I was inspired by this glorious hymn this week, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence... Christ our God to earth descendeth..." A modern english translation for those of us from northern regions might be, "shut your gobs and look at that!" God himself is descending.
The words are ancient, the tune we sing it to nowadays is a much more recent french carol tune (Picardy), but they are a good fit.
The ancient liturgist is pondering the mystery of God coming to earth in human flesh - the incarnation - and he uimagines a breathless, dumbstruck world utterly transfixed by this amazing truth. Angels and archangels attend him, light and glory surround him.
Of course, there were angels and archangels in the story of Jesus's birth, and light from a star - but the world didn't stop, the world was not dumbstruck with awe, the world did not notice.
But that doesn't mean we can't notice - the amazing truth of God casting aside majesty for the frail vessel of humanity is a staggering thing to comprehend, and is SHOULD make us gawp, speechless and amazed. Shut your gobs and look at that!
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav'nly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow'rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!"
I had a go at my own arrangement for the words and tune, here it is!
Maybe you've had a simlar experience, though not found the words to describe it. Maybe you've had a fleeting awareness of something ultimately gobsmacking about the universe and our place in it. It's a common experience. I think it's common because there IS something utterly amazing at the heart of the universe - the heartbeat of the universe, if you like, and not a distant thing, something that also feels very close.
Some of us call that "God". Maybe you'd like to join with some others of us who are trying to work out what it all means for how we live our lives and engage with the world?
If so - fill in our contact form - a small step towards something you've been looking for all you life but have never quite found, not even in church where you thought the answers might be...