URC Daily Devotion Monday 28th December 2020

Monday 28th December – The Coventry Carol

Both the words and music of this carol date back to the middle ages and put in sung form the dramatic, and horrific, slaughter of the Innocents.  Annie Lennox’s version of it is particularly haunting.

St Matthew 2: 16-18

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

The Coventry Carol

You can hear Annie Lennox’s version here

Lullay, lullay
My little tiny child
By-by, lullay, lullay

Oh, sisters too
how may we do
for to preserve this day?
This poor youngling
of whom we do sing.
By-by, lullay, lullay.

Herod the King
in his raging
charged he hath this day.
His men of might
in his own sight
all children young to slay.

Then woe is me
poor child for thee,
and ever mourn and say.
For thy parting
nor say, nor sing.
By-by, lullay, lullay.

Lullay, lullay
My little tiny child
By-by, lullay, lullay

This carol has a haunting, chilling tone to it, as it reminds us of the horror of Herod’s act to maintain his position.  It is not often heard in churches as we like to sing the rousing carols of celebration.  But it appeals to me as it shows us that the Nativity was never a cosy little tableau where everything was easy – where the straw was soft and gentle, and a glowing light surrounded everyone’s head.

There is no pain worse than losing a child – at whatever age.  Before birth, it is often hard for the mother to acknowledge her motherhood as she has nothing to show for it.  When a baby is lost we mourn the potential of what could have been.  As the child ages, their loss is no less felt, as the potential that has been lost is keenly felt and parents have to deal with the guilt that they feel as they think that it should have been them first.

To be with someone who has suffered the loss of a child, while heavily pregnant, or cradling your own baby brings almost unbearable feelings of guilt and almost a sense of wanting to hide what you have to protect the one who has lost.  Yet often this does not help, as those who are suffering want to know that life goes on.  But the grief does not go away.  The guilt of loss stays with you, however well you learn to manage it.

I wonder what Mary made of it all…..


Lord there is no greater loss than that of a child.  But you have been there, as you have given up your precious Son for us.   Be with us in our mourning that we may know your comfort, that we may know you share in our suffering and show us the light at the end of our darkness.  For your light is the hope we need always.  Amen


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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