Christmas 5: This Turbulent Priest (For Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr)

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill theContinue reading “Christmas 5: This Turbulent Priest (For Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr)”

Christmas 4: Holy Innocents

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:17-18) Rachel weeps; the Spirit keeps vigil with the ones who mourn. One child lives, though many die; thatContinue reading “Christmas 4: Holy Innocents”

Christmas 3: Follow Me (For the Feast of St John the Evangelist)

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:20-21) Some followed to theContinue reading “Christmas 3: Follow Me (For the Feast of St John the Evangelist)”

Christmas 2: Boxing Day

This is how the child leads: A shepherd charged with feeding the grieved takes every stone hate hurls at him; a king and his page trudge through charity’s snow; boxes are filled with surplus things; the lion lies down with the lamb. We who eat from Plenty’s horn, flush with leftovers, paper scraps, beneath theContinue reading “Christmas 2: Boxing Day”

Christmas 1: “A little child shall lead them…”

There were perhaps others on the look-out for kings that day, scouring the glossy mags, checking out the trendy spots, tracking every star on the rise. It was easy enough with the census on and everyone back to their homes, easy to know who would be where (and no-one who was anyone would ever beContinue reading “Christmas 1: “A little child shall lead them…””

Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together”

On this night in Shakespeare’s day, there would have been wild revelry to celebrate the twelfth night of Christmas. He even named one of his plays this, a sign perhaps that it was to be performed on the twelfth night, but also a possible nod to the ways that Christmas switches around our ideas ofContinue reading “Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together””

Christmas 11: Upsidedown

One of the more curious lost phenomena of Christmas was the late Medieval custom of appointing a so-called “Lord of Misrule” (or, as called in Scotland, the “Abbot of Unreason”). This involved either a peasant or an unimportant figure in the church being appointed to oversee the Christmas revelries. A related or parallel custom involvedContinue reading “Christmas 11: Upsidedown”

Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand

“The LORD says to my Lord…” (Psalm 110:1). These are surely some of the more mysterious words to appear in the Bible. Who is the second Lord to whom the writer, King David, is referring? Who could even be understood to be David’s Lord apart from God, the LORD? David, after all, was king ofContinue reading “Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand”

Christmas 9: Join the dancing

On the ninth day of Christmas, apparently, someone’s true love once gave them nine ladies dancing. Impractical though this is as a Christmas present (not to mention hard to wrap), it suits today’s carol well: the majestic “In dulci jubilo”, set by the seventeenth-century German Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius. The story of the text, originallyContinue reading “Christmas 9: Join the dancing”

Christmas 8: Order my beginning

Another year begins, and today we have a special piece of music to see in the new year: Bach’s Cantata for New Year’s Day, Part IV of his spectacular Christmas Oratorio. This cantata takes as its theme the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, but as often happens with Bach the story is explored throughContinue reading “Christmas 8: Order my beginning”