OK so as I said previously, Christmas can't begin until after my birthday and as that was LAST WEEK preparations now start in earnest.
One of the things I have to do for Christmas this year is plan a service which has some readings from the Bible and some from "other sources" so I'm looking for 4 Bible readings for Christmas (that's not too difficult reall is it!) but also four from non-biblical texts so I have a few suggestions which I'd like to run past those of you in the blogosphere. The service is for a group that is mixed (churched, unchurched, dechurced, multifaith etc.) but it is a CHRISTMAS service so it is allowed to be about Jesus (it's not some awful WINTERVAL nonsense)
Here's my shortlist at the moment ( in no particular order):
BC:AD Ursula Fanthorpe
Because of Christmas Day Ravi Sathasivam (Sri Lanka)
"Encounter with Father Christmas" from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, ch. 10 C.S. Lewis
The Story of Silent Night, anon
Christmas Eve (1914) Mike Harding
The Christ Child, G K Chesterton
A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour, Ben Jonson
Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
BC:AD This was the moment when Before Turned into After, and the future's Uninvented timekeepers presented arms. This was the moment when nothing Happened. Only dull peace Sprawled boringly over the earth. This was the moment when even energetic Romans Could find nothing better to do Than counting heads in remote provinces. And this was the moment When a few farm workers and three Members of an obscure Persian sect. Walked haphazard by starlight straight Into the kingdom of heaven. Ursula Fanthorpe
Because of Christmas Day........... When the December comes When the white snow cover our lands My heart is filled with joy because this is the month for Christmas When the carols are being sung When the Christmas trees are brighten the house When the stockings are overflowing under the tree When everyone's face is glowing to open the gifts My heart is filled with joy When the cities are decorated with lights When the snow flakes are softly falling on my head When my family dance and walk around streets When our friends visit our home for dinner My heart is filled with joy This blessed Christmas joy within our hearts and celebrate throughout the world to observe the birth of Christ Ravi Sathasivam / Sri Lanka
"Encounter with Father Christmas" from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, ch. 10
"Come on!" cried Mr Beaver, who was almost dancing with delight. "Come and see! This is a nasty knock for the Witch! It looks as if her power is already crumbling."
"What do you mean, Mr Beaver?" panted Peter as they all scrambled up the steep bank of the valley together.
"Didn't I tell you," answered Mr Beaver, "that she'd made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn't I tell you? Well, just come and see!"
And then they were all at the top and did see.
It was a sledge and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Wirch's reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly-berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, thought you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our word - the world on this side of the wardrobe. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. SOme of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now the children actually stood looking at him they didn't find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became wuite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
"I've come at last," said he. " She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Alsan is on the move. [The Witch's magic is weakening.]"
In the winter of 1818 at St. Nicholas’ Church at Obendorf, a village near Salzburg, Austria, Joseph Mohr, the assistant to the priest, faced a dilemma. It was just days before Christmas, and the church organ which was so important to providing music for the Christmas services was broken. Since the organ repairman was not a local of the village it would actually be months before the repair could be made, and Christmas would be long past. His solution to the problem of the broken organ resulted in one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time. In 1816 Mohr had written a simple poem that the villagers could understand expressing the wonder of the birth of Jesus. He asked his friend Franz Gruber who was the organist at St. Nicholas to write music to accompany his poem so that they could sing it together using a guitar to accompany their singing. They first performed their newly composed Christmas carol at the Christmas Eve midnight service on December 24, 1818.
Christmas Eve, 1914, stars were burning, burning bright And all along the Western Front the guns were lying still and quiet. And men lay dozing in the trenches, in the cold and in the dark, And far away behind the lines, a village dog began to bark. Some lay thinking of their families, some sang songs and others were quiet Rolling fags and playing Brag, to pass away that Christmas night. But as they watched the German trenches, something moved in no-man's land And from far away there came a soldier, carrying a white flag in his hand. Then from both sides, the men came running, crossing into no-man's land Through the barbed wire, mud and shell-holes; shyly stood there shaking hands Fritz brought out cigars and brandy, Tommy brought corned beef and fags Stood there laughing, crying, singing, as the moon shone down on no-man's land On Christmas day we all played football, in the mud of no-man's land Tommy brought a Christmas pudding, Fritz brought out a German band And when they beat us at the football, web shared out all the grub and drink And Fritz showed me a faded photo of a dark-haired girl back in Berlin For four days after, no one fired. Not one shell disturbed the night For old Fritz and Tommy Atkins, they'd both lost the will to fight. So they withdrew us from the trenches, sent us far behind the lines, Sent fresh troops to take our places- ordered guns; "Prepare to fire". And next night, in 1914, flares were burning, burning bright. The message came, "Prepare offensive, over the top we're going tonight!" And men stood waiting in the trenches, in the cold and in the dark, All along the Western Front the Christmas guns began to bark.
The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap, His hair was like a light. (O weary, weary is the world, But here is all aright.) The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast, His hair was like a star. (O stern and cunning are the kings, But here the true hearts are.) The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart, His hair was like a fire. (O weary, weary is the world, But here the world's desire.) The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee, His hair was like a crown. And all the flowers looked up at Him, And all the stars looked down.
G. K. Chesterton
AN HYMN ON THE NATIVITY OF MY SAVIOUR. I sing the birth was born to-night, The author both of life and light ; The angels so did sound it. And like the ravish'd shepherds said, Who saw the light, and were afraid, Yet search'd, and true they found it. The Son of God, the Eternal King, That did us all salvation bring, And freed the soul from danger ; He whom the whole world could not take, The Word, which heaven and earth did make, Was now laid in a manger. The Father's wisdom will'd it so, The Son's obedience knew no No, Both wills were in one stature ; And as that wisdom had decreed, The Word was now made Flesh indeed, And took on him our nature. What comfort by him do we win, Who made himself the price of sin, To make us heirs of glory ! To see this Babe, all innocence A martyr born in our defense ; Can man forget this story ?
Christmas Bells I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till, ringing, singing on its way The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The Carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’ Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!’
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow