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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Carols for the Animals

On Thursday at St Stephen Walbrook we hosted International Animal Rescue, recently made Charity of the Year by Justgiving, for their second service of Carols for the Animals with us.

The service included: the BATFA award winning actor and active supporter of animal charities, Peter Egan; Voxcetera, who formed in 2009 establishing themselves as a thriving chamber choir; the Massive Violins, seven cellists who play and sing their own arrangements of rock and pop classics with a bit of folk and classical music thrown in; Caroline Curtis Dolby, Chairwoman of the Fundraising Committee of International Animal Rescue; and Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue.

I shared the following reflection and prayers based on material from ASWA, James Jones and Glenn Pease:

In his birth Jesus is traditionally identified with the animal kingdom. Mary probably made it to Bethlehem riding on a donkey. Jesus was born in a space meant for the shelter of animals. He was laid in a manger meant for the feeding of animals. The first sounds he heard could well have been the sounds of animals. He was first announced to the shepherds whose whole life revolved around the care, feeding, and protection of animals. The Magi made their journey to worship Him on animals likely to have been camels. This means that “The birth of Jesus isn’t just about humans but about all of God’s creation.” (Michael Bourgeois)

The birth of Jesus and his being laid in a manger is actually a signal that the new world to come will be characterised by a very different relationship between humanity and the animal kingdom. The cradling of the Provider of Providence in a manger was a symbol that he is the One who feeds all creatures, both animal and human, and so echoes the song of Psalm 104 that ‘all creatures look to God to give them food in due season.’ As a result, our common calling is to praise our Creator WITH all creation and, as a result, all that we do now with the animal world should reflect the values of God’s coming Kingdom.

The manger is found in Bethlehem, a word meaning ‘House of Bread’, thus magnifying the symbol that God is the Provider of food for all his creatures. And the holiness of this animal’s feeding trough is magnified even further by yet another dimension. The Body of Christ is taken from his mother’s breast and then laid to rest in the manger for others to come and adore him. The Body of Christ is elevated there for all to come and worship; and to feed on him by faith and with thanksgiving. That which was designed and made to feed the animals is sanctified as it cradles the One ‘through whom and for whom all things have come into being’. The manger becomes the altar, the meeting point between God and his creatures.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world. Amen. (St. Basil the Great)

Almighty God, maker of all living things, in whose Fatherly wisdom we trust and depend, we remember with joy and gratitude, all your creatures, whose beauty and diversity enriches our lives beyond measure. We ask your forgiveness for the many ways in which animals are abused and exploited, through both ignorance and greed and we confess before You our part in their suffering, acknowledging the times we have remained silent, lacking the courage to speak out in their defence.
Help us, O Lord, as we endeavour to live in harmony with all Your creatures, leaving only the footprints of true discipleship upon this earth when we leave and not the deep scars of greed and exploitation. Encourage and inspire each one of us to be remembered for our simplicity of heart and generosity of spirit and for our ’oneness’ with all creation. Amen.


The Massive Violins - All I Want For Christmas.

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