Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Celebrating Christmas in a Time of Mourning

T. S. Eliot’s sermon from Murder in the Cathedral speaks clearly of celebrating Christmas in a time of mourning.  Archbishop Thomas Becket, facing his likely martyrdom, preaches in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas morning.  At the Christmas Mass we celebrate at once the Birth of Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross for our redemption.  The next day we celebrate the martyrdom of Steven.  As we come to the celebration of Christmas this year we do so with hearts torn between the joy of Christmas and the death of little children.  It is no accident that Holy Innocents day falls also within the Christmas season.

Murder in the Cathedral ~ T. S. Eliot                    Interlude

The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas Morning, 1170 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'  The fourteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
      Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth.  So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.

                It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross.

                Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overborne by mourning, or mourning will be cast out by joy; so it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. 'But think for a while on the meaning of this word 'peace.'

                Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the      angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?

                Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples 'My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.' Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbours, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children?

                Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember then that He said also, 'Not as the world gives, give I unto you.' So then, He gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.

            Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord's Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of His first martyr, the blessed Stephen.

            Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ?  By no means.  Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and in the Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Poems


Bells ringing!                                 
Bells singing!                                 

In simple joy,                                
Love's own alloy,            
God's babe is born                      
this happy morn.             

Bells ringing!                                 
Bells singing!                                 

The infant's tear              
Cries God is here.            
He’s come at last,                                     
Now life will last.             

Bells ringing!                                 
Bells singing!         



Birth moans
in strawed stable.
The King has come,
his lusty wailing
rends dark night.

Birth bloody
as his death,
the King has come.
His reality
mouth and mother's breast.

Birth starlit in musked air,
The King has come,
God swaddled in human need.
Jesus Son of God Most High.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Jesus, Son of God Beloved

Jesus, Son of God, beloved,
From heav'ns highest realms he journeyed.
Child of Mary, humble maiden.
Born to save God's wand'ring children,
How he loves the lost and fallen,
Those whose lives are spent and barren.
In his blood is our redemption,
In his love is full salvation.

melody: schmuecke dich, johanne crueger, 1646
deck thyself my soul with gladness


Lady laud your son.
Cast down your golden crown and worship him,
born a babe in stable laid,
who walked the hills of Galilee
with fisher folk and tax collectors
made of them a warrior band,
shocked the scribe and Pharisee
not less than priest and Sadducee.
No simple man, nor plain was he.
He has the power to call forth you and me.

Lady laud your son
whose death pierced your own soul
with grief too sharp to bear
fulfilling prophet's words in temple court
so long ago.  Proud mother of a little babe
with head bowed down,
you contemplate the way
he cast down the mighty from their thrones.

Lady laud your son.
You have given once again
as you have given many times before.
Resurrection joy, ascension parting mingled in your breast.
The old ways of holding him can never be again.
Lady laud your son.
Cast down your golden crown and worship him
in the circle of the saints, his sisters, brothers,
all your children now, all crowned like you
God-bearer, now for ever blessed
held in warm embrace by glad hearts everywhere.
Lady laud your son.

The Bells, The Bells

The sound of the bells,
the bells, the bells, the bells,
storming down the wind from the tower
of the old Cathedral on the hill.
The bells, the bells, the bells,
High tones, low tones,
ringing in the middle,
sounding out glad tidings
Christ is born again
in the hearts of grateful men.
The bells, the bells, the bells,
ringing the days of our lives,
our births, our deaths, our holy days;
the weddings of husbands and wives.
The bells, the bells, the bells,
Thirty-nine mournful strokes
Count them one by one.
Thirty-nine joyful strokes,
count them one by one,
one for you and one for all,
the toll of our redemption.
One for the Father, one for the Spirit,
and one for the Almighty Son.
The bells, the bells, the bells.
Hear them ringing down the hill.

When Love is Born at Christmas

When love is born at Christmas                                         
the busy world is hushed,                           
all creation waits to hear                            
the infant’s cry of life.                                  

The sheep and oxen gather                        
around the humble manger,                       
The young mother bends to see                
God’s holy child and now hers.                  

God Himself is bending there,                    
Yielding self to human care,                        
To Mary humble mother                             
and to Joseph standing there.                     

In the fields not far away                            
Shepherds guard their flocks by night,     
When all the heavens shine bright            
With angels in brilliant light,                       

Singing loud Hallelujahs,                             
Jesus Christ is born tonight.                        
Let no evil you affright,                               
He comes to set things right.                      

And what do these shepherds see?           
A baby in a manger,                                     
such a simple thing to see,                          
with his mother kneeling by.

We Shepherds Three

We shepherds three
camped in the fields below the hill
our flocks huddled for warmth
      in the cave at our backs.

We are the door of the sheep,
with our fire at the cave mouth,
our cheeses, breads, and skins of wine,
one with a flute, and one with a lute
and one with the voice of a frog.

We cast no grand illusion.
We are not pious folk.
Often our wives are glad to see us home,
often they are glad to see us gone,
rough men, unkempt men, smelly men,
“You sleep with the sheep.
You smell like the sheep,”
      the townsmen say.

This night was like all other nights
if anything darker, the wind more severe,
We expected nothing
except a cold long watch
with the sheep in the cave at our backs,
with our fire at the cave mouth,
our cheeses, breads, and skins of wine,
one with a flute, and one with a lute
and one with the voice of a frog.

I wish I could say we were at prayer
and that incense, not smoke,
      filled the night air.
But we sang shepherd songs
of loves long since lost,
of fighting and brawling,
the things we know most.

It was then that the angels came
and the glory of God filled the night air.
To shepherds three, coarse and unkempt
they brought tidings of great joy.
“This day in the city high on the hill
a Savior is born Christ our Lord.
A babe you will find, laid in a manger
      and wrapped all secure.”
And suddenly the sky was filled with
Myriads and myriads of angels
     singing God’s praise.

We shepherds three set a guard for our sheep
and went up the hill to find him asleep.
Mary and Joseph with Jesus the child.
We gave what we had to the baby so mild,
our cheeses, and breads,
      and skins filled with wine,
And we sang him a lullaby
one with a flute, and one with a lute
and one with the voice of a frog.

Wondrous Love

What wondrous love,
my Lord that you should leave
bright heavens realms above
to dwell with us below.

Enthroned above
with the Father and the Spirit
in eternal glory,
in majesty supernal.

Myriad’s of angels.
Seraphim and cherubim
in ceaseless adoration
sing the praises of Your Name.

Now time bound.
In human flesh appearing,
The Virgin’s womb
Not distaining.

King of kings
yet born of Mary
God’s only Son
now one of us.


Our Christmas hearts are caroling
that love is born our heavenly King.

The cold world wounds, its raw winds roar,
with this heavenly child our hearts will soar.

In the infant's smile and the infants tear
we'll find the peace that quells our fear.

He came the lives of men to share
the cross to bear  and the pain to bear.

Though men will suffer, men will die
God's children know that he is nigh.

Our Christmas hearts are caroling
that love is born our heavenly king.

And one last one by Christina Rossetti:
Love Came Down At Christmas
~ Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.