What a beautiful yet ambivalent evening in St Peter ad Vincula –
A lovely chapel in the heart of the Tower of London – lit only by candlelight
A wonderful choir sings the carols that have been sung through the years
The service, in the language of 1662,
Must have been said here most Christmas Eves since then.
Here we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace
Over a place where fifteen hundred bodies were buried
Thirty-three are now buried beneath the altar – some famous names like
Ann Boleyn, Lady Jane Gray or Catharine of Aragon
The Duke of Monmouth who led a rebellion
And the Duke of Wellington who brought victory in war.
The chaplain talks of Bethlehem and talks of his experiences in the Middle East.
I am grateful because I had been to another carol service
That entirely ignored the current situation in Bethlehem.
So I pray for my friends in Bethlehem – surrounded by a wall
As tonight I am surrounded by a wall
And I pray for peace in a place that reverberates with memories of blood and vengeance
And I pray about the news today in a place resonant with history
And I pray for healing in the Holy Land in a place
Where in earlier times people would have set out on crusades
And I long to feel hope in my soul…
But I feel fear for the citizens of the ‘little town’
Cut off, surrounded and under seige in Palestine.
I think of the wonderful, hopeful birth of the baby… but I also think of Herod
And I shiver…
© Garth Hewitt
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