from Sing Praise is ‘Like a candle flame’ by Graham Kendrick. It’s a simple, gentle song of the Nativity,
at least at the start – ‘Flickering small in our darkness, uncreated light
shines through infant eyes’. The second
verse gives a hint that there is more to come from this miraculous baby: ‘Can
this tiny spark set a world on fire?’
verse bursts forth in splendour: ‘Yet his light shall shine from our lives,
Spirit blazing, as we touch the flame of his holy fire’. For through Christ’s resurrection and the
sending of the Holy Spirit he not only brings the light of God’s truth and love
to the world, but sometimes too the ‘blazing’ of signs of power.
stay at the manger miss the real implications of the birth. Just this morning we
heard of the death on Christmas Day of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our vicar
referenced this in his sermon on St Stephen, the first Christian martyr whose
feast day we celebrate. Tutu wasn’t a
martyr in the sense of being killed for his faith, but he did share the martyrs’
courageous faith that meant preaching the truth (in his case, the truth of the
equality of black and homosexual people) at a risk to his own job and possibly
life. Here was a man in whom the Spirit of
is ‘Glory to you, O God’ by Howard Gaunt. It’s another of the hymns from the ‘saints’
section of the book. The suggested tune is that of the hymn ‘My song is love
unknown’. John made some changes to the
words and used a different tune. But these
comments are based on the words in Sing Praise.
verse gives glory to God for the saints, using the traditional language of the
early Church of winning victory in the fight against the evils of fire and
sword. The second gives thanks for those saints who walked in humble paths,
speaking God’s word and act as shining lights to inform our own lives. The third verse is about ourselves, asking to
know God’s truth and walk his way as ‘saints on earth’.
three very different concepts of sainthood.
The language of the first verse is not commonly used in most Western churches
today. Even British saints such as Alban and Thomas (Becket) who were martyred are
not usually spoken of as winning victory so much as showing courage in the face
of evil, and other martyrs such as Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and (on the
Catholic side) Margaret Clitherow are not usually called ‘saints’ even though
they showed equal courage and loyalty to their beliefs. The language of war and
victory does however still resonate with those in countries where persecution
is still a reality. The imagery of the
second verse is more commonly found in our British churches, where we remember ‘home
grown’ saints such as Cuthbert, Wilfrid and David whose ascetic lives are held
up as a model of discipleship. And the
concept of all God’s people, living as well as dead, as being saints, is a
popular one in our time.