Songs of Starlight

The Revd Dr William Lamb

Well, we were all set to sing carols in Radcliffe Square on Christmas Eve. But with the recent government guidance and the introduction of further Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day (as well as the increasing incidence of COVID in Oxfordshire), I am sorry to inform you that we have decided to cancel the event. The Christmas Service for Midnight Mass and Christmas Day will go ahead (and we will celebrate the Feast of St John the Evangelist on Sunday), but I know that many people will be disappointed that we will not be singing Carols this year. It is some consolation that we will be able to listen to the choir singing carols either in person or online this Christmas. And the good news is that we have already booked the City of Oxford Silver Band for next year.

Of course, Christmas carols tend to romanticise the infancy narratives of the gospels. It is tempting to insulate our telling of the Christmas story from the raw desolation and tragedy of an unmarried mother giving birth in the poverty of a stable, or a young family swept off as migrants and refugees to escape the cruelty of a capricious King. With our songs of starlight, we may seek valiantly to dispel the darkness of this tale. But the starlight, the glory, that shines at Bethlehem draws its power from the emptiness of the tomb. As we ponder the mystery of the incarnation, we come to recognise that the fear of Gethsemane and the desolation of Calvary are not the last word. We come to recognise that desolation and cruelty and injustice are not the last word. Perhaps we need reminding that at the heart of Christmas is an intimation of Easter. Songs of starlight are not simply for comfort and joy. They help us to understand that even in moments of darkness, we can find strength in the light of a star and the love of a newborn child in a manger to discover again our unswerving trust in God’s irresistible light.

With blessings for you and your loved ones this Christmas,

William Lamb, Vicar