10 Correct Opinions About Christmas Carols

Public service announcement.

The following opinions are all correct.

  1. The first carol on Christmas Day should always be Christians Awake Salute the Happy Morn. It should be sung lustily and with the last line repeated.
  2. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night may be sung to almost any tune. It must not, however, be sung to the tune Winchester Old
    • Acceptable tunes shall include:
      • Liverpool
      • Glasgow
      • Lyngham
      • Old Foster
      • Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells
      • Cranbrook – This may only be used once in every decade in any one place. There’s a limit to how entertaining it is.
  3. The best carol of all is It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and it must be sung to the tune Noel by Arthur Sullivan. There are many things in which the US based Episcopal Church is correct but it is incorrect in its choice of tune for this carol. It may also be sung at Michaelmas. The incorrect words “It Came upon a midnight clear” are anathema. They have as much place in the Christian faith as Sundays before Advent or Sundays before Lent – ie none whatsoever.
  4. Jingle Bells is not a carol.
  5. The carol Of the Father’s Love Begotten may be sung at any time from Advent Sunday until the Feast of Candlemas. It must only be sung to the words agreed by Mr Frikki Walker and myself. The verse about seer and sybyl must always be included as it is both profound and reminds us all of Sybil Fawlty. I have every intention of broadcasting this carol unto the nation at the earliest opportunity so that everyone else may copy the St Mary’s version of the words.
  6. 10 points may be claimed for anyone spotting a heresy in any carol. A bonus of 50 points is awarded to anyone who can come up with a heresy-free version that people will enjoy singing.
    • Your starter for 10 is “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see” which sounds like Docetism to me.
  7. Anyone claiming that carols should be sung “in the original version” shall be required to sing Hark How All The Welkin Rings at the next carol service they are at and will then be required to explain to everyone at the door what a welkin is.
  8. In the Bleak Midwinter may be sung, even though Jesus probably was not born amidst snow. However, it may only be sung by a good choir singing the Harold Darke version.
  9. O Come All Ye Faithful is a Jacobite rallying call and is most proper for Scottish Episcopalians to sing.
  10. Christmas cake should be eaten with cheese and not marzipan and icing.

Thank you for your attention.

Inclusive Language

Ruth has the skinny on the Inclusive Language amendments that the College of Bishops has licensed for permitted use.

The paper proclaiming these amendments has not reached these parts and I’m not sure what that situation means liturgically.

Most of the amendments are not particularly surprising, and indeed, some of them have been in use for many years in St Mary’s, licensed more by the gentle nodding of one mitre or another than by any more troublesome process.

I’m in favour of using language that does not leave people feeling left out of worship. It seems to me to be more a matter of politeness than theology. And theology is trumped by politesse as all good Anglicans know.

Here in St Mary’s we do have an inclusive language policy and so incorporting the amendments which are now on offer and which we don’t already include will happen without, I suspect, any fuss at all.

Generally speaking at St Mary’s, you can expect to find us trying to use language that is inclusive of persons at all modern language services. Choral Evensong and the 1970 Liturgy we don’t mess too much with. We try to use inclusive language in hymnody and actively look for inclusive versions of hymns. That’s been the tradition since long before I got here. Its also harder to do than it seems.

There are a small number of exceptions which I do allow through the net. Dear Lord and Father of mankind is a hymn I can’t quite bear to lose and can’t quite bear to change the first line of. The other obvious one from the past is He who would valient be. It seems to both myself and to the director of music that its permissable to allow exclusive language in hymns which directly address the reality of hobgoblins.

I’m no pushover though. Some things just don’t get sung no more, no more. Firmly I may believe and truely, but it won’t be sung here whilst I am provost.

We try to use a wide variety of imagery relating to God in what we sing here. That means looking out for hymns which use things other than male language (Father, Lord, King) to balance those which do use such language.

As always with hymns, you can’t please everyone. However I think our hymnody is, whilst tending occasionally towards the eccentric, the most exciting I’ve found anywhere.

Christmas Carols can be trouble, whichever way you approach them. And I’ve been planning Christmas just this week.

As for the new amendments that the Bishops are permitting, I welcome the texts. I don’t welcome the way this has been done. If it was worth doing, it was worth going through a synodical process and amending the actual texts so that these were for everyone and not simply options. That’s what we have always done before. This method rather makes one feel that the Fathers think that they know better than the rest of us and don’t really think this is that important.

Not quite the desired message when dealing with issues of inclusivity, I’d have said.

(Indeed, I think I did say so at General Synod last year, if I remember rightly).