Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Midweek Musing: Singing Christmas 1

Singing the Season 


When I lived in Australia, I insisted, for the purposes of songs and cards and decorations, that 'it does not snow in Australia at Christmas.'

Now I live in Scotland, it doesn't necessarily snow at Christmas, but it's certainly a Winter Wonderland.



The festivities warm up as fast as the temperatures outside fall down towards (and below) freezing, and we get to sing our favourite seasonal songs. In coming weeks, I will muse on some of my favourite ways to sing Christmas.

As with some of my favourite ways to enjoy Shakespeare, I quite like both traditional and reimagined ways of singing Christmas. Later in the season, I'll issue a warning to anyone who messes up my all time favourite carol. This week, however, reimagining Christmas carols receives more favourable reception.




A couple of years ago, a friend from my home town reimagined a whole bunch of seasonal songs, including this one, which stays closer to the original melody than some of the others Nathan rearranged (get a taste in this preview – or even better, buy the whole album - Brand New Christmas, available on iTunes!).

Now, Nathan leaves the words alone in his rearrangements, but there are some carols that really do need some revision of words.

God rest ye merry gentlemen is one – how difficult is it to sing 'people all' instead of 'gentlemen'? And yet groups like Pentatonix continue to produce creative and innovative adaptations without making such a change, and for me, that leaves them wanting. We are in the 21st century, people. It's not about pandering to a PC agenda, but about letting our language reflect our cultural beliefs and practices.

Earlier this week, a friend posted on Facebook his concerns about O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and the supercessionist overtones to the promise to Israel of their Emmanuel. I must say, I share these concerns. After so many centuries of Judaism continuing as a vital, thriving and life-giving faith tradition, Christians singing about Israel receiving their Messiah seems to many ears a grating singing of one side of a complex story.

So, since this song is lovely in its anticipation and expectation and hope, not to mention its melody; and as the singing of familiar melodies connects us to our own story, our community, and our shared story, another friend of mine has written new words to this old song.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and fill our lives, all dark and fear dispel,

as once an exiled Israel you found,

redeemed, restored and set on holy ground.

Rejoice! Rejoice! 
Emmanuel shall come to us
and in our hearts will dwell.



O come, O light of Christ, so bright and clear

and lift our spirits by your advent here. 

In all who gather, show us your face,

that we may know the warmth of your embrace. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! 
Emmanuel shall come to us
and in our hearts will dwell. 



O come, O Wisdom, mind and heart divine,

help us restore a world we've let decline.

Enlighten us; your way we would know

and show us where new seeds of hope to sow. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
 Emmanuel shall come to us
and in our hearts will dwell.



O Advent God of hope, joy, love and peace,

in you we pray our sad divisions cease.

Bind us as one, a people of grace,

for at your table each one has a place. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! 
Emmanuel shall come to us
and in our hearts will dwell.


Words © Sue Wickham 2010

There are many ways to enjoy our favourite songs, and many, many versions of them to choose from. I could list so many more  – and in coming weeks, I will – including some of the incredibly popular renditions by The Piano Guys and Pentatonix.

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