me on 07510 522292 or email me on
links for all our online services will be found on the church website.
Carol Service available from 6pm tonight
Crib Service available from 10 am Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve 9pm service : video recording of the first part of the Christmas Eve service.
Christmas Day audio podcast, with this year’s Christmas Story
Stories for Christmas:  audio podcasts of the stories I have told at past Christmas services. Available from 5pm each day from Christmas Day to Jan 6
In Church
Today 3pm: Outdoor Carol Service in the church yard
Christmas Eve Drop in Crib event  3-5pm : Drop in to see the crib, add a prayer to the tree, and receive a Christmas blessing. Take home bags for children. All Welcome.
Christmas Eve 9pm: The first Communion of Christmas (Booking essential)
Christmas Day 10 am: Christmas Day Communion, with a story.(Booking essential)
 If the Christmas Day 10 am service becomes fully booked by Dec 24, I will repeat the service at 11.15 am, and I will create a new Eventbrite link for this.
10 am Holy Communion only
Please note: There will only be one service in church on Dec 27 and Jan 3 as I will be trying to take some time off then. There will be no Story Church or Evensong and no 11.15 am Zoffee on these two Sundays. There will be the usual audio podcasts of Morning Worship, Evensong, and the phone podcast, however.
There will be no Zoom Church on Wednesday 30th Dec or Wednesday Jan 6

Advent Windows
Thank you to those who made Advent Windows this week – some pictures are on the church blog. The map of all the windows is here.
The coming week’s windows can be found in:
Dec   20th Ragge Way, 21st Zambra Way, 22nd Jubilee Rise, 23 Middle Lane, 24th Seal Church (the crib - drop in any time during the day, but between 3- 5pm you can also add a prayer to the tree, receive a Christmas blessing and a take home bag with craft for children. 
Song of the Week
I haven’t included a hymn of the week this week, because there are plenty in our Advent Carol series, which you can find on our blog, but here are two recordings of the many settings of a famous prayer – more details below – based on verses from the Bible, including Gabriel’s greeting to Mary, “Ave Maria” – “Hail, Mary” . Details of how this Bible verse became a prayer are below.
This setting, sung by American soprano Renée Fleming, is by Schubert.
And this, with a melody by Charles Gounod, superimposed on a prelude by J.S Bach is sung by the incomparable Maria Callas.
Prayer of the week
Ave Maria – Hail Mary
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. 
This little prayer, especially beloved of Roman Catholics, but also 
Elizabeth greets Marycommonly prayed by Anglicans, has a long history. The first sentence comes from the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary,(Luke 1.28) the second on the words of Elizabeth, when Mary came to her while Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist and Mary with Jesus.  The third sentence, was probably added in some form, in about the eighth century turning these Biblical greetings into a prayer. It is thought that the prayer in its present form was developed from a form of prayer which was used in early medieval monastic communities, called “The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin”. (“Office” in this context means a service of worship, from the Latin word “officium” which means service, duty or work. That’s why people work in “offices” – the word could also be used in secular senses.) For monks and nuns, though, prayer was their work, their “officium”!)
In the later Middle Ages, the “Little Office” was taken up by lay people, and A page from a book of hoursbecame part of the cycle of prayers in the Books of Hours, which were widely used as a way of praying through the day. The “Hail Mary” was also incorporated into the Angelus, the daily thanksgiving for the Incarnation, recited three times a day, often accompanied by the ringing of a bell. It also forms the basis of the traditional Catholic cycle of prayers known as the Rosary. It is repeated 50 times during each cycle of prayer as the Rosary Beads are counted through the worshipper’s fingers.
The “Hail Mary” has been a bone of contention in the Church of England, though, because it addresses Mary, rather than God. After the Protestant Reformation, any suggestion of prayer being made to saints, like Mary, was regarded as dangerously Roman Catholic. The “Hail Mary” was swept away, along with the statues of saints before which worshippers used to light candles. That’s why you won’t find it in the Book of Common Prayer. The suspicion was that Roman Catholic worshippers worshipped the saints, first among whom was Mary, and that this was too close to idolatry to be comfortable – only God was to be worshipped, and Christians did not need any intermediaries to speak to him. Roman Catholics, and many Anglicans now, take a more nuanced view, though. While God alone is worshipped, we pray as part of a “communion of saints”, living and departed. If we are happy to ask our friends on earth to pray with us and for us, why is there a problem in asking our friends in heaven, the saints, to pray with us and for us too?
  • What do you think about this? When you pray and worship, do you prefer to imagine it as just you and God, or do you see yourself among the “whole company of heaven”?
And Finally...

The nativity story has been told in many ways - we have done our best with our online Crib service - but I have to confess our efforts seem a bit unimaginative when we could have re-told it with guinea pigs, like St Michael's with St Mary's Church. Enjoy... 

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