Service of Nine Lessons and Carols

St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

St Nicolas Guildford

Last year I was at St Nicolas in Guildford for Nine Lessons and Carols and thought I would attend this year too.

I just made it as it started a heavy downpour. For some reason, I was not given a programme as I walked in.

As it was a few minutes before the service started, I lit a candle for the massacre of the innocents.

Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is a community event. People from different walks of life read the lesson.

Afterwards mulled wine.

I had brought along The Pilgrimage to give to a friend. Sadly she was not there, or if she was I did not see her. I gave it to one of the choristers who was a little surprised to receive a gift. I hope she likes it, as she actually knew what the book was about.

Paulo Coelho speaks of some people needing ritual, it is the rhythm that governs their lives. We have rhythm, a clock, the day, the seasons.

I walked to the station lost in thought. In The Witch of Portobello Jesus looks into a church and thinks to himself, even I would not be welcome here. I do not think he would think that looking into St Nicolas, but he would question.

The only time Jesus sanctioned violence, apart from his own violence to the money changers in the temple, was when he condoned violence to those who harm children.

Two days ago we had violence done to children and to those in whose care they were. We had incredible courage shown by the female teachers, some of who laid down their own lives to protect the children during the massacre of the innocents.

There was not a mention. Not a mention. Not a prayer. Not a moment of reflection.

One of those who read the lesson was a head teacher of a nearby primary school, last year her children participated in the service. One of her colleagues also read a lesson.

Why did they not hold up the lesson and tear it to pieces? This was my lesson for today, but instead I am going talk of the massacre of innocents.

One of the lessons was of the massacre of the innocents instigated by Herod. No mention of the massacre of the innocents at a primary school two days ago.

Two thousand years ago, Bethlehem was under the jackboot of military occupation. Today Bethlehem is under the jackboot of military occupation. There was no mention.

It is excellent that St Nicolas still keeps alive the traditions that many churches have forgotten. But it also has to operate in the real world, to show that it has some relevance.

Philip Yancey in one of his books, possibly What’s So Amazing about Grace?, refers to a man who swore in church during a sermon. Giles Fraser has recently made reference to the same incident. Shock horror, but what should have been far more shocking was what the man was talking about.

Sometimes we have to jolt people out of their rituals. Rituals have a tendency to degenerate into cosy complacency.

I found it hard to fathom, no prayers said for those children aged six to seven gunned down, their grieving families, no moment of refection, a few minutes of silence.

Maybe I am being too hard. They did have a collection to raise funds for a refuge for the homeless, but if we did not have slash and burn of public services, with a ConDem government hitting the most vulnerable in society, if the rich did not dodge their taxes, we would have no need for the poor to rely upon charity from St Nicolas.

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