The popular Christmas Carol, ‘Once in royal’, – was written by one of our own great literary heroes in the northwest, Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of a former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. This is worth remembering in this City of Culture Year.
Her carol speaks of
Jesus’ precarious birth in Bethlehem’s ‘cattle shed’ with ‘a manger for
his bed’, of the ‘Saviour holy’ who chose to identify with us ‘the poor,
the mean and lowly’. It talks of how he took the risk of becoming a
vulnerable human, experiencing the pain of our human condition. All so
that he could offer love and forgiveness, freedom and reconciliation.
carol goes on to remind us that ‘our eyes at last will see him’ again,
‘not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by’, but in his
glory and majesty at the end of time. When that happens wrongs will be
put right, death, tears and pain will be no more, the justice,
forgiveness, reconciliation and peace of his kingdom will prevail.
Advent and Christmas we eagerly look forward to the arrival of Jesus –
his coming both at Bethlehem and at the end of time. We are encouraged
to look up, to lift our gaze beyond our own troubles and anxieties, so
that we come to see our lives as part of that much bigger picture, that
far larger purpose, God’s richer canvas. His loving plan which brings
meaning and direction and purpose to all of our lives was all made
possible because he took that greatest of all risks, when ‘he came down
to earth from heaven, who is God an Lord of all.’
initiative in reaching out across barriers that divide; taking a risk in
being vulnerable and open to rejection. Being willing to offer
forgiveness and reconciliation, to extend a hand of friendship – even
when one’s motivation is misunderstood or one’s initiative is rejected.
These are key ideas that we are grappling with, and I believe, have made
further progress with in 2013. These very same Christmas motivations
were at the heart of the breath–taking initiative that took place
‘Once,… in royal David’s city.’
As I wish you a special
Christmas and a blessed New Year, I trust that you will have the
opportunity to join with others in worship, – and maybe even to sing Mrs
Alexander’s great carol, with a renewed sense of God’s love and the
hope he offers.