SEASON’S GREETINGS

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One thing I love about coming to look at blogs from people I have never met, (having seen photos of only a few), mostly unaware of your religious beliefs or political persuasion, and not knowing your wealth or position, is that in some strange way I do know you all.

We are a cross-section of our civilisation, making the same mistakes, regretting them, hoping not to repeat them, and with all the same longings and hope for the future, as generations before us.

There are, no doubt, other groups of people with a quite -different set of references as to how they conduct their lives. We might call these references alien, and maybe they are, but at this time, when a great hope can spring from a tiny event, in an insignificant town in a far-away country, to lowly parents, maybe we can hope that in this coming year we can see or do something which might well turn the tide of history (even in a small way).

A HAPPY SEASON TO THOSE OF ALL BELIEFS, OR NO BELIEFS, AND A HAPPY (IF NOT NECESSARILY VERY-PROSPEROUS) NEW YEAR.

Singing in Hospital!

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Last night, I joined with many others of our Church, and other Churches (in total about 40 folk), to visit a hospital at the west end of Glasgow. The event was organised by the Chaplaincy Centre, and involved dividing into groups and going round various parts of the hospital to sing carols.

You need music of course, and two other groups had a guitar, or, in one lovely case, a set of hand-bells, whilst your’s-truly brought along a keyboard for our group.

The only problem was that the keyboard did not have a stand, and was mains-powered, so at each of the locations (generally in a passageway), we had to find some flat surface to place the keyboard, a chair, and a mains-socket.

As most people realise, all of the above are in short supply in such a situation, as you can’t ACTUALLY push someone out of bed to set the keyboard down, so sometimes it was on a trolley, and sometimes on my knees! Also,  the risk of pulling-out some vital piece of life-saving equipment is always there so we had to do a lot of double-checking before getting power!

What came over to me was that there are a considerable number of people in hospital, all with their individual worries. It is something we only think about when we have to go into a hospital, or see a programme on TV.

In our general life we mostly see normal, reasonably-healthy people, and so it is easy to forget the pain, suffering, and anguish people and families are having to endure on a daily basis, and in an especially-poignant way, at this time of the year.

Does singing and music in general help in the healing process? Well, there is some evidence to show that people who sing regularly, and enjoy music, tend to have a happier disposition and a slightly-better average life. So maybe we did make a minute difference.

But it will be a long time before I will forget the look on some of those poor people. We obviously could say no more than platitudes…you sometimes just don’t know what to say.

Many of the serious cases may not make it past Christmas, but I suppose if we have raised a small smile of joy, or a glimpse of recognition of Christmasses gone past, then it will have achieved something.

‘What about Carol?

 carol-singers

 At this time of the year, our Choir (Angelus Singers……check the Link) are involved in Carol services. Thought you might like to know some facts you might not have known about Christmas Carols…you can always throw a few into a lull in a conversation or at dinner-party…:- 

  • Originally a Carol was not a religious song, but a secular dance, often in 3/4 time…..a bit like a waltz
  • The carol ‘In Dulci Jubilo’, when the words are sung as a mixture of English (from the German), and Latin, is an example of a ‘macaronic carol’. The melody can be found in a 14th century manuscript in Leipzig University.
  • The wonderful combination of Charles Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn gave us ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’.
  • The tune of the French carol ‘Whence is that Goodly Fragrance’ later appeared as the rousing drinking song ‘Fill ev’ry glass, for wine inspires us’ in John Gay’s ‘The Beggars Opera’ in the 18th Century. I remember well singing it with the Kirkie Players some years ago!
  • ‘Good King Wenceslas’ originally appeared in 1582, as a Spring carol. It was only about 150 years ago that the 10th Century story of Saint Wenceslas of Bohemia was told. After his father died, he encouraged Christianity in Bohemia, against the wishes of his mother, and was murdered by his brother Buleslav.
  • The Romans used Holly to decorate their houses at the feast of Saturnalia, which occurred in the winter season. Ivy was dedicated by them, to Bacchus from the idea that it warded-off drunken-ness!
  • The Coventry Carol (‘Lul-ly, lul-lay’) is one of the oldest English Carols. The original tune comes from 1591 and was sung in the Coventry Plays of that era.
  • There are several Wassailling Songs. The word Wassail means ‘Keep You Well’.
  • Czechoslovakia has provided a number of lovely quiet carols including the ‘Rocking Carol’, ‘The Birds’, and ‘The Zither Carol’. ‘Infant Holy’ is from Poland.
  • ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’ was written in 1857 by Dr J.H.Hopkins of Pennsylvania, one of very few well-known carols from the USA.

