'Epiphany and Hygge - the heart of the hearth and the hearth of the heart...' with Karl and Mark Stewart, 10.1.2021

Welcome and opening words.

K: Welcome to this holy place, where we meet at the centre of the of this sanctuary. This is the home where all our beliefs and feelings meet, there is a Hearth at the centre of this place and a fire kindled in the spirit of love, care and compassion may we take this time together to rest form all our single journeys and journey together this hour. Amen.

M: Today’s service has been put together in response to the new lockdown situation in which we find ourselves. We’ve been thinking about what we need to do to get through this time and make the best of it, while acknowledging the pain it brings. We will also be looking for the jewels we might discover amidst the darkness of this time. With this in mind we have been thinking about the Danish concept of hygge, a warm cosy feeling of hunkering down at home, as well as acknowledging the Christian festival of Epiphany, which falls at this time, which marks the event of the wise men bringing their gifts to the baby Jesus.


K: So in the spirit of illuminating the darkness of this time, let us light our Unitarian Chalice flame as a beacon of hope and unity with our fellow beings, and our shared human condition.

HYMN 1 - P.82 – Joyful is the dark - M play
K: Our first hymn comes from our purple hymn book, no.82, Joyful is the dark, the words of which seek to celebrate the joy, revelation and the epiphanies that can be found in our literal and our figurative dark times.


I invite you now to enter with me into an extended period of guided meditation and reflection, during which we can ponder together on a variety of concepts which speak to our themes for today.

Between each section we will hear a musical refrain of Joyful is the Dark.

So I invite you to place yourself in a meditative space, open to receiving your own thoughts and feelings in response to what you are about to hear.

Allow the rhythm of your breathing to slow and settle.

I invite you to journey down into a space of receptivity, suspend interrogation and judgement. Allow a gentle curiosity to captain the course of your thoughts.

Musical refrain


“Hygge – spelt H – Y – G – G -E - is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.

It literally only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present.

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness. The undefinable feeling of hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate, acknowledge and break up the mundane or harsh. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of lighting a candle and enjoying a cup of coffee could make a huge difference to one’s spirit.”


“Hygge goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cosying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life.”


Musical refrain

The heart of the hearth and the hearth of the heart

So how can we use this concept of Hygge to help us through these dark times, in terms of the dark months of the year, the boredom, loneliness and isolation of lockdown, and the dark and looming presence of the virus, and all the pain, stress, uncertainty and change it has caused?

Another definition of hygge talks about evenings spent sat in front of the hearth, resting, basking, in the warm, soft glow of the fire’s embers. Drifting in space, out of time, but warm and protected, hypnotised by the small, flickering light.

But what if you don’t have a hearth? Basking in front of the radiator or the bar of an electric fire doesn’t quite create the same feeling of cosiness.

What is at the heart of our idea of the hearth?

And how can we find the hearth within our own hearts?

What is at the heart of our idea of the hearth?

And how can we find the hearth within our own hearts?

The hearth represents the centre,

The hearth is the part that warms,

The hearth is the place where nourishment comes from

The hearth illuminates the darkness

What is at the heart of our hearth?

A feeling of being held,

A feeling of being protected,

A solid structure, tall, upright and proud,

A chimney, a conduit to the divine,

The smoke of the spirit rises up

The light of the fire brings forth your

God-filled soul-womb

The light of the fire brings forth your

God-filled soul-womb

Where is that hearth within your heart?

Where is that hearth within your heart?

Look for the place that illuminates,

Look for the structure that will hold strong,

Look for the source that warms,

Look for the bricks that envelop

The light of the fire brings forth your

God-filled soul-womb

The heart of the hearth and the hearth our hearts

The heart of our hearth and the hearth of our hearts

Musical refrain

Safe in the shadows

‘Joyful is the dark

Shadowed stable floor

angels flicker, God on earth confessing’

How can we allow ourselves to feel safe, held and enveloped by the shadows?

Where will we find the depth of love divine in this darkness?

How can we allow this darkness to be a cradle for the dawning? 

Where is God hidden in the place?

Can we touch even here a holy, haunting beauty?

How can we allow ourselves to feel safe, held and enveloped by the shadows?

Hunker down

The word ‘hunker’ is first recorded in 18th Century Scottish dialect, meaning to squat or to crouch. Possibly from the Old Norse ‘huka’ to crouch, or ‘hoka’ to crawl. Later popularised in U.S dialect from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards, the phrase to ‘hunker down’, pretty well describes what we are having to do now – to lay low, to gather in our provisions, and to try to get through a time a difficulty, or even to try to make the best of it, or make ourselves as comfortable as we can through it.

Musical refrain



At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.

Our brainwaves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert.

Infra-Low brainwaves are thought to be the basic cortical rhythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Very little is known about infra-low brainwaves.

Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state.

Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness.

Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts. Alpha is being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain.

Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgement, decision making, or focused mental activity.

Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. The most subtle of the brainwave frequencies, the mind has to be quiet to access gamma.

Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love and altruism. It is speculated that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.

Musical refrain

So let’s emerge now from this period of guided meditation. Allow these concepts to sink below the surface of your consciousness. Watch them as they sink deeper and deeper into the depths of your unconscious mind, until they disappear from view into the darkness. Allow yourself to rise gently up and back into our shared virtual temple. Keep your soft glowing light close, and let it shine as a beacon to each other, and a source of comfort and protection for yourself.

HYMN 2 -P.139 – Sacred the body – M play
K: The virus threatens our physical bodies, and we are confronted with the vulnerability of our physical selves. And the virus threatens our spirits and our minds, with the fear it invokes. Let us not lament the weakness and fragility of our bodies, but let us celebrate their remarkable capacity to heal, to persist, and let us celebrate them as gifts from the divine, and as the temples of our souls.

