Category Archives: Christmas

I have a problem with Phillips Brooks today, people.

We meet tomorrow to go over the music for Christmas Eve
and I am feeling good about our choices – EXCEPT FOR THIS:

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,

where misery cries out to thee, Son of the Mother mild;

where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,

the dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
The first line of the penultimate verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem
just plain grates on me. What about all those unhappy
children? How about the impure ones? Frankly-
speaking as a mamma, here – aren’t they all kind of impure?
Born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
The children don’t fit with the rest of the verse, which
I think fits darn well with Christmas as we do it in
beautiful downtown Bean Blossom. It makes me wonder
if Phillips Brooks started with something different in line one
and changed it because it was such a downer.
I don’t mind editing hymn texts.
[That’s me you see, waving at you, hiding behind the (alt.)]
I have a rewrite of “Let us with a gladsome mind”
that I am quite chuffed about. But I am not
coming up with anything for this line – indeed,.
I’m finding it hard to think about the question.
Starving children keep climbing onto the page.
Later – I left it in, we sang it as written on Christmas Eve,
it was creepy, Next year this verse might get quietly dropped.

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Filed under Christmas, liturgy, music

Putting Down the Great Story, Picking Up the Other Stories

lyla.jpgThe tree is down, the ornaments are put away, the Christmas cards are done, and I’ve made a start on the thank-you-notes. I remember with considerable chagrin all the years when I thought the Nativity stories were sentimental and boring – this was before I got whacked upside the head by the interpretive genius of Raymond Brown. Now I look forward to recollecting these stories at Christmas, and to being stirred by the passion for justice and renewal that breathes through them. Continue reading

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New Carol for First Sunday After Christmas, December 30


There are mighty few carols in the Episcopal Church that speak to John 1:1-18, the lection for the first Sunday after Christmas. In order to advance the squad I have written a new song text, and here it is. Permission for local non-profit use is hereby given – but please let me know! It is a Long Meter tune and fits particularly well with Robert Buckley Farlee’s tune Berglund.

In the beginning was the Word,
the Word with God, the Godding Word.
By this Word all things came to be,
the galaxies and stars and worlds.

This Word took flesh and lived with us,
and walked with us, and broke our bread.
It wept and laughed and healed and blessed,
and told strange stories of our God.

Grace upon grace have we received,
forgiveness, mercy, hope, delight,
an empire made of righteousness
known by the Word of God’s own heart.

O gracious Light of new-made hope,
enduring Light, not overcome,
worthy are you, O Living Word,
of joyful praise throughout all time.

(C) 2007 Pamela Grenfell Smith, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. This means that you are free to use and adapt it, so long as (1) you attribute authorship and copyright to Pamela Grenfell Smith, (2) your use is non-commercial, and (3) you may not copyright your adaptation of this work under a more restrictive copyright.

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Filed under Christmas, liturgy, music

Busy with stories –

This is the time of year when the Church picks up one of its greatest and most powerful stories, the birth of the Messiah, and tries to teach it, embody it, proclaim it with integrity. It’s not always easy to do that – the pressure from the culture is first, to cheapen the story and next, to sentimentalize the story and last, to junk the story. These last couple weeks I’ve been working hard on how this story is lived out in the church where I worship and where I convene the commission on music and worship. After much consultation, the Advent music and the Nicholas pageant are well under way. Discussion has begun on a Twelfth Night celebration. I’ll try to make the Christmas Eve liturgy warm, uncomplicated and filled with carols.

I’m uploading the Advent music list for those who care to read such things.

At Christmastime when I was a little girl, the dining room buffet was decorated with an ivory plastic church about ten inches tall. It had plastic stained-glass windows and a hole in the back – where the altar would be – for a tiny light bulb. When plugged in, this arrangement glowed with a warm, golden light. It was a particular yearly concern of mine to get my hands on it and take it apart, so I could see whether there were any little people in there and what they were doing. I broke quite a few light bulbs that way.

At night when our lights are on, St. David’s also glows with a warm, golden light. Christmas is a time of year when people do look in to see what we are doing. They pick up the church, they peer inside, and there we are, singing, lighting candles, eating cookies, taking our holy stories seriously and lovingly, stewards of the whole tradition.They sniff. Cookies! Evergreens! Snow! It isn’t always comfortable to have strangers pick up our church and peer inside, but they are surely welcome to all the light we have to give.

No storytelling gigs of my own until January 6, when I’ve been invited to tell a Baba Yaga story for children. I’m trying to find one that doesn’t involve people being eaten or burned to death. Baba Yaga is no pushover. And – in this quiet time – I’m find the Bible stories I’ve learned this year are starting to talk to each othre, and are forming little social circles to share what they think. I’m excited about this! Judy Fentress-Williams was our keynote speaker at the Network of Biblical Storytellers Festival Gathering in 2006; she said that the books of the Bible talk with each other and argue with each other – Walter Brueggemann calls this testimony and countertestimony. Well, the stories do it too. I wait until my husband and son go to work and then holler the stories around the living room so they can hear each other. Very rewarding, and the dog likes it too.

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Filed under Advent, Christmas, liturgy, music