Monday, 31 December 2007

Christmas Carols - 2

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to then and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, 'Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.' And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour'.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

'Fear not,' said he (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
'Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.

'To you in David's town this day
Is born of David's line
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:

'The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.'

Thus spake the Seraph; and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of Angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:

'All glory be to God on high,
And on the earth be peace;
Good-will henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.'

A lovely carol which seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years. A pity!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas Carols - 1

Now at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census - the first - took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David's House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary;
And, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas Angels
The great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Happy Feast!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 22

In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that elightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

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:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of Angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above,
Glory to God
In the highest:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesu, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Happy Christmas!

PS I am going to take a brief break from blogging - so my next post will be on Sunday 30 December - when I shall start a new mini-series entitled 'Christmas Carols'.

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 21

Meanwhile the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy. Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. 'No,' she said 'he is to be called John.' They said to her, 'But no one in your family has that name', and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, 'His name is John'. And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heart of it treasured it in their hearts. 'What will this child turn out to be?' they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:57-66)

Hail, harbinger of morn:
Thou that art this day born,
And heraldest the Word with clarion voice!
Ye faithful ones, in him
Behold the dawning dim
Of that bright day, and let your hearts rejoice.

John; - by that chosen name
To call him, Gabriel came
By God's appointment from his home on high:
What deeds that babe should do
To manhood when he grew,
God sent his Angel forth to testify.

There is none greater, none,
Than Zechariah's son;
Than this no mightier prophet hath been born:
Of prophets he may claim
More than a prophet's fame;
Sublimer deeds than theirs his brow adorn.

'Lo, to prepare thy way,'
Did God the Father say,
'Before thy face my messenger I send,
Thy coming to forerun;
As on the orient sun
Doth the bright daystar morn by morn attend.'

Praise therefore God most high;
Praise him who came to die
For us, his Son that liveth evermore;
And to the Spirit raise,
The Comforter, like praise,
While time endureth, and when time is o'er. Amen.

Splendid words written by The Venerable Bede, 673-735

Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 20

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went in Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, 'Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? From the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.' (Luke 1:39-45)

Now in holy celebration
Sing we of that Mother blest,
In whose flesh for men's salvation
God incarnate deigned to rest,
When a kindred salutation
Named in faith the mystic guest.

Lo, the advent Word confessing,
Spake for joy the voice yet dumb,
Through his mother's lips addressing
Her, of motherhood the sum,-
Bower of beauty, blest and blessing,
Crowned with fruit of Life to come.

'Whence,' she cried, at that fair meeting,
'Comes to me this great reward?
For when first I heard the greeting
Of the Mother of my Lord,
In my womb, the joy repeating,
Leapt my babe in sweet accord!'

Lo, at that glad commendation
Joy found voice in Mary's breast
While in holy exultation
She her Maker's power confest,
At whose word each generation
Now henceforward names her blest.

Triune Godhead, health supplying,
Ruler of eternity,
On the Fount of grace relying,
We uplift our hearts to thee,
Praying that in realms undying
We at one with Life may be. Amen.

Have a Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 19

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.' She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.' (Luke 1:26-33)

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
'All hail,' said he, 'thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favoured lady!'

'For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honour thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favoured lady!'

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
'To me be as it pleaseth God,' she said.
'My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name.'
Most highly favoured lady!

Friday, 21 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 18

Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they shall call him Emmanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us'. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord told him to do: he took his wife to his home. (Matthew 1:22-24)

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God's dear Son.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Lord of David's Key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar the way to death's abode.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed with awe
Gavest thy folk the elder law.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 17

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:18-21)

Hail, holy Joseph, hail!
Husband of Mary, hail!
Chaste as the lily flower
In Eden's peaceful vale.

Hail, holy Joseph, hail!
Father of Christ esteemed,
Father be thou to those
Thy foster Son redeemed.

Hail, holy Joseph, hail!
Prince of the house of God,
May his blest graces be
By thy sweet hands bestowed.

Hail, holy Joseph, hail!
Comrade of angels, hail!
Cheer though the hearts that faint,
And guide the steps that fail.

Hail, holy Joseph, hail!
God's choice wert thou alone;
To thee the Word made flesh
Was subject as a son.

Mother of Jesu, bless,
And bless, ye saints on high,
All meek and simple souls,
That to Saint Joseph cry.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 16

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

He comes the prisoners to release
In Satan's bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of his grace
To enrich the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim,
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With thy beloved name.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 15

Besides, you know 'the time' has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted. The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon - let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ; forget about satisfying your bodies with all their cravings. (Romans 13:11-14)

Hark! a herald voice is calling:
'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say;
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!'

Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven,

So when next he comes with glory,
Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May he then as our defender
On the clouds of heaven appear.

Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run.

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 14

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand'. This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said: 'A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight'. This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. (Matthew 3:1-6)

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come then and hearken for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every Christian breast,
And furnished for so great a guest!
Yea, let us each our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without thy grace our souls must fade,
And wither like a flower decayed.

