A tension stalked the stage – another Advent/Christmas hymn

The gospel reading of the Fourth Sunday in Advent tells of the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth and Mary’s prophetic song which we know as the Magnificat (Luke 1: 39-55). This Sunday’s hymn reaches further than this. It has for its background an occupied country, a census involving a journey and the song of a young woman which anticipates the birth of a child who will bring radical challenge and change to the world – if only we would hear and follow him…

A tension stalked the stage, 
an occupying force, 
and in this context Mary sang. 
The world could alter course.
Once humbled by her God, 
demeaned, yet she felt blessed, 
her life now mingled joy and pain, 
from now she'd never rest.

And those in every age 
are challenged by her song, 
the paupers free to pray again - 
for those who did them wrong;
while princes are appalled,
for those who once held power 
will find their status racked right down, 
and that within this hour.

For where injustice meets 
with worship lived and prayed, 
the social order swings around, 
the powerful are dismayed;
and that includes us all, 
our power is sapped away, 
while genuine humility 
at last will have its day.

Andrew E Pratt 
Words © 2015 © Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: DSM
Tune: LEOMINSTER

God is born among us: earth receives the Christ child – Gdy Sie Chrystus rodzi – a Polish Carol

Something a little different for the repertoire of carols for Christmas to use live, recorded or on Zoom (with appropriate licenses). It is a translation of a Polish carol, Gdy Sie Chrystus rodzi, set to the original Polish tune which can therefore be sung in English, Polish or simultaneously. I was introduced to the carol by Keith Trencher of Orrell who encouraged me to produce the translation. It was sung first in Orrell Church Street Methodist Church.

God is born among us: earth receives the Christ child,
all the night awakens, light dispels the darkness.
Joyful angels raise an anthem singing praises to the heavens:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!
Joyful angels raise an anthem singing praises to the heavens:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!

In the fields the shepherds heard the angel chorus:
'Leave your sheep, go quickly, Bethlehem is calling!'
There the Lord had come among us; God redeeming all creation:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!
There the Lord had come among us; God redeeming all creation:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!

All the hosts of heaven, all the heavenly powers,
tell the story clearly, but we are confounded.
This transcends our understanding, here in awe we gaze in wonder:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!
This transcends our understanding, here in awe we gaze in wonder:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, in Excelsis Deo!

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) translated from the Polish carol Gdy Sie Chrystus rodzi (see Singing the Faith, 200; Reclaiming Faith, 36) © 2003 Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 12 12 16 15 16 15
Tune: TRADITIONAL POLISH


Recordings:

Original organ accompaniment with words

Sung Performance of the original setting with words

Original instrumental setting - Central Methodist Church York Organ

Original setting piano single verse from Singing the Faith

Choral Anthem Setting - Malcolm Archer OUP



An unmarried mother gave birth in a stable

 
  1 An unmarried mother gave birth in a stable, 
 some saw a fulfilment of all they had heard, 
 to others this story, the birth of the Godhead,
 was more than amazing, was frankly absurd.
 
 2 Some delved into scripture and said that a virgin, 
 was destined to carry a child who would grow 
 to be a Messiah, salvation for nations, 
 and others would question how history could know.
 
 3 So back to the story, now Bethlehem beckons, 
 a carpenter-pawn come to sign for the state, 
 the bureaucrats needing a list for taxation 
 and everyone hurries before it's too late.
 
 4 A legend would grow up of shepherds and magi, 
 no snow at this Christmas beneath a night's sky. 
 A man who would die as a crucified preacher 
 was born with sparse shelter as people passed by. 
 
 5 And so came the story of birth in a stable, 
 of Bethlehem's journey, a virgin and child. 
 And lost is the essence, the mystery and wonder, 
 of God born among us abused and reviled.
 
 6 Much later a soldier saw God in this prophet
 a man  who would love to his very last breath 
 the dying, the hopeless, those outside religion,
 and all those beside who had shared in his death.
 
 Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
 © 2018 Stainer and Bell Ltd.
 12 11 12 11
 Tune: STREETS OF LAREDO; ST CATHERINES COURT

Human child of human mother – Christmas hymn 2019

Human child of human mother,
see the Christ has come to birth,
demonstrating now in living
every person’s human worth.
God has chosen, in this moment,
such a messy, mucky start,
choosing risky, earthly living,
God immersed in human art.

Mary holds the God of heaven,
Joseph marvels at his child,
then imagination wonders,
fears are running free and wild.
Certainly a new beginning,
for these youngsters, for the world,
all, as yet, is veiled, in waiting
for God’s grace to be unfurled.

So we wait, we know the story,
lose the sense of shock and awe,
heard each year the well-worn carols,
that we sang in years before.
But for now a new song beckons,
asks that we might join the scene
watch the couple hold the Godhead,
guessing what this gift might mean.
Andrew Pratt 17/12/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd. (Hope Publishing in the USA)
Tune: SCARLET RIBBONS