Candles of Joy and Concern - M introduce


K: In answer to our prayers of lament, you are invited to respond to the words ‘Kum by yar my lord’ with the words ‘Kum by yar’

We lament this corona virus, and pray for healing for those who have contracted it, for those in hospital separated from loved ones, for loved ones who mourn those whose lives have been taken by the virus, for doctors and nurses over-stretched and exhausted. Kum by yar my lord.

Kum by yar

We lament those who have lost their livelihoods because of the virus, those whose education is being interrupted, stressed our parents trying to work and home-educate, those whose careers and life-plans have been put on hold because of it. Kum by yar my lord.

Kum by yar

We lament the toll the virus has taken on people’s mental health, the isolation and loneliness experienced by many who live alone, the way it has thrown into sharp relief the state for many of not having any loved ones, the frustration and despair of those who can’t do anything about it at this time, for those desperate for human touch, comfort and intimacy - Kum by yar my lord.

Kum by yar

Let us remember all who suffer in mind, body of spirit this hour, this moment, this day. May our God-light find a way to reach out to those in pain. May we have the courage and guidance to be God’s hands, God’s heart, God’s mind in this world. Kum by yar my lord.

Kum by yar

M: In response to our prayers of thanksgiving, to the petition ‘Oh what a blessing’, you are invited to respond ‘what a blessing indeed!’

We give thanks for the doctors, nurses and carers working on the front lines to heal and take care of those suffering with the corona virus, for their bravery, selflessness and their sacrifice. Oh what a blessing,

What a blessing indeed!

We give thanks for the scientists who developed the vaccines, and we give thanks for those who have stepped up to positions of responsibility, accountability and decision making during these difficult times, Oh what a blessing,

What a blessing indeed!

We give thanks for the kindness of neighbours, strangers and friends, for small acts of remembrance, sharing and generosity, for all those we depend on to keep body and soul together, who bring us food, who bring us light and warmth, who keep us connected, who uphold the law and keep us protected, Oh what a blessing,

What a blessing indeed!

Let us give thanks for the unsung heroes in this world, and small acts of self-sacrifice, restraint and bravery, for thoughtfulness and care. Oh what a blessing,

What a blessing indeed!

HYMN 3 – G.32 – Kum by yah – K play

M: Let us ask the Lord, our God, the spirit, the divine, the goodness and the bravery within human hearts to come to us in times of trouble, as we sing together the ancient refrain ‘Kum by yar’.

Karl Address

We have entered into a new church year, the first celebration of this is Epiphany. This is marked in such holy and sacred beauty in the whole Eastern and Western church not only does it go back over many generations, it still stands today with a ritual festival. Looking at what Epiphany is in the origin of the given meaning, from the Greek word epiphaneia meaning manifestation or appearance. What is also celebrated is the divinity of Christ the manifestation of the holy spirit from God through Christ as he was baptised by John the Baptist. As I say there is a festival ritual that marks this, with the presentation of specially made pastries shared in sacred hospitality.

As well as the small gifts received by children in their shoes in honour of the Magi’s visit to the Infant child Jesus. What a way to celebrate the marking of that signifiant twelfth night. As well as this its also the day where the three wise men as kings are there in witness to the birth of Christ.

I invite us now to look at how we start venturing this continuing and new journey together, I’d just like to ask a few questions. What is going to appear? What is going to manifest? What is going to change? How will you change? What might change in you?

For a moment looking at the gifts the wise men took to the Infant, frankincense believed to be of such sacred value, the scent of perfume that carries its use even today in communion services in Churches throughout world today, and the healing use of Myrrh in which we celebrate the blessed doctor Luke. And the Gold just to mark the kingship of the world, you could even invite the thought of the gold as use of currency. Having said that I’m not looking to embroider the whole understanding of these theological appendix together right at this moment. I am looking more towards these gifts that we all have.

Our frankincense the sacred scent that belongs to each one of us, is the scent of this going to some how guide your journey? As you explore this new and daily celebration of the enquiry to the spirit far beyond our knowing. Is the scent of the your own frankincense going to be placed along the path in little broken pieces burning in little fire places, for the smell to guide your way? Our Myrhh in a little bottle where you might need to heal along the journey, and somewhere placed along the path to heal someone in need? What is the gold going to do, how are you going to use it, is it going to be a reserve or a token to give as spiritual currency? Speaking for myself I wouldn’t want to represent kingship nor would I want to entitle myself to false presence or a state of being that allows me assume dominion.

As we venture through this journey we must also take the refuge within ourselves and places we share with others I hope we will welcome ourselves to the home within where there is a Hearth a heart in the middle, beating its time to each step as we take it, on this journey. Here are some questions to ponder.

What does the home within mean to you? How much is shared with others? Does the feeling of the Hearth inside know sacred hospitality? What are you expecting? What lies ahead out of this hibernation? What will you hope to find? How will you keep your own gold, frankincense and Myrhh? Will it be shared at the table when we all feast together again?

As we know we are staying home for a reason again only to well known and while we do this we will along with nature and all its creatures, in their hibernation come out of the nest once again and be at one with each other. For this time in our place of the home within allow the riches and gifts we have to be those we share with an open and unconditional heart.


HYMN 4 – G.204 - We shall overcome – K play
M: May our final hymn rouse us to hope and courage, as we push through the dark times with fortitude, in anticipation that a better tomorrow is possible, if we just work together and stand united as one human family.

Closing Words 

M: May your journey through this dark time be blessed

K: May you have an epiphany as you wrestle with whatever distress may befall you

M: May you discover new depths of courage, empathy and human connectedness within yourself

K: May you warm yourself in the glow of the hearth of your own heart.

Both: Amen

Closing music – K