Christmas Carol Service at St Peter’s

I was actually wishing to go to an evening service at St Mark’s as I had never attended a service at St Mark’s but when I checked there was no evening service. St Peter’s then. But no, I did not feel like going, but a voice in my head told me to go.

I trekked through the snow. It must have been hovering around freezing as the snow was a little mushy, pleasant walking, and I walked fast to keep warm, but nevertheless by the time I neared St Peter’s I was chilled to the bone. As I approached St Peter’s I saw others heading that way, so I was pleased I was not the only one running late. The weather I thought.

I was greeted with a warm mince pie and mulled wine which was very welcome. People were wandering around, probably less than half full. A carol service I was told, which I thought was rather nice. I then learnt the service had been time shifted to 7pm, not its usual time of 6-30pm, so far from being as I thought late I was actually nearly half an hour early. The church soon filled and by 7pm, it was almost standing room only for late arrivals.

The first time I ever attended St Peter’s was a carol service about a decade ago. I was taking photos outside when I heard music from within the church. Investigating further I found it was a rock group rehearsing. I chatted to one of the group. Very generous of the church to let you use it for rehearsals, and the acoustics are excellent, I mused out loud. No, we are playing tonight, a carol concert, would you like to come. A group mangling carols did not sound particularly inviting so I politely declined. Later, I thought no, I have been kindly invited, the least I can do is have the good grace to accept the kind invitation. I attended and was pleasantly surprised. They were excellent musicians.

That was ten years or more ago. Now back to tonight. The lights were turned out and it was only then I noticed the pillars were encircled by candles. A very attractive scene. I regret no camera with me to record it.

We were entertained by a Monty Pythonesque nativity drama.

Christmas is a season of good tidings and joy, but is it for everyone?

Was it for Mary, an unmarried teenager who finds herself pregnant? Was it for Joseph who finds his betrothed not only pregnant, but not pregnant by him? He could have left her, but decided to stand by her. Think of the scandal. What were they to tell friends and relatives?

Christmas is not a season of good tidings and joy for those who have lost their job, those alone at Christmas, those who are homeless, those who have split up from someone with who they are deeply in love.

A strange translation of Luke. Sheep herders brought glad tidings. Sheep herders! The English language has the perfectly good word shepherd.

At least the reference was to a manger, not as I heard a few days ago animal feeding box!

Why shepherds? Jesus referred to himself as a shepherd tending his flock. In one of his tales he talks of being delighted at finding one of his sheep that had strayed and that one lost sheep was more important to him than the others that had not.

In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the central character is Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy. He has dreams, but unlike most people who fail to follow their dreams, he has the courage to change his life and follow his dreams. He also meets the mysterious Melchizedek who encourages him to follow his dreams.

I had an interesting conversion with the wife of the rector re making a labyrinth a central feature of the floor of the church. The floor has to be dug up during essential renovations, the pews are to be ripped out, it would therefore be an opportunity lost not to make a labyrinth a central feature of the floor space.

I was a little disappointed at so few carols at what was a carol concert. I felt very sad my lovely friend Sian was not with me.

At this time of year when our thoughts turn to Bethlehem, please give a thought to Bethlehem today. Once under Roman occupation, now under Israeli occupation. Bethlehem is an open-air prison encircled by an Apartheid Wall. [see Bethlehem Hidden from View]

Israel is blocking Christians going to Bethlehem at Christmas, including clergy. Why, because they are Palestinians.

One way we can help is by buying Palestinian fairtrade olive oil, for example Zaytoun which can be bought from The Triangle and many other sources. We only help finance ethnic cleansing by buying Israeli so-called Peace Oil which I regret to say is on sale in St Mary’s in Guildford. [see Peace oil or taking the piss?]

Also see

Victorian Christmas Carol Concert St Mark’s

The Digital Story of Christmas Nativity

Incredible ‘impromptu’ performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus

Handel – Messiah – For unto us a child is born

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