This morning was our carol service, a selection box of offerings from members of the congregation. It's impossible to capture it all in a blog, but we'll do our best.
We began by lighting our advent wreath, leaving the second candle unlit as an act of solidarity with the churches in Bethlehem, where many of the traditional lights will remain unlit as they grieve the violence in Israel-Palestine. One of our origami cranes currently nests next to the candle, as an expression of our continued prayers for peace, not just in Israel-Palestine but in all places and lives that know conflict and unrest, and as we light the candles around it, may we see and remember that the light will never overcome the darkness completely.
We were called into joyful song by Paul Laurence Dunbar's Christmas Carol, then threw ourselves into singing a call and response piece called Rejoice Rejoice, written by one of our musicians.
We heard from the prophet Isaiah and called for those prophecies to be fulfilled in Christ with Malcolm Guite's O Emmanuel.
We heard the story of the birth of Christ and the arrival of some strange visitors from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Children of God Storybook Bible, and we wondered if it changes how we understand our own lives and bodies to know that God was born as one of us, and if we always recognise God.
We remembered last year's Christmas message about joy as a vital and radical response to a bruised and broken world, and recognised the need for a joy that strengthens us to face the world rather than turning us away from it.
We heard a powerful poem called Middle East Christmas by late Assistant Bishop of Jerusalem Kenneth Cragg, and prayed for all who are suffering from violence and poverty.
We wrapped the birth of Christ and the pain of the world in joy, by returning to some more lighthearted moments, with an original poem by our resident comedian looking back over the service, and a riotous rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas complete with an array of props.
We wondered what new joy we will take away from the Christmas story, and we ended as always by singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas to each other as a blessing, only this time our youngest members sang it to the congregation first.
And of course we enjoyed some classic carols, including Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger and In the Bleak Midwinter.
It was both poignant and joyous, a fitting expression of God and hope born in the mess and muddle of our lives. If you would like to sing some carols or wonder at and about the Christmas story, there are still more chances, with services at 10:30am on Christmas Eve and 10am on Christmas Day, and a more informal gathering at 10:30am on New Year's Eve. We would love to see you there.
Picture shows the nativity scene created by the Messy Church community, which graced the front of church during our worship.