Sunday Reflections throughout Advent … let’s move toward’s the Light
This week we are called to Remember, both with thanksgiving and sorrow, those whose lives have been given and taken away in pursuit of the good purposes of freedom, justice and peace in wars and conflicts past and present. We do this at a time when our peace is somewhat distrurbed by the pandemic we are facing. So I wanted to consider what we might learn from those who have gone before us, from those who gave their lives to restore peace in the past and in particular how they were able to find courage, perseverance, strength and unity in times of adversity.
One of the greatest sources of such character seems to be music. We hear of how the tireless work of the army song leaders was to lead their men in song; both to combat boredom as soldiers awaited the next bombardment and to divert their minds from the onslaught they were anxiously expecting. We know too that in Prisoner of War camps songs proved to be the prisoners’ only way to keep their courage. And in need of unity and patience those back home turned to music
We are missing shared song in these current times, not least in the churches where we have not been able to sing for some time now. The absence of choirs and hymns is a challenge to us in this pandemic. So it is for us to remember this morning that song begins in our hearts and the start of recovering our music comes from lifting our spirits to a place of thanksgiving.
This message resounds from a history far beyond the regiments and trenches of the World Wars. Indeed in the Old Testament we read the words of a people who had lost their ability to sing because of the adversity they faced. The people of Israel had been taken in captivity to Babylon from their beloved city of Jerusalem so in sadness they wept and could not sing their songs of praise and celebration any more:
- 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion.
- 2 There on the poplars,we hung our harps,
- 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
- they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
- 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord, while in a foreign land?
- 5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
- 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
- if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.(Psalm 137 )
In these words we are reminded how closely song is associated with the heart. When our hearts are despondent and our courage failing we cannot sing. And this is perhaps why it was so important to encourage songs in the trenches and in battle. To raise spirits and strengthen hearts. We are given an example in the New Testament of how we can in fact choose to sing in times of trial despite our circumstances and physical tribulation. We read of St Paul and his friend Silas imprisoned in Philippi for their faith. In the account of their trials in the book of Acts we read:
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts Chapter 16)
Despite all their pain and misery Paul and Silas were experiencing they were singing hymns. In the darkness of an inner cell, just as in the hell of the trenches in the World Wars, those able to sing found courage and hope, strength and unity.
Whilst most of us are not so challenged now as those who in history who have been occupied or taken captive, or those who were at war or imprisoned, nonetheless we can be reminded that our relative trials must be faced with
song. Music is the basis on which our spirits are to be revived.
We may not be in the familiar and safe surroundings of our own buildings .. nor were the Israelites. We may not have our instruments or hymn books .. nor did the soldiers in the War. We may not be able to gather choirs to support us .. nor did Paul and Silas. So we must follow the example of those who have gone before us at this time of Remembrance and find ways to sing in our hearts on our own where necessary. To sing from our hearts no matter how despondent we might feel. For in doing so we will encourage ourselves and others towards finding peace and courage in troubled times. Song is the gift of God to all people at all times in all circumstances. I encourage you to keep singing no matter what .. and may your heart be strengthened and your joy be found.
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday in the Church. At the time of writing the current Government Guidelines dictate that we cannot open our churches for a Service of Remembrance, however, it is permitted that local authorities or faith leaders can organise outdoor Remembrance Sunday events at a public war memorial or cenotaph. To do this we must you complete a COVID-19 risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus as detailed in Government Guidance.
I wanted to let people know that it is my intention to have a brief act of Remembrance at Chebsey War Memorial at 10:50am on Sunday. This will include a minute silence, the laying of a wreath and the Last Post and Reveille.
This event will not be open to the public due to restrictions but limited to:
members of the armed forces, veterans of the armed forces, and/or their representatives or carers
people attending as part of their work (such as local councillors, local faith leaders, the local MP)
people attending in a voluntary capacity on behalf of a recognised organisation
It should be noted that those found not to be compliant with these regulations may be subject to financial penalties.
Should you be in one of the above groups and wish to attend could you please inform me in advance either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01785 282829.
I am of course very disappointed that we cannot offer an official service of Remembrance of some sort for people but I do hope this Act of Remembrance at the Chebsey War Memorial will allow people to feel the moment does not pass unmarked. Should you wish to join us in the minute’s silence at 11am on Sunday by standing silently at your door step this will be appreciated I am sure.
Full details of guidelines for events are available at:
With assurance of the church’s continued prayers for our communities and villages in these tough times.
Rev’d Doug Heming