Today’s song is,’Oh Come All Ye Faithful’. This Christmas carol was originally written in Latin as ’Adeste Fideles’. The carol has been attributed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692), King John 1V of Portugal (1604–1656), and anonymous monks. The earliest printed version is in a book published by Wade, but the earliest manuscript bears the name of King John IV, and is located in the library of the ’Ducal Palace of Vila Vicosa’. A manuscript by Wade, dating to 1751, is held by ‘Stonyhurst College ‘in Lancashire.
The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. The English translation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841, is widespread in most English-speaking countries.
I was always brought up by my parents to view loyalty, truth and faithfulness as being indivisible; the blessed trinity that brings a resolution of the soul. I learned very early on in my life that it was impossible to have one of these qualities without possessing the other two also. I used to have an aunt who never married but nevertheless viewed marriage between two loving people as being the highest of unions. Aunt Alice believed that nothing was nobler than a couple‘s fidelity towards each other.
The world we live in is largely governed by a capitalist system, of which its less attractive side is the constant move towards the acquisition of material assets. As a people, we have left our faith at the altar of consumerism, and we are in total danger of losing our faith in humanity and lessening the betterment of self every time we ‘over-indulge’. There is a gross disparity of wealth between the East and the West, between the rich and the poor in all societies. Greed is in danger of being regarded as being good instead of gross. The simple truth is, every time someone in the western hemisphere eats two slices of bread when one would suffice, somebody in the eastern hemisphere starves!
I recall in my youth watching a man called Malcolm Muggeridge on the television. He was a British journalist and social critic of his time and was invited to be interviewed with rude regularity by the television BBC presenters examining any moral or economic issue of the day. At the time, I thought this old codger on my television screen was a bit of a moralistic crank, but over the past sixty years since I first saw and heard him, I have gradually come to accept that what he was advocating in the late 1950s was ‘bang on the button’ and applies every bit as much today, if not more so.
Essential, Muggeridge espoused the view that mankind’s civilised survival and the saving of the planet would require all of us lowering our consumption levels of the planet’s resources. He told his viewers that it was only through lowering our standard of living could we higher our goals for the betterment of all mankind. This view mirrors the very same arguments that all green warriors across the world now advocate and say will be necessary in order to stop disastrous climate change occurring and to save the planet. Until we allow concerns about the planet to turn us ‘green’, it will be the mighty dollar who keeps us ‘green with envy’! The action of every individual and the world we live in are inextricably connected.
Unless a person can be true to themselves, they cannot be true to another. Me and my wife, me and my children, me and my friend, me and my neighbour, and me and my God; it is the same umbilical truth, the same loyalty and the same degree of faithfulness that binds one and all.
Were each of us asked to recite a quotation from one of William Shakespeare’s plays we learned at school, though some variance would apply, the majority would recall those unforgettable words that Polonius spoke to Laertes in ‘Hamlet’.
“This above all: to thine own self be true’
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
This Christmas, let us stand fast to those important things in our lives which command our faith, for scriptures tell us that God rewards faithfulness and not the size of our ministries or our spheres of power and influence. Life will test our true character daily, and most of us will be found wanting.
Just as it is human for every newly married man and woman to want the best for their marriage and children to come, if marital break-up surveys are to be believed, the straw that most often leads to the greatest marital rows and is most likely to break the camel’s back will be about ‘money’(the amount available, or the acquisition and disposal of it). 'Money' will most likely be at the heart of the breakup more than any other consideration such as having an affair, addiction, or even physical cruelty!
Isn’t it strange that in a world where there are so many more important things to concern oneself with, that money is often the acid test to measure one’s faithfulness and commitment to a marriage; a union between man and wife where it is money matters that matter most? ‘The love of money’, is surely the root of all evil!
I was once told by a kindly priest that God uses money and material assets more than anything else in our lives to test our faith, and the reason He selects money is that it is the one thing most of us have the hardest time dealing with.
The next time you pass a ‘Big Issue’ seller, or a rough sleeper, or a beggar, or any poor person in need of a few pence and you have more money in your pocket than you are likely to spend that day, give them some of it and help better their Christmas season with a kind thought and some Christian charity.
Sheila and I wish you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Love and peace Bill x