 

So give a thought, when next singing over Christmas, that the words and music may have had a very strange history.

Getting there?…or are we there now?

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Today is the first day of one of the sections of the Church’s calendar..Advent Sunday, and was traditionally when we start talking of, and preparing for, Christmas. One of our great Carols, ‘O Come all ye Faithful’, has a final verse ‘Yea, Lord we Greet Thee’, which we do not sing until Christmas morning. So we are prepared to wait.

The world is somewhat different however. We don’t need to wait until the end of the month to buy something- we can always borrow money, Seasons all run into each other, Sales are an all-year event, holidays away are occurring most weekends during the year, international sports events can be seen on TV at any time, central heating has meant that we can keep warm right through winter (money permitting), and the idea of ‘seasonal’ fruit and vegetables doesn’t exist now.

So we seem to have lost the ‘order of things’. I remember the song ‘The Green Leaves of Summer’ which told of the fact that there are specific times for living and dying, sowing and reaping etc. But we seem to have lost this concept. Do you remember in youth when the football would be put away and the cricket bat or tennis racquet would suddenly appear? But now we can see these sports on TV from any part of the world. The coming of indoor pitches also means that many sports can be played through the year. The mixed-up weather patterns has also meant that we have already had snow in November and birds have been migrating at different times.

Will we ever see see a return to a more ‘ordered’ system, or I am living some kind of dream which never really existed?

PS….for those, North of the Border, it is also St Andrew’s Day…Patron Saint of Scotland

So Soon?

The Christmas lights have been put up today on the lamp-posts in our area!…..and we haven’t had Hallowe’en! 

WHY?

In a time of financial strictures and fuel poverty, I think there are probably better and more pressing uses for the money. And why were they putting them up on a Sunday?…..was there an extra-time bonus involved?

They are pretty when switched-on, but I think I would rather see the footpaths improved or a special payment to OAPs to help with fuel……there are many other more pressing needs.

Now we have only to look-out for the first Christmas tree in a window!

The Last Post?

Not really….I hope it isn’t my last post to the blog before Christmas, but I felt I had to have my fix, before the festive season.

At work, we normally leave the last week of the work-year relatively free from non-important appointments so that we can deal with emergency patients…..and this year was not exception….we were choc-a-bloc! The rest of the staff were of course, also very busy, so we did not have much time to relax. The presence and consumption-of sweets and biscuits from grateful customers, and suppliers, did help to make this last week a bit different!

Thick fog, general dampness, filthy vehicles, packed shops with over-worked staff, cold hands, overly-decorated houses with hundreds of lights, dangerously-excessive spending in the shops are all present at this time and can be a bit depressing; on the other hand we are at the turning of the night/day ratio so daylight will get a bit longer, there is a brightness in children’s eyes, a willingness to give to Charities not always seen at other times of the year, and a chance to stop and look back over the past year.

2007 is a year for us (as no doubt for many others) which has caused much anguish with our move to another Church, the health problems of both Son and Daughter, financial instability within our profession, being amonst the bigger worries, ……and yet,….. and yet, we are all still here, we are still a strong family and things do look to be getting better.

So as we pause at the Nine Lessons and Carols  on Sunday afternoon, and the Midnight Service on Monday evening, we all have a chance to reflect on what we have done and what we have not done, to make someone’s life a little brighter or more hopeful.

May the Season make you alla little happier.