I used to love Advent Sunday in my church choir-singing days, and I still do. Today the bough comes into the kitchen and we will add more things to it each day. Bough is a posh name for a slender branch of hazel with plenty of overhanging twigs that we go and find.
Whether faith-full or lapsed I think the words of those Advent hymns still hold resonance for many.
Hark, the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
Friday night choir practice would be cranking up for the Nine Lesson and Carols and the Midnight Service, and in the run up all those wonderful advent hymns...
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel....
Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say,
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”
and this year the seventh, The Wren Boys illustrated by Dermot Flynn..
'The old year, a tear in the eye of time...'
It is a cold day in Ireland, the 26th of December; frost lies thick on the blackthorn. A man walks the just-waking village, banging on every door, summoning the boys. Today is St. Stephen's Day, when legend has it that the Saint was betrayed by a wren's call, and the boys are off to the forest where they hope to find the traitorous bird and capture it by nightfall. But what will they do if their prey escapes them?
Inspired by the many myths of the wren and the Irish tradition of hunting it, Carol Ann Duffy's beautiful new Christmas poem takes us on a chase through a snowy, rural landscape and ends with a merry celebration. With gorgeous full-colour illustrations by Dermot Flynn throughout, The Wren-Boys will make a perfect stocking-filler this festive season.
Whilst the boys hunt the wren the robin looks on 'safe in its myth' and I looked on and thought to myself who knew there were all these myths about wrens.
We love Troglodytes troglodytes here. The wrens are our winter bird friends, tucked up in the nooks and crannies on the verandah and in the branches of the honeysuckle and the very bald Rambling Rector. They take over the swallows nests and build their own little mossy igloos inside, and then we have that fateful day when the swallows return and the grand designs will be turfed out, the wrens evicted. On a winter's evening they will all rise as of one when we open the front door, Magnus hops on the post box and settles back on his haunches to ponder it all, and in the years when the Christmas tree was just inside the door, the wrens would fly in and roost in there.
I will make a point of re-reading the complete set of these in the weeks before Christmas, they are a Laureate hymn of their own really, meanwhile...
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