Letter From Our Minister Revd Phil Summers
When I trained as a Local Preacher we had to sit exams! There was an infamous question that came up regularly and it was on one of my papers. It went like this: ‘Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man – Discuss’
The line is from the little sung Christmas hymn ‘Let earth and heaven combine’ by Charles Wesley. In two brief lines Wesley manages to sum up the heart of our Christmas celebrations. All the glory of God given up for the sake of humanity. The uncreated one to dwell in space and time, to become created, beyond our understanding the divine becomes human. The poetry is one of my favourite lines of any Christmas carol, song or hymn.
But there are others. And I suppose we each have our favourites. Sometimes Christmas carols remind us of times gone by, cherished loved ones and particularly momentous Christmases we have lived through. For me my favourite carols are the ones that speak to me of what God has done and is doing through the Christmas story. And often it’s just a line rather than the whole carol. Such as ‘So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven’. Words that for me catch something of the depth of the festival. When I think about it there are many lines of carols which spark a joyful thankfulness within me for what God has done and what I am called to share in return. I won’t tell you where they are from (an early Christmas quiz, maybe) but here are just a few:
‘Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die’
‘All out of darkness we have light, which made the angels sing this night’
‘Mine are riches from your poverty’
‘And still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world’
‘Now ye need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ was born to save’
‘Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled’
‘Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine’
‘Enter then, O Christ most holy; make a Christmas in my heart’
‘Saved by his love, incessant we shall sing the eternal praise of heaven’s almighty King’
As we sing the familiar tunes of Christmas this year let the accompanying words dwell in your heart. Which are the carols which speak of Christmas to you most of all? Which lines from the carols sum up God’s work in your life this Christmas? May the familiar become ignited, once again, through God’s glory and may our faith in Jesus Christ the incarnate God underpin all our singing and celebration through this festive season.