December 2006: Nine
Nine readings... nine tunes... nine surprises...
"Nine" is the Grace version of the traditional nine lessons and carols. The nine lessons are there, but they are allocated to nine volunteers (or groups of volunteers), each with the task of producing their own reflection or interpretation, including music. In keeping with Advent, expect the unexpected.
The readings are:
Lesson 1: The creation
Genesis 1, vv 1-5, 26-8, 31
Lesson 2: The fall
Genesis 3, vv 8-15, 17-19
Lesson 3: The people who walked in darkness...
Isaiah 9, vv 2, 6, 7
Lesson 4: Isaiah's vision of the kingdom
Isaiah 11, vv 1-3a, 4a, 6-9
Lesson 5: The Annunciation
Luke 1, vv 26-35, 38
Lesson 6: The Nativity
Luke 2, vv 1, 3-7
Lesson 7: The shepherds
Luke 2, vv 8-16
Lesson 8: The Magi
Matthew 2, vv 1-12
Lesson 9: The Word
John 1, vv 1-14
adapted from Christian Aid
This Christmas may it be our care and our delight to hear the story once again, from the first light of creation to the coming of the new light in Jesus. And as we celebrate his coming with words and music, we rejoice in his unending love for all and in the promise of his kingdom of justice.
And we recognise that it is our calling to make that kingdom a reality; and we pray that like Jesus we may be ready to greet the outsider, uphold the rights of everyone who suffers injustice, and seek to change the world through prayer and action.
God our Father and our Mother, we offer you our praise and worship that it may be pleasing to you. And we offer you our lives that you may use them to fulfil your purpose. In the name of your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The People Walking in Darkness
(full version with pictures can be found here)
We're like the kid who puts her hand up to answer a question in the old Sunday School gag. She says, "I know the answer must be Jesus, but it does sound like a squirrel."
We hear the words light and child and instantly imagine baby Jesus laying in a manger. The reading comes round every Christmas tucked between carols, and we skip over three verses in the middle of the prophecy that don't sound so Jesusy. We can hardly imagine the wonder and longing felt by the people that first heard Isaiah's prophecy. We know what this light is like; we've got it wrapped up; tighter than any present.
The people walking in darkness...
What do us city dwellers know about darkness? To us, darkness is yellow. It's the colour of sodium street lights. It drains the world of colour but not of detail.
What would it be like to see... nothing?
To feel isolated and alone?
To live under the control of empires and powers too strong to oppose?
To long for change, but fear to hope that change is possible?
To lose confidence that God has any power to alter the world?
But darkness is also a place of concealment.
A place where we can mask our true selves.
A place to hide the things we don't like about us.
Perhaps we know darkness after all.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light...
Ah yes, the light. We know about that! The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes. But little lord Jesus no crying he makes. But this baby is also the light of the world. The harsh light of day, penetrator of dark corners, revealer of blind spots who tramples on rose-tinted glasses and heals jaundiced eyes.
This is the light that will not be tamed, controlled or confined. We coo and cluck over the baby in the manger, and attempt to cut God down to size, and make him in our image. For what could be dangerous about a tiny child? Yet the coming light will overturn empires, rule with justice and righteousness, see into the heart of us and save the world. God was born as a boy and made his dwelling among us. That doesn't mean that because we know babies, we know all there is to know about God.
So watch and prepare for the coming of the light. Greet the coming with joy, and also fear.
Watch and wait. Expect to be surprised. But not comfortable.
Watch and wait.
Holy is His Name by John Michael Talbot, illustrated with pictures including the following:
An Anachronistic Nativity by Paul Leach. A short film - Paul narrates the poem in a series of deserted tube stations late at night. Paul was ill, so he delivered the film at the start of the service and left. In fact, he had delivered one of the most stunning pieces of work ever presented at Grace.