OK so for the first time ever the Crib Service at Easton was not completely packed out – we had the regulation 30 people attending…but we did have the most amazing brand new poem re-telling the Nativity Story written by LouLou Stirrup and (as the rest of us were mutely masked up) the Itchen Valley Parish Choir sang carols beautifully throughout. Please see the zoom recording of the whole service at the bottom of this page.
Thank you so much to Hugo and Antonia, Alice, Anoushka and Raffie, Emily and Clover. Thank you so much to Maj. Gen. Tim Tyler and his choir and in particular to Tim for a beautiful solo. Thank you also to John Dover who played the organ.
Theo and Judith Mezger and Sara Janssen had filled the church with lit candles and Pauline Lund and her team had done some wonderful flower arrangements. Thank you to all of them.
Here is the poem in full:
We’ve heard so many stories, but never one like this;
Where a baby in a manger, the Lord our God he is
Who is that tiny baby, why was he born so low?
This is the story of the first Christmas, two thousand years ago.
Mary was a young woman and pure in heart and deed
An angel came to tell her of the life she was to lead.
It was she whom God had chosen to bring to Earth his son
Mary was astonished, indeed so was everyone!
Joseph, her intended, was sure he’d been betrayed.
But then he had a vision which his doubts and fears allayed.
He swore he would protect her, so when her time was come
He was dismayed they had to travel, all the way to Bethlehem.
For Caesar Augustus put forth a decree
That all had to travel to their birth city
And the taxes they had to be paid
And Caesar was always obeyed
Now, Joseph had no camel, nor any trusty steed,
He couldn’t buy or borrow one,
Though great was sure their need.
After some fierce haggling, he did procure one beast,
A lowly, dull brown donkey, but it had legs at least!
It wasn’t much to look at, but its back and heart were strong,
Perfect for their journey, for the road was hard and long.
The Journey – Narrator
They travelled most by starlight, because the desert sun was cruel,
But the night time twitched with danger, and Joseph felt a fool.
Why had he risked the journey, with Mary in this state?
He watched her very nervously, but Mary knew they’d still to wait.
When they reached the final hilltop, such a sight was laid out below,
The little town of Bethlehem, with all its fires aglow.
Bethlehem – Joseph
Tired with travel and hunger, their hearts still skipped a beat,
And they dreamt of a bed, and comfort,
And delicious things to eat.
Down in the town, their hopes were dashed, they couldn’t find a room;
The houses were closed, the inns were full, Joseph fell into a gloom.
‘My wife is with child,’ he shouted aloud, ‘will no-one spare us a bed?’
‘We would if we could, but they’re already taken,” again and again it was said.
The Stable – Inkeeper
Then, one innkeeper, portly and kind, took pity on the pair.
‘There’s no room inside, but there’s a stable out back, you can lodge yourselves in there’
And so amongst cattle, and donkeys and sheep, the miraculous baby was born.
And wrapped in swaddles, and laid in a manger, with straw to keep him warm.
Away on a hilltop, outside of the town, another miracle took place
A group of poor shepherds, out tending their sheep, came suddenly face to face,
With a whole host of angels, all singing God’s praises, for the baby which Mary had borne.
The shepherds, though frightened, were also amazed and set off to find him, not waiting for it to be dawn.
They arrived at the stable, ragged but joyful and they knew the baby by sight,
And so the first people to kneel before Jesus, were not men of influence or might.
But a gaggle of shepherds, rough-shoed and coarse-handed, with a lamb in their arms for a present,
And so Jesus’s love is the same for us all, whether we’re landlord, or princess or peasant.
News spread of the birth and many then came, but few had travelled so far
As three wise men who had learned of the birth by reading of it in the stars.
They trekked across deserts, and mountains and plains never tiring in their quest
Their patience paid off, for eventually they found, the child they believed to be blessed.
And blessèd he was and so we are too by the miracle of his birth.
For with Jesus Christ comes the promise to all for peace to reign over the Earth
© Loulou Stirrup 2020
Thank you also to Robin Greenwood who read the lesson, to Beccy Clark who read the prayer and to Chris Ellis who put everything onto zoom and managed the sound for us this evening.
Alex Pease gave the following talk:
Its easy, even in this terrible year, to have a romantic view about this birth – Jesus of Nazareth from nativity scenes: nativity plays at schools, children with towels wrapped around their heads…like the much more grown up retelling of the story in poetry by our young people we have just seen read so beautifully…thank you incidentally everyone for taking part and LouLou for your reworking of the story.
But what would a birth actually have been like in the working stable of an 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 night acted by adults – Jesus real baby with a nursing mother: Horses, sheep and cattle –cold of night – hot breath – stamping….its just amazing – please do take your children there one year, when eventually we can get out to things once more.
But there is one thing that the Wintershall directors save you from – they clear up all the POO!
If imagine working stable of inn 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 let’s focus on this point once more: the creator of the universe stepped into the world and shared in that messiness…a world in which he will have experienced growing up in some 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
Don’t delay…do it now
Make this Christmas, despite all its difficulties, the time that your life is transformed.