Stretch forth thine hand, to heal our sore,
And make us rise to fall no more;
Once more upon thy people shine,
And fill the world with love divine.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee
Whose advent sets thy people free,
Whom, with the Father, we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

3rd Sunday of Advent

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent - and we find ourselves rejoicing! Today is Gaudate Sunday - Rejoicing Sunday. We rejoice every Sunday of the year, because Sunday is the Day of Resurrection - but we make a special point of rejoicing today, because Christmas is almost here. Advent is a solemn season, marked by purple vestments, but Holy Mother Church instructs us to cast aside the solemnity for the day - to lighten up a little - hence the cheerful rose vestments. So we light the third - the rose - candle on the Advent Wreath.

Every soul in thee rejoices;
From men and from angelic voices
Be glory given to thee alone!
Now the gates of pearl receive us,
Thy presence never more shall leave us,
We stand with Angels round thy throne.
Earth cannot give below
The Bliss thou dost bestow.
Grant us to raise,
To length of days,
The triumph-chorus of thy praise.

Have a Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 13

A voice cries, 'Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.' (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Make way, make way, for Christ the King
In splendour arrives.
Fling wide the gates and welcome him
Into your lives.
Make way, make way
For the King of kings;
Make way, make way,
And let his kingdom in.

He comes the broken hearts to heal,
The prisoners to free.
The deaf shall hear, the lame shall dance,
The blind shall see.
Make way, make way
For the King of kings;
Make way, make way,
And let his kingdom in.

And those who mourn with heavy hearts,
Who weep and sigh;
With laughter, joy and royal crown
He'll beautify.
Make way, make way
For the King of kings;
Make way, make way,
And let his kingdom in.

We call you now to worship him
As Lord of all,
To have no gods before him-
Their thrones must fall!
Make way, make way
For the King of kings;
Make way, make way,
And let his kingdom in.

Friday, 14 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 12

The Lord had arranged that a great fish should be there to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. From the belly of the fish he prayed to the Lord. (Jonah 2:1-2)

The Lord will come and not be slow,
His footsteps cannot err;
Before him righteousness shall go,
His royal harbinger.

Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
Shall bud and blossom then;
And justice, from her heavenly bower,
Look down on mortal man.

Rise, God, judge thou the earth in might,
This wicked earth redress;
For thou art he who shalt by right
The nations all possess.

The nations all whom thou hast made
Shall come, and all shall frame
To bow them low before thee, Lord,
And glorify thy name.

For great thou art, and wonders great
By thy strong hand are done:
Thou in thy everlasting seat
Remainest God alone.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 11

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said; 'See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged'. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: 'Whom shall I send? who will be our messenger?' I answered, 'Here I am, send me'. (Isaiah 6:6-8)

Bright the vision that delighted
Once the sight of Judah's seer;
Sweet the countless tongues united
To entrance the prophet's ear.

Round the Lord in glory seated
Cherubim and Seraphim
Filled his temple, and repeated
Each to each the alternate hymn:

Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
Earth is with its fulness stored;
Unto thee be glory given,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.'

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 10

The fame of Solomon having reached the queen of Sheba... she came to test him with difficult questions. She brought immense riches to Jerusalem with her, camels laden with spices, great quantities of gold, and precious stones. On coming to Solomon, she opened her mind freely to him; and Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was too obscure for the king to expound. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temple of the Lord, it left her breathless, and she said to the king, 'What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then!'

Light's abode, celestial Salem,
Vision dear when peace doth spring,
Brighter than the heart can fancy,
Mansion of the highest King;
O, how glorious are the praises
Which of thee the prophets sing!

There for ever and for ever
Alleluia is outpoured;
For unending, for unbroken
Is the feast-day of the Lord;
All is pure and all is holy
That within thy walls is stored.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 9

The Lord said to Samuel, 'How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go, I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king from among his sons.' Samuel replied, 'How can I go? When Saul hears of this he will kill me.' Then the Lord said, 'Take an heifer with you and say, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord'. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then I myself will tell you what you must do; you must anoint to me the one I point out to you.' (1 Samuel 16:1-3)

He then said to Jesse, 'Are these all the sons you have? He answered , 'There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep'. Then Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes'. Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, 'Come, anoint him, for this is the one'. At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on. (1 Samuel 16:11-13)

The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.

Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth:
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house for ever.

Monday, 10 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 8

Samuel was in the service of the Lord; the boy wore a linen loin-cloth round him. His mother used to make him a little tunic which she brought him each year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Alkanah and his wife and say, 'May the Lord grant you an heir by this woman in place of the one she has made over to the Lord.' And then they would go home. The Lord visited Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:18-21)

Heavenly Father, send thy blessing
On thy children gathered here,
May they all, thy name confessing,
Be to thee for ever dear;
May they be, like Joseph, loving,
Dutiful, and chaste, and pure;
And their faith, like David proving,
Steadfast unto death endure.

