Each year I find myself drawn to singing carols,
With mixed feelings I take my place in church.
I don’t much like the worn-out tunes, and clichéd rhymes,
Obsolete sentiments and pious religiosity make me squirm,
And yet I join in with others in the singing.
Some verses I know by heart, known them since time began,
I look up from the hymn-sheet and notice the people.
This time of year they’re all wrapped up.
The heating system in a cold stone church
Does its best to enliven this ancient occasion,
Warming a way through the tinsel of tradition.
There’s something over and above the mere gathering of folk,
Together, singing. We ignite something that never wears out,
And yet needs to be renewed every winter solstice,
The return of the sun, the return of the Son.
This year with a walking group in an ancient village church,
Many of whom I had never met before;
Last year in France, with a mix of nationalities,
And the lessons and carols in a selection of different languages.
The traditional French “Il est né” at a cracking pace
Bringing delightful shocking relief from Watching Shepherds.
Singing “Stille Nacht”, each verse in a different language.
Struggling to pronounce the Dutch and Occitan.
The tawdry superficiality may seem corny,
But there’s something deeper going on.
The singing voices themselves reach out
To every choir in every place since time began.
Always connecting; it’s why we sing in groups.
Not just with our companions here and now,
But to all who have ever gathered in one place
To sing and briefly contemplate their lives,
This year’s conclusions, next year’s resolutions,
Hope of renewal, realignment with purpose,
Making sense of it all.
© Peter Young 2014