The Canticle for Christmas Eve. What’s missing?


I’ve been using the Church of England’s prayers in the morning recently, and not just because I ought to, being a vicar and all.  I find the mixture of prayers based on scripture, the psalms and readings work well together.  I use an app called PCP (Pocket Comon Prayer) which makes life easy.  I could never get my head round the prayer books.  One great weakness of the Church of England’s prayers is the canticles.  These are songs in the bible which the liturgical committee has decided to vandalise.  Here’s this morning’s canticle as it appears in Common Worship and as it appears in the bible (NRSV) from Isaiah 35.  I’ve highlighted in bold the bits which have been sliced out.  The canticle has had removed those tricky referencs to Old Testament places; it has toned down the severity of God’s return and completely removed reference to the purpose of God’s return which is to create a holy people who dwell in a place of safety, protected by the Lord.

Canticle for Christmas Eve

The wilderness and the dry land shall rejoice, •
the desert shall blossom and burst into song.

They shall see the glory of the Lord, •
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weary hands, •
and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to the anxious, ‘Be strong, fear not,
your God is coming with judgement, •
coming with judgement to save you.’

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, •
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

Then shall the lame leap like a hart, •
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, •
and streams in the desert;

The ransomed of the Lord shall return with singing, •
with everlasting joy upon their heads.

Joy and gladness shall be theirs, •
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,*
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,*
but it shall be for God’s people;*
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

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One Response to The Canticle for Christmas Eve. What’s missing?

  1. Ian G says:

    In times past, I have found that the bits they miss out (all the denominations do it, especially since the onset of ‘Common Worship’) often provide the material and inspiration for a sermon. The vandalism serves God as it tells us what the Enemy fears.

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