Happy Christmas!

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:11

I’ve scheduled this for a time when I’ll probably be at Church/going to Church… A Church service on Christmas morning is perhaps one of my favourite services. So many people, and so full of joy!

I hope that you will experience that same joy – the joy that stems from God’s love for us. Wishing you a Christmas full of love, joy, peace, and Christ.

Hymns: Hark the Herald

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”” – Luke 2:13-14

Christmas is such a good time of year for music. For hymns. For descants. It’s hard to choose my favourite. There’s the beautiful “Once in Royal” descant. There’s the wonderful “O Come All Ye Faithful” descant. But I think my favourite is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

The first half of the descant is fairly ordinary, to be honest. As descants often are, it is joyous. One of the reasons I love descants so much is that they are loud and joyful, a sort of musical expression of praise to God. Not that the normal tunes aren’t. (Just to clarify).

In the second half of the verse, there is a little bit of poetry, as the descant slips below the tune as we sing “Mild he lays his glory by”, before soaring up for the next line, reaching the joint highest note as we get to the word “raise”.

This is my favourite descant for a number of reasons, but it includes perhaps my favourite musical moment in all of the Christmas hymns we do. In the refrain, the is the most glorious suspension between the tune and the descant, prepared and resolved by the tune. Suspensions done well are glorious. Sung by a whole Church singing at the tops of their voices, praising God and celebrating the birth of Jesus, this has to be one of my favourite suspensions ever.

I often lose my voice after carol services. I’ve been to two in two days this year (my home Church’s service, and my old school’s). I certainly have more voice than when I did 3 at school, and the Church one, combined with cold season. Praising God in song, with a full Church, is one of the most uplifting things you can do. A proper warm-up helps though! 😉

Church music is special. Church Christmas music is especially glorious.

Merry Christmas!

The best sort of encouragement :D

There are some people in CU who consistently amaze me. They amaze me with their ability to talk to people, with just how empathetic they are. With just how faithful they are in praying for every single person they meet.

One of our college group leaders (CReps) is exactly like that. Like me, she was a Day STYC during Freshers Week. One of our responsibilities was running a “brunch club” (that is, serving people who came into the common room with breakfast bars, pastries etc.) and to be honest, much of the time nothing really happened. A few people came in, took some food, and left.

And then one day one of the college administrators came in. He said that there was a girl who was coming in later who was 17, who had been pressured to drink by her STYCs, who was isolated, lonely and in need of some help. Her name is Laura.

To the surprise of nobody, our CRep took Laura under her wing, went out for coffee with her, and invited her along to events where slightly less drinking would be going on. Many of these were CU events.

Since then, Laura has come along to most of our College CU meetings, signed up to be part of a CU family, made loads of Christian friends (some of whom she’ll be living with next year). She’s also participating in and contributing to our Bible studies, and has even been to Church.

How great is our God! Putting everything in place so that someone at their most desperate can hear the Gospel and get to know His love.

Hymns: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” – Psalm 18:28

It’s the second Sunday of Advent. I love Tierces de Picardie. Combine the two and you have the great Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

It’s a hymn that goes through lots. Prayer. Longing. Hope. And this sums up Advent for me. A time of preparation and hope.

One of my favourite verses is the following:

O come, O bright and morning star,
And bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
And turn our darkness into light.

A theme that comes up in many hymns (and one that I particularly love) is this theme of light and darkness. This verse reminds us of God’s comfort and how, even in the darkest of places, He can bring light. In our own lives, or in the world in general. That gives me so much hope. Hope for myself – that God is there in my darkest moments, bringing light, comfort and hope. And hope for others – that when all seems lost, God is still at work, showing people the way.

Emmanuel means “God with us”. It’s important to remember that God is always with us. God is always at work in us and for us. So let’s rejoice! (Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel…)

All of this to a beautiful tune in a minor key. Dark and foreboding. But best played with a Tierce de Picardie – a stunning musical reminder of the hope we’ve just sung of.