Saturday, December 23, 2006

Anything rather than write my sermon...

While considering the wonders of Luke's account of the nativity, I found myself re-reading past Midnight sermons (which, interestingly, all seem to have been on's clearly high time I engaged with Luke for myself) and remembered the year that I, as a Reader, was conducting the first part of the Midnight Mass at Great Rissington, and had to fill in until the priest managed to get there from another eucharist in one of the neighbouring villages. That year nobody could complain that they didn't get to sing their favourite carol. We had the lot, interspersed with assorted readings, chosen on the spot to pad out the Ministry of the Word. It was also the year that, by tremendous serendipity I managed to so time things that we reached the last verse of O Come all ye faithful just after the church clock struck 12.00 - so those words were the very first uttered on Christmas morning. Before that, though, I took them around the highways and by ways of English literature, including this poem, which I'd almost forgotten. Did you know that Hardy scorned his novels, and wished to be remembered only for his poetry? Much of it is, imho, on the edge of twaddle, but this, I think, is rather lovely.

The Oxen - Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.


Giles said...

Wonderful story mummy - except for a slight case of ignoring the facts: there's no church clock at Great Rissington... so while the Lord may have been greeted as soon as your watch said it was Christmas, it wont neccessarily have been the same for everyone there.

Sorry, but I cant stop being a realist ;-)

Kathryn said...

Lumme, young G, you're right! I've amalgamated my 2 churches, haven't I??
Bizarre but true. But it was truly and honestly just after midnight, which excited me hugely at the time.

Anonymous said...

wwith son's like that who needs husbands?????

it's a good job that giles is very lovely...and that it remains a good story