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2020 Advent Devotional – Day 25

Life

Sussex Carol
Attributed to Bishop Luke Wadding, 1684
This version collected and documented by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1904

“When sin departs before His grace,
then life and health come in its place;”

Video: Sussex Carol


Reflection

Unlike many of the carols in this series, the name of this carol – the Sussex Carol – has no connection with the lyrics that follow. Instead, the title refers to where the carol was found: in the aptly named Monks Gate, near Horsham, in West Sussex in the United Kingdom. There, it had been sung to the composer and Christmas carol enthusiast, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Vaughan Williams, along with Cecil Sharp, had noticed the decline in traditional folk music, as the practice of sharing such music orally was replaced by the growth of printed music. In an effort to uncover and preserve this musical tradition, Vaughan Williams travelled throughout Britain, ‘collecting’ folk songs and carols from local singers so that they could be documented and preserved.

It is fitting then, that a carol rescued from extinction itself, should sing so joyfully of life. The melody alone is uplifting, as the lyrics invite us to celebrate the transforming love of the birth of Jesus. This is life made new, where the sadness of sin and a life lived apart from God are wiped away by the eternal forgiveness given to us through Jesus.

Life and health may seem unusual, even unrealistic, blessings to be promised through Jesus’ birth, particularly this year when the world has been engulfed by death and illness. How do we reconcile these words with our daily reality, without dismissing them as trite or an empty cliché?

And yet this is the overwhelming promise of God’s love; that even as darkness smothers our days, we have the promise of life in Jesus. That when we feel trapped by illness or grief, God promises to be with us, to soothe and comfort our pain, to sustain us in each new day. God’s healing love, seen in the life of Jesus, gives us strength to draw on and hope to pray in. Truly, God is always with us.


Transforming God,
You take my life, weighed down with all that would separate me from you, and you restore it with your love. Though I have times when illness and sadness make my heart heavy, you are always present for me to lean on and cry out to. Let the joy of your love comfort my soul and bring me peace. Let the hope I have through your love renew me for each day and for every challenge I face. Amen.


Reading

Sussex Carol

On Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring;
on Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring:
news of great joy, news of great mirth,
news of our merciful King’s birth.

Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad?
Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad,
when from our sin He set us free,
all for to gain our liberty?

When sin departs before His grace,
then life and health come in its place;
when sin departs before His grace,
then life and health come in its place;
angels and men with joy may sing,
all for to see the newborn King.

All out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night;
all out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night:
“Glory to God and peace to men,
now and forevermore. Amen.”


If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.