Some carols for Epiphany

Some carols from Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australia, as we head towards Epiphany, orienting us to the journey motif in the story.

God, help the weary travelers (Daniel Charles Damon)

1. God, help the weary travelers who follow their star,
seeking a refuge, so near, yet so far,
seeking a place of shelter from hatred and war,
seeking the safety of some distant shore.

Refrain: God, help the weary travelers, the lost and the found,
all of us travelers on this holy ground.
God, help the weary travelers, those just passing through,
all of us travelers with love’s work to do.

2. God, help the gifted people who come seeking gold,
far from their homelands, their lives bought and sold.
God, free us from the judgments that turn us to stone,
show us the river that flows from your throne.

3. God, lift new generations from muck and from mire,
baptized with water and Spirit and fire.
God, raise new generations with hearts set ablaze,
singing and dancing their Maker’s high praise.

Suggested Hymn Tune: PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS – Damon, Daniel Charles
Poetic Meter: 12.10.12.10. Ref.

*****

Wise men came journeying (Shirley Erena Murray)

Wise men came journeying, once, long ago,
camel hooves swirling the sand dune and snow,
gold in the saddlebag, myrrh in the jar,
incense to honor the Child of the star.

Wise are the travelers led to move on
following signs where the Christ light has shone,
facing the deserts and crossing the lines,
heeding no limits that culture defines.

Wise are each one of us looking for change,
stargazer people, respecting the strange,
inner and outer worlds open to light,
centered on seeing the real and the right.

Wise ones keep journeying all through their days
bringing their gifts to the source of their praise,
risking the Promise with all they hold dear,
seeking God’s peace at the door of the year.

http://www.hopepublishing.com/html/main.isx?sitesec=40.2.1.0&hymnID=2956

*****

The star and hope for our times (Shirley Erena Murray)

Shirley Erena Murray writes of looking to peace and justice in our world, with particular reference to the three Abrahamic faiths.

Now the star of Christmas shines into our day,
points a new direction: change is on the way –
there’s another landscape to be travelled through,
there’s a new-born spirit broadening our view.

When the Christ of Christmas speaks to heart and mind,
clears the clouded vision hurting humankind,
kindred spirits gather, drawn toward the light,
sharing revelation, joyful at the sight.

If we choose to follow, we may yet be wise:
where the three kings travel, three great faiths arise:
Christ within the Christian, Jesus in the Jew,
Prophet for the Muslim, each tradition true.

Where the star enlightens, light is shared around.
God has drawn no borders, faith sees common ground:
Peace the hopeful journey, justice without bar,
God’s illumination from the Christmas star.

Suggested Hymn Tune: NOEL NOUVELET –
Poetic Meter: 6.5.6.5.D.

*****

Be the light (Craig Mitchell and David MacGregor)

Be the light that shrouds the twilight
Be the might that holds our fears
Be the home that yearns our dwelling
Be the stone that takes our tears

Refrain: Christ be our light, Whom shall we fear?
Deep in the night, Spirit, draw near.

Be the cry that whispers mercy
Be the seeker when we hide
Be the taker and the giver
Be the pathway and the guide

Be the sacrifice that breaks us
Be the shelter in the flood
Be the promise that remakes us
Be the parent who is good

Realism at Christmas

The combined collection of traditional carols that we sing each Christmas demonstrate a very strange dichotomy.

On the one hand, there are those carols, or verses in carols, which go goo-gah at ten news of the cute little bay by, ruddy-cheeked and gurgling enticingly (or sleeping silently, making not a hint of baby noise).

On the other hand, there are those carols that really want us to focus on Jesus the exalted Lord, resplendent in glory, coming to earth from heaven, bring peace and joy, salvation and redemption, to the whole world. They move us quickly away from the vulnerable infant, and especially from the grim political and social realities of the time, into an ethereal heavenly realm.

Aotearoa/New Zealand hymn writer Colin Gibson has written a fine hymn, We who love Jesus, that offers a realistic take on what Christmas might/should/must mean for people of faith:

We who love Jesus asleep in the hay,
for all those children who wander today,
homeless and hungry and driven, we pray.
Et te Ariki, whakarongo ki a matou.*

We who see Jesus on Mary’s sweet breast
pray for the children who are nobody’s guest,
walking to nowhere, with nowhere to rest.
Et te Ariki, whakarongo ki a matou.

We who praise Jesus, the gentle and kind,
pray for all children unseen, out of mind,
beaten, abused or in conflict entwined.
Et te Ariki, whakarongo ki a matou.

We who in Jesus know God come to earth
pray for all children, wherever their birth;
may they find shelter, beloved, given worth.
Et te Ariki, whakarongo ki a matou.

*New Zealand Maori for ‘Lord, hear our prayer’;
it is pronounced ay tay areekee, fockarongo kee a ma-toe.

*****

Another much more realistic offering comes in one of my favourites, to the tune of Away in a Manger, in which Rebecca Dudley (of Shine on Star of Bethlehem, Christian Aid, UK) has reworked the unrealistic saccharine lyrics of the traditional Carol into a reflection on the story in a far more realistic mode:

How ancient and lovely this news of a star,
a baby, a mother, the kings from afar.
Come close now, Lord Jesus, we ask you to stay
and show us your face in your people today.

What star shall we follow but one that leads here
to a baby born homeless and a family in fear?
What heaven shall we long for but one that starts there
for all the world’s children in your tender care?

We thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth;
for the light in the darkness that shone at your birth,
for life in its fullness that you promise today,
and the hope of a baby asleep in the hay.

*****

There are some other reworkings of Away in a manger that I have collected at https://johntsquires.com/2019/12/18/no-crying-he-makes-get-real-puhhh-leeeease/

*****

British lyricist Andrew Pratt has written What makes Christmas real? — a whole Carol devoted to being more realistic!

Christmas is real when the cost that we measure
reaches the manger and touches the skies,
shop fronts give way to divine revelation,
God is among us and selfishness dies.

Christmas is real when the gifts that are given
mirror the love of this God upon earth,
God who is known in self-giving and loving
crowning our poverty, coming to birth.

Christmas still echoed when screams of the children,
slaughtered by Herod inflamed people’s fear.
Christmas remains when the trees and the tinsel
make way for news that we’d rather not hear.

Christmas is real when we enter the squalor
mirrored in Bethlehem so long ago;
off’ring the love that was seen in the God-head,
total self-giving not baubles and show.

Copyright Andrew Pratt (andrewpratt@btconnect.com)

Tune: Epiphany Hymn