This is always amongst my favourite nights of the year: the annual Pontypridd Carol Service, here at St Catherine's.
I love a Carol Service. I read a lesson in Blackburn Cathedral in my school service when I was 12. I think my Mum has it on tape somewhere. That school choir did a terrific service, and the cathedral was (almost) always packed for the event. The one night that we were far from full was (I think) in my upper sixth, when there was a bad snow storm. The service went ahead, but out of a choir of 250 only about 30 of us made it - and so you can imagine the size of the congregation. But we had a great time!
A Carol Service is part of the magic of Christmas for me. We rehearse the story, going over familiar words and letting them weave their mystical power in our hearts and minds. Promises and unimaginable truths taking root and forming over aeons, hopes becoming reality, God becoming one of us, the infinite contianed in a feeding trough with the familiar attendant cast of shepherds, stars, wise men, angels and watching mother and stand-in father. But as we speak the words, that cast is no longer them; it becomes us. We sing the carols, and silently the stars go by over our heads and the wonder is re-born in us today.
A gentle call to a world far from God. People who know nothing of Jesus finding themselves inexorably drawn. Powerful magic. I love this night.
In the last couple of years I have particularly worked to make this a town event - a night for our whole community. We have readers from all sorts of local groups - the hospital, the golf club, schools primary and high, the police chief superintendent, the mayor. I give a short reflection at the end - a drawing together of strands; a playing of the melody of the night. This is a wonderful time to tell folk of Love come down.
Here's the choir, getting ready to sing a piece I wrote (all 6/8 and bouncy) and a Welsh lullaby; we also had the schoolchildren of Ysgol Evan James singing When a Child is Born and Feed the World (both in Welsh!), as well as Dan & Kirsty playing a super violin & guitar duet, Deck the Merrily, and lots of congregational carols - mostly traditional, though two were accompanied by MGQ (jazz quartet). All in 75 minutes. By candle-light and tree-light and with just a sprinkling of angel-light in the air.
Lord, thank you. As I write, there are one or two from tonight in my mind. Bless them, I pray. Shine on them. Let this not just have been a "moment"; and help me in all that this week holds be here for them.