Welcome to the Christmas Eve midnight sermon with me, the Right Reverend Lucy. As we celebrate the birth of that child 2017 years ago in Bethlehem, let's take a moment to celebrate this miracle in song but due to new directives we are not allowed to sing historically inaccurate songs so please take note of the following.
First song 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'.
Actually, they never sang at all, the Gospel of Luke points out, 'The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ and the Angel is then joined by 'a great company of the heavenly host' who praise God, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest'. As the Heralds Angels said it rather than sang it, the song is now out.
Next up, 'We Three Kings of Orient Are'.
Again, we don’t know that there were three but we do know they weren’t kings. The Bible never says how many there were, only three gifts were given to Jesus and the Bible calls them 'magi's' so they were probably astronomers or astrologers from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. The Bible (Matthew 2:2) also doesn't mention them following the star, only they simply noted its ascent. Not three, not kings and they didn't follow the star so we will pass over this one also.
Onto 'Away in a manger'.
The Gospel of Luke says Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room at the inn. Tradition has put that a manger is in a stable. The Bible doesn't mention a stable but a Kataluma which means 'guest chamber' so we had better ignore that one also as factually inaccurate.
Then we have 'Once in Royal David’s City'.
See above, (as per Luke 2:7), no lowly cattle shed, no stable, no stall so no mother laying her Baby in a manger for his bed so we will skip this one.
Problems with 'In The Bleak Midwinter'
Oh dear, 'Snow had fallen, snow on snow in the bleak midwinter long ago' which is a problem as it probably wasn’t winter because the shepherds were out watching their flocks by night which they wouldn’t do in midwinter and the Romans ordered a census taken and a Roman census would take place after the harvest season, around September or October, when it would not affect the economy, the weather was good and the roads were still dry enough to allow easy travel. Definitely all wrong so we have to cross that one out.
Finally, 'Little Donkey'.
While it may have been a little donkey carrying Mary safely on her way, there is no mention of that in the Bible and donkey travel was not a popular means of transport at the time, so it was probably a horse, ox, camel, or a cart drawn by an unnamed animal so we can't sing that one either.
So our carol service has been considerably shortened but the importance of Christmas is not where a baby was born or how many magi there were, the importance is that enough of you still believe and keep turning up to put your pound coins in the collection plate. Now turn to song 3 on your carol sheet, Jingle Bells.