Sussex Carol

On Christmas night all Christians sing to hear the news the angels bring

On Christmas night all Christians sing to hear the news the angels bring

News of great joy news of great mirth

News of our merciful King’s birth

Then why should men on earth be sad since our Redeemer made us glad (x2)

When from our sin He set us free

All for to gain our liberty

When sin departs before His grace then life and health come in its place (X2)

Angels and men with joy may sing

All for to see the newborn King

All out of darkness we have light which made the angels sing this night (X2)

Glory to God and peace to men

Now and forever more amen

(The first record of this carol being sung is from the 17th century)

News of great joy. You may recognise the words of this carol, which has been sung in one form or another for four centuries, but if you are like me you won’t think much about the words while enjoying the dancing tune. This year, with the likelihood of singing still being restricted in any gathering, carol services are likely to be very limited. Like anyone, I shall miss the sheer joy of singing, but it might be a chance to think more about the words I have sung for years. 

This  traditional carol starts at the heart of Christmas, the feast that Advent is preparing us for, and it begins with news of joy. However much we may be missing the ways we have prepared to c elebrate Christmas “in normal times”, the message of Advent is that we are still preparing for a feast with joy at its heart.

There are always people who find the persistent upbeat jollity of commercial, and indeed, “traditional” Christmas difficult: those who are remembering people who have died and cannot share with us, those who have lost a baby or child, women who cannot conceive or carry a pregnancy, those who wonder how to afford Christmas presents, or indeed, food at any time. This year, restrictions on meeting and movoing means many more of us may be missing family or friends. So where will be the joy in our celebrations?

The words of this carol bring us to the heart of the gift of Christmas: the grace and forgiveness of God, shown in the birth and life of Jesus. WE may be feeling frustrated, angry, with decisions made by those with power or responsibility for others. We may be feeling hurt by how others have treated us, about things we cannot do, people we cannot meet up with. We may be anxious about bigger pictures, how we are treating our planet. Advent gives us time and space to recognise that  we are feeling our way in the dark, and to acknowledge that with the best will in the world, we still speak and act,  or collude by not acting, in ways that hurt each other, or, on a bigger scale, damage other societies, and even our world. The story of the birth of Jesus, the incarnation, is like a light in this feeling of darkness and reminds us that God’s grace does not hold our failings, real or imagined, against us. 

As we approach Christmas, our journey through Advent brings us to the point where we hear the song of the angels, whether through other people, sudden moments of clarity and joy, or sitting in quiet, taking time to listen to God in our hearts. But wherever we hear it, the message of the angels is the deep message at the heart of our Christian faith: the birth if a baby who is the love of God incarnate, is a gift bringing, grace, peace on earth and deep joy.  

Rosalind Rutherford holds PTO in the Diocese of Oxford.

Leave a Comment