Spread thy golden pinions o'er them,
Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
Guide them, lead them, go before them,
Give them peace, and joy, and love;
Temples of the Holy Spirit,
May they with thy glory shine,
And immortal bliss inherit,
And for evermore be thine!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 7

So Ruth stayed with the servants of Boaz and gleaned until the barley and wheat harvests were done. And she went on living with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:23)

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And when they came together, the Lord made her conceive and she bore a son. And the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed be the Lord who has not left the dead man without next of kin this day to perpetuate his name in Israel. The child will be a comfort to you and the prop of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you and is more to you than seven sons has given him birth.' And Naomi took the child to her own bosom, and she became his nurse.

And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name. 'A son has been born for Naomi' they said; and they named him Obed. This was the father of David's father, Jesse. (Ruth 4:13-17)

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! draw
The quarry from the lion's claw:
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.
Rejoive! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Have a Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 6

The Israelites pitched their camp at Gilgal and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening in the plain of Jericho. On the morrow of the Passover they tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn that same day. From that time, from their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling. And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded. (Joshua 5:10-12)

We too have Manna from above,
The bread that came from heaven;
To us the same kind hand of love
Hath living waters given.
A Rock we have, from whence the spring
In rich abundance flows;
That Rock is Christ, our Priest, our King,
Who life and health bestows.

O let us prize this blessed food,
And trust our heavenly Guide;
So shall we find death's fearful flood
Serene as Jordan's tide,
And safely reach that happy shore,
The land of peace and rest,
Where Angels worship and adore,
In God's own presence blest.

[Please note - I am fully aware that today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (indeed I was deacon at the Vigil Mass celebrated in Westminster Cathedral last night), but I am going through important stories in Scripture in a definite order - and Our Lady will appear later on in Advent. Happy Feast!]

Friday, 7 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 5

Moses then went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, 'Say this to the house of Jacob, declare this to the sons of Israel, "You yourselves have seen what I did with the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. From this you must know that now, if you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own for all the earth is mine. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation." (Exodus 19:3-6)

O praise our great and gracious Lord
And call upon his name;
To strains of joy tune every chord,
His mighty acts proclaim;
Tell how he led his chosen race
To Canaan's promised land;
Tell how his covenant of grace
Unchanged shall ever stand.

He gave the shadowing cloud by day,
The moving fire by night;
To guide his Israel on their way,
He made their darkness light;
And have not we a sure retreat,
A Saviour ever nigh,
The same clear light to guide our feet,
The Dayspring from on high?

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 4

Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, 'Let everyone leave me'. No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh's palace. (Genesis 45:1-2)

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild:
Christ our God, to thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 3

The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your family and your father's house, for the land I shall show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)

The God of Abraham praise
Who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of love:
To him uplift your voice,
At whose supreme command
From earth we rise, and seek the joys
At his right hand.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 2

It was in the six hundred and first year of Noah's life, in the first month and on the first day of the month, that the water dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the hatch of the ark and looked out. The surface of the ground was dry! (Genesis 8:13)

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Word of the Lord - 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God's spirit hovered over the water.

God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)

Thou whose almighty Word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight;
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And where the Gospel-day
Sheds not its glorious ray
Let there be light!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

1st Sunday of Advent

The season of Advent has begun - the cheerful green vestments of Ordinary Time have been put away, and we are in purple. But it is not all doom and gloom - Jesus, the Light of the World is waiting to visit us. The darkness of winter is about to be shattered by the dazzling light of Bethlehem. So, we wait and pray! Today we have lit the first candle on our Advent Wreath. This is not Tenebrae - the light is increasing - Alleluia!

Let us pray in Advent time with longing and waiting for the coming of the Lord.

Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Autumn Glory - 23

For the final posting in this mini series we have a lovely photo of sheep and a shepherd outside the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. St Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was at one time a shepherd boy in the hills of County Antrim. Our bishops are shepherds and carry croziers as a sign that they are leading and guiding us.

On this final day of the Church's Year we look back with thanksgiving for the year now ending, and look forward to the new year beginning tomorrow - the 1st Sunday of Advent. Two Church of Ireland bishops who spent much of their lives in Belfast have written a lovely hymn on the Church's Year (based on an original hymn by Katherine Hankey). The two bishops are Edward Darling and Harold Miller.

Advent tells us Christ is near;
Christmas tells us Christ is here;
Then we learn what life can be
In our Lord's Epiphany.

Forty days we keep in Lent,
Praying, fasting, penitent,
Give our lives to Christ anew
And to him be always true.

Holy Week begins with palms -
Crowds with branches singing psalms;
On Good Friday they will cry
'Nail him on a cross to die.'

We rejoice on Easter Day;
'Christ is risen indeed'
, we say;
In the Bread of Life he's shown,
And his risen power is known.

Christ ascends to heaven again,
Glorious now as King to reign;
And we give him special praise
Through those joyful fifty days.

Pentecost - it is the birth
Of the Church in all the earth,
When the Holy Spirit came
In sure signs of wind and flame.

So to God through all our days
We will gladly sing our praise:
'Glory to the One in Three,
God the Holy Trinity.'

Small wonder Edward has been elected President of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland!

On Monday I will start a new mini series - 'The Word of the Lord.'