Over 300 of us found a place to stand or sit to engage in the Easton Crib service, for many those who have been attending something that they have enjoyed at Christmas all their lives. Christmas has really started in Itchen Valley!
Although it was very familiar in some respects we did it a bit differently this year. First of all we had the Itchen Valley Parish Choir led by Tim Tyler in the choir stalls singing the descants to the carols absolutely beautifully. Secondly we dispensed with the narrative of Jesus birth which we have used for many years and Loulou Stirrup who has recently moved into the Itchen Valley kindly rewrote the story in a very engaging way. It was then acted out by four of our young people Jessica and Jonnie Cragg, Ellie Rember and George Impey while Henry Labram and Chris Ellis acted as the innkeepers. Dan Day Robinson was the narrator.
Thanks so much to all of them, all brilliant actors and to Loulou for the new narrative. Thank you to Judy Bishop for reading the lesson from the King James Version of the Bible – thank you to the amazing flower team led by Penelope Kellie and Pauline Lund for some sensational flower arrangements. Thank you also to Chris Ellis for sorting out all the sound.
and thank you to the two Church Wardens Theo Mezger and Vanessa Rosewell for getting everything together. A great evening!
Revd Alex Pease gave the following talk:
I have always had a Romantic view about this birth – Jesus of Nazareth from nativity scenes like on the cover of the service sheet;
nativity plays at schools: children with towels wrapped around their heads and like the much more grown up drama we have just seen. Thank you Loulou for your reworking of the story and direction of our actors this afternoon and thank you Dan for your narration and thank you to our actors.
But what would a birth be actually like in a working stable of overflowing inn?
Some of you may have been to the wonderful nativity at Wintershall, Surrey in a real stable with all the live animals on a December nightacted by Adults – Jesus acted by a real baby with a nursing mother. Horses, sheep and cattle – cold of night – hot breath – stamping its just amazing – please do take your children https://www.wintershall.org.uk/nativity-play there one year.
But there is one thing they save you from – they clear up all the POO!
If you imagine the working stable of inn there would have been lots and lots of it: horses of soldiers – donkeys of Jews – sheep and goats; Not to mention the baby Himself – no disposable nappies. The mess the dirt and the smell! It would have been overwhelming!
And yet it was into this grimy smelly mess that 2000 years ago the Creator of the Universe, God Himself, chose to be born, as Jesus of Nazareth and the world was never the same again.
We want it to be perfect, but Life is messy. Any birth is messy, Jesus’ birth was messy and painful.
We want it all to be perfect but Life is messy and painful
It struck me the other day that the reason that the innkeepers might have said ‘no room in the inn’ is because they knew who Mary and Joseph were and they knew that she was already pregnant and that they had not yet got married. ‘Oh we are full’ those words must have rung down the ages to all sorts of people who were not wanted on the premises….from people who wanted only to associate with the perfect….not the messy
But life is messy.
In Matthew 2:25 we discover that Joseph gave the baby the name ‘Jesus’ as the angel Gabriel had instructed. But we sometimes miss the key point that by doing this, in the culture of the time Joseph was effectively adopting Jesus as his own child.
But perhaps everyone in that tight knit community knew that he was not his natural child. Gossip travels fast if so, we can imagine how, growing up, Jesus was seen by his contemporaries, by the other people in Nazareth, (all of whom would have known about him) as the product not of Mary’s obedience to the angel, as we know it to be, but, in the culture of the times, the product of her disgrace, and probably the subject of mockery.
In 1955 there was a brief encounter between two young people which produced a baby unwanted because of that disgrace that baby was adopted also.
That baby was me….
Life is messy, but Jesus stepped into a messy world, despite its messiness for US. Just lets focus on this point once more. The creator of the universe stepped into a world and shared in that messiness. A world in which he will have experienced growing up in disgrace…. he will have experienced the pain of rejection for reasons which were totally outside his control.
Life is messy. God came into that mess for us…..
There is nothing that we can do
There is nothing that we can be
there is no mess that we can make of our lives
which will make him love us less….
He loves you so much, despite the mess you may have made of your life. Because he has experienced living as a product of that mess, He understands when we appeal to him, however much of a mess we have made of our own lives. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, to enter into a relationship with him.
All he asks is for us to open our hearts to him in prayer and to ask him into our lives and cast everything that we have done; everything that we have allowed ourselves to become; everything that others have made us, on to him in sorrow and repentance, so that we can start again, so that we can be adopted as his son or daughter, an adopted son or daughter of the Creator of the Universe….
Do it now
Make this Christmas the time that your life is transformed
Reading for Crib Service 2018 – abridged version of Luke 2:1-17 (KJV)
2And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed….. 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem…….5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall bea sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace,Good will toward men.15 And it came to pass…. the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth-lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass……16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babelying in a manger.