From the Sanctuary
Happy Christmas – but first – a New Year to you all! That may seem a strange way to start a missal for December, just when we are coming to the end of our Gregorian year. Yet Advent is the New Year in the Church’s calendar.
Advent is a season that is characterised by expectation. We anticipate the coming of Christ – the personification of God in the world. That expectation is symbolised profoundly in the nativity, where all await. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men – all wait for what is to come; all living out their faith in expectation, in very different, but profound ways.
There are many times when we seem to be at an advent in our lives – not just around Christmas. Times when we are waiting, and wondering, and seeking to know where God is in what is around us – probably no more so than now! Will these promised vaccines work? What will next year look like? How much longer do we have to wait for normality? How will this situation challenge, confirm or strengthen my faith? What is God requiring of me now? Where is God in this?
Often the answer to these questions eludes us. Sometimes the answer is within a process of patient unfolding – yet having patience is hard. It is easier to get in touch with the frustration and angst, to act out of anger and blame and impatience. It is more difficult to trust the revelation of what is to come in God’s time.
Henri Nouwen (a wise hero of mine) states that waiting patiently is not the same as waiting passively. It is an active process in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One who is to come. He states that the word ‘patience’ comes from the latin verb ‘patior’ which means ‘to suffer’. Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.
May you acknowledge, with patient anticipation, that which is to come; and find God’s presence in what is – rather than in what you hoped would be; and may you have a peaceful and faith-enhancing Christmas.
Wishing you every blessing,
The story of the Christingle
On 20th December 1747, John de Watteville was taking a children’s service in his Moravian church in Marienborn, Germany. He led the children in some hymns and read out verses which the children themselves had written to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Then he explained to the children that true happiness only comes through knowing Jesus. Jesus, said John de Watteville, “has kindled in each little heart a flame which keeps burning to their joy and our happiness”.
It is the Moravians whom we have to thank for bringing us the Christingle. Especially one Moravian clergyman: John de Watteville.
John de Watteville then went on to illustrate that ‘flame’. He gave each child a little lighted wax candle, tied around with a red ribbon. He ended his service with a little prayer: “Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become”.
The visual aid was a great success with the children; for the Marienborn Diary for that day concludes: “hereupon the children went full of joy with their lighted candles to their rooms and so went glad and happy to bed”.
The candle and red ribbon were remembered the following year, and the following after that…. The years came and went, and as the Moravians began to travel beyond Germany, so they took the custom with them: to Labrador, to Pennsylvania, to Tibet and Suriname, to the Caribbean and South Africa. In each country the Christians adapted it for their own use.
No one knows for certain when the word ‘Christingle’ was first used with regard to the custom. No one even knows where the word ‘Christingle’ comes from. Some people say it is from the old Saxon word ‘ingle’ (fire), meaning ‘Christ-fire or light’. Another theory is that it derives from the German ‘engel’ (angel), meaning ‘Christ-angel’.
In any event, the symbolism of Christingle gradually developed, until today the Moravians in the British Province use an orange, representing the world, with a lighted candle to represent Christ, the Light of the World. Nuts, raisins and sweets on cocktail sticks around the candle represent God’s bounty and goodness in providing the fruits of the earth. Red paper, forming a frill around the base of the candle, reminds us of the blood of Christ shed for all people on the cross at Calvary.
In Moravian churches, the Christingle Service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve.
|WHATS ON IN DECEMBER (Updated)|
|Sunday 6th December||Morning Worship on Zoom||11 a.m.|
|Monday 7th||Church Committee||7 p.m.|
|Tuesday 8th||Bible Study on Zoom||7 p.m.|
|Wednesday 9th||M.W.A. on Zoom|
NOTE NEW TIME
|Sunday 13th||Provincial Worship on the Web – the Facebook page will have a link.|
|Sunday 20th||Provincial Worship on the Web|
CHRISTINGLE SERVICE on Zoom
|Friday 25th||Worship for Christmas Day in Church||9.30 a.m.|
|Sunday 27th||NO SERVICE|
Our Christingle Service will still be held but with a difference. We are hoping that if you can join us, you will be able to make your own Christingle at home and join with us in a celebration of this event. More information will follow.
A new Saint’s Day has been declared for 17th December:
Eglantyne Jebb – founder of ‘Save the Children’
Here is a modern-day saint whose compassion and determination has saved literally millions of lives.
Eglantyne did not begin as an obvious ‘mover and shaker’ of people. Born in Shropshire in 1876, she grew up in Ellesmere, studied history at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, taught at Marlborough, and then resigned as she was not physically robust.
Eglantyne moved to live with her mother in Cambridge, and it would have been so easy to settle for a life of peaceful obscurity. But she was a Christian, and at Oxford she had developed a passion for social concerns, so this compassion now drove her to take action.
She began in 1906 by publishing research on the poverty she’d found in Cambridge.
Then in 1912 the Balkan Wars broke out, and Eglantyne left Cambridge for Macedonia. Her months among the refugees led her to decide that long-term constructive aid was more effective than short-term handouts.
The First World War left Eglantyne horrified by the prolonged Allied blockade on Germany and Austria-Hungary, which even after Armistice meant starvation for millions of civilians, especially children.
And so in1919 Eglantyne and her sister Dorothy Buxton helped found the ‘Fight the Famine’ Council, which wanted to end the blockade and establish a League of Nations.
One day during a rally in Trafalgar Square, Eglantyne was arrested for distributing a leaflet showing starving children which read: “Our blockade has caused this – millions of children are starving to death.”
She ended up in court and was fined, but the judge was so impressed with Eglantyne’s commitment to children that he himself paid her fine. His money became the first donation to Save the Children, the new charity just set up by Eglantyne and Dorothy.
Save the Children was officially launched at the Albert Hall in May 1919, with the aim of helping the starving civilians of central Europe. It was a success, raising £400,000 in that first year alone.
When in the autumn of 1921 Russia was facing famine, Save the Children chartered a cargo ship, the SS Torcello, to carry 600 tons of lifesaving food and medical supplies to Russia – saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
By 1922 Save the Children had become one of Britain’s biggest charities. Eglantyne’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child, written in 1923, was adopted by the League of Nations the following year. The present-day UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is derived from it.
But ten years of running Save the Children had sapped Eglantyne’s fragile strength, and she died in Geneva in 1928, aged only 52.