This month we are askingpeople across the Diocese to reflecton what Advent and Christmas mean to them. Here, Dan Jones, DiocesanYouth & Childrens Adviser, tells us about his favourite Christmas carol...
It might sound all too clichd but, as a parent of two young children, Christmas at the Jones household usually centres around Isaac and Maisie. Whether this is putting up Christmas decorations, attending nativity plays, visiting Santa or posting letters to the North Pole to name a few, Christmas wouldnt be Christmas without the non-negotiable family traditions.
Thankfully, I am grateful that there are the unplanned, unexpected and spontaneous moments too, especially when my children trigger random festive flashbacks from my own childhood. Funnily enough this happened last week at bath time when Maisie burst into a chorus of Away in a Manger - abruptly followed by Isaacs alternative rendition of Jingle Bells!
Christmas would not be Christmas without a good carol. Most people have a favorite mine is Harold Darkes version of In the Bleak Midwinter a popular choice in the 'choir world'. With talented choral singers for parents, my childhood is full ofChristmas memories that originate from my parents' passion for singing. Of all the instruments there is no sound more aesthetic than the human voice. For range, tone, depth, emotion and power, I dont think there is a more hypnotic sound than an exceptional choir united in beautiful song. I admit that during my teenage years my appreciation may have dwindled slightly, more Def Leppard rather than El Divo! However, the memories of going carol singing, various Christmas concerts and the annual sound of Carols from Kings resonating from the kitchen, accompanied by my Mum and the wonderful aromas of seasonal baking, are memories I still treasure today.
From the first time I heard In the Bleak Midwinter my appreciation for listening (and singing) Drakes version has grown and grown. Why? Because the emotions I feel during the performance can only be described as a holy moment, especially when the choir begins the final verse a cappella (if you havent heard it there are plenty of clips on Youtube).
Through the message of a simple melody and harmonies the story of the Nativity is told, drawing the listener into the narrative echoing beyond the story described in the Gospels and ending powerfully with a personal challenge:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
What does Christmas mean to me? In a nutshell, this! In that moment, Im instantly drawn into God's presence a wonderful, intimate and blessed moment as the humble words in the final verse become my own prayer, re-committing my life to Jesus Christ once again.
Christmas began 2,000+ years ago with a holy moment God's gift to the world and like the shepherds and the wise men, I pray that you too will be blessed and encounter a holy moment this Christmas (especially if this is for the first time) and receive the gift of Christs amazing, unconditional and everlasting love for you.
Merry Christmas x
Diocesan Youth & Children's Adviser