If you were at The Cricketers last Thursday evening – or really anywhere close by – I’m sure you won’t have had any problems hearing the very enthusiastic Beer and Carols evening led by Will in the packed marquee. While it might not have been entirely a choir of heavenly voices the spirit of the evening (yes both types) certainly brought a big smile to many people’s faces.
While many of us are not word perfect, these carols are familiar friends and give us a chance to celebrate Christmas with some good rousing singing. And many pubs have a tradition of carol singing. In and around north west Sheffield there’s strong tradition of pub signing and familiar words are often set to other tunes. Try While Shepherds Watched to a variety of different tunes including “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”. It’s said that the Victorians discouraged the practice, deeming the mix of the spiritual and worldly to be inappropriate. However if they thought that then they seem to miss the point.
Jesus, we know from many carols was born in stable, or at least modest surroundings, the angels appeared not to the religious elite, but to more humble shepherds, God was and is joining the normal people of the world, in their daily lives, to transform their outlook.
Sometimes the meaning of the words tends to pass by being so familiar. But just a few minutes spent repeating the lines in our heads can lead us to discovering some remarkable truths. Take ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ – a carol abounding in glory, joy, and peace because God is reconciled to the world. And that’s the real gift to people this Christmas, Jesus who brings the opportunity to be reconciled to God. Jesus coming into the real lives of real people, at work, in schools and colleges, the sports clubs and homes and even in the churches. Jesus was born into the modest and very real lives of Joseph and Mary, and He’s in the very real lives of Christians up and down pubs, villages and cities of our country today.
One of the names that we give Jesus is Emmanuel, it means “God with us”. And that can be a question and a challenge, however this Christmas let’s make it a proclamation and a celebration. God is with Us. Let’s celebrate where ever we are.