God is among all the cries of the dying,
buried in fear amid hurt and disdain,
breathing the dust of destruction, despairing,
holding each mother and feeling her pain.
God, like a mother, once torn from her children,
weeps in the darkness, has nowhere to turn,
fenced by the horror and starved by indiff’rence,
nations watch blindly while homes fall or burn.
God, stand beside us, God mother and comfort,
God you despaired as you hung, bled and died,
now in this moment, God hold and enfold us,
interpose Love where all love was denied.
Andrew Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2022 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England firstname.lastname@example.org . 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.
11 10 11 10
If we believe the idea of incarnation, if we sense that people saw God, or something of God in Jesus, and I do, we set ourselves a problem. We raise questions.
People want to know how can that be? If we are content with the mystery of not knowing there is no problem. We create the problem by running with the question. The consequences are multitudinous.
Mark just says, in effect, this is the beginning of the good news. My feeling is that, when he was writing the question hadn’t arisen.
John uses logos to get round the problem of God becoming flesh, human. To my mind the most easily acceptable answer in 2022.
Matthew and Luke construct myths. In their time the nature of these accounts would have been seen for what they were I believe, largely fictional, yet true as a novel is true, a sort of, ‘look, it could have happened like this, not saying it did, but’. Then pulling in all the scriptural ‘prophecies’ to justify the assertions. It worked then and becomes less plausible now.
More worrying is that it sets train the whole plethora of myths – Trinity, Fatherhood, divinity over against humanity, virgin birth, Ascension, which become dogma which ‘we must believe’ some would say, in order to be saved.
How much simpler, less arrogant and more exciting to say, IT IS A MYSTERY, I don’t understand it but here in this person called Jesus, I glimpse something of what I think God would BE like as a person. I’m agnostic as to the details but that doesn’t matter one jot! Best of all is God is with us – ‘give me the Good News in the present tense’ – as Sydney Carter put it.
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
This hymns was written over 30 yeaars ago after reading Stephen Hawking's Brief history of time 1 The God of cosmic question Surprises by his birth, Not in some new dimension But on this ravaged earth! 2 In quasars, quarks and pulsars We seek the cosmic truth: The ground of our existence That set creation loose, 3 And human senses lead us, Through all they analyse, From arrogance to wonder, To spiritual surprise. 4 But senses have their limits: Unanswered still there lies The single, deepest question Our intellect supplies. 5 Yet history proffers insight: The Christ of time and space Speaks of a God incarnate Amid this curious race: 6 Alive within our compass, Upon this ravaged earth, The God of cosmic question Surprises by his birth! Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 1991 Stainer & Bell Ltd 7 6 7 6 Iambic Tunes: KINGS LYNN (also COSMIC QUESTION) Published in Blinded by the Dazzle Alternative second verse - 2 At scientific frontiers We seek the cosmic truth: The ground of our existence That set creation loose,
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