From the Sanctuary
Happy New Year to you all – and Happy Christmas! That may seem a strange way to start this 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. How will this situation that I am faced with challenge, confirm or strengthen my faith? What is God requiring of me now? Where is God in this? There seems to have been an eternity of waiting for this pandemic to be over, so that we get back to some of our more group-related activities in Church – but it seems that we are still required to wait safely and responsibly, and be thankful for the many blessings that still abound.
Often the answer to these questions of ‘where God is’ 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. It is more difficult to trust the revelation of what is to come in God’s time.
Henri Nouwen 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,
We are sorry that, yet again, we will not be holding our Christingle Service. We know what a very special tradition this is for us all. We can only pray that 2022 sees a return to “normal” living.
There are limited number of Watchwords available if anyone would like a copy at £6 each. There are also a few Advent Star badges at £4.—see Sr Sue.
Just a reminder that we need your Mission Boxes returned for emptying during this month and any outstanding YPMA money should be given in, again to Sr Sue.
|The Minister and Church Committee|
would like to wish everyone a
very happy Christmas
and a peaceful New Year.
And there were shepherds…
Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus is brilliantly told – the angel’s visit to Mary to tell her she would be mother of the long-promised Messiah, the old priest in the Temple told by another angel that his wife would have a son to be called ‘John’, who would prepare the people of Israel for that event, and then Mary and Joseph making the 60 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as required by the Roman census. When they got there, no room at the inn, and they settled instead for a convenient stable, where Mary gave birth to a boy child.
Suddenly, Luke changes the tone. ‘And there were shepherds …’ – that’s what he actually wrote, just like that. ‘And there were shepherds’, doing exactly what shepherds do, looking after their flocks by night. But this night was different: yet another angelic message – a call to abandon their sheep and go into Bethlehem to see the baby Messiah. They were given directions and a ‘sign’ to identify Him. He would be lying in a feeding trough. Well, at least they would recognise that.
And why the shepherds, in this glorious story of our salvation? Because the event needed witnesses, and the chosen witnesses would be this bunch of scruffy, smelly shepherds straight from the sheep-pen. Nothing could speak more eloquently of God’s purpose than that. This was not a Saviour for the strong, rich and powerful, but for everybody. The carpenter and his wife guarded the Saviour of the world, and the very first witnesses were not kings or priests but a handful of shabby shepherds.
Why was Jesus born in a barn?
Our pretty Christmas cards do not do it justice – the stable that Jesus was born in would have been smelly, dirty, and full of mess. So why did God not provide something better for His beloved Son? Why let Joseph and Mary scrounge around until they ended up in a smelly stable?
Perhaps because the King of Kings being born in a foul stable is a perfect picture of redemption. Jesus came from glory into a world filled with the dirt, filth and darkness of sin. And Jesus was not put off by darkness in the least – instead, He came to be the Light of the World. Thank God for His unspeakable gift. No wonder the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
A Christmas Prayer
Loving Father, help us to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings us, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen
Robert Louis Stevenson
What a Christmas
The Bethlehem manger, shepherds, wise men, Jesus, Mary and Joseph – it’s all so familiar to older people, who are shocked to hear that younger generations may be hazy or ignorant of them. Aren’t they part of everyone’s education?
Yet the first Christmas was restricted to just a few. What 21st Century Christians proclaim as the most significant event in history began in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, without the pomp and publicity we associate with kingship and power. What modern media have called ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’, escaped everyone’s attention in first century Palestine.
This year, Christmas is going to be a busier celebration than last year, but probably not yet back to the normal fuss we usually make each December. The streets will be crowded, but shops may struggle with supplies. Parties will take place, but many people will feel reluctant join in. Family gatherings are allowed again, but the vulnerable may hesitate. Christmas services will be held, but as singing has the potential for droplet and aerosol transmission, music will be muted this year. A Christmas without many carols!
Many will struggle to hold their ‘usual’ Christmas. Yet God does not neglect us. This may be the very opportunity to rekindle or deepen our faith in what really matters about Christmas. Away from the hordes, perhaps completely alone this Christmas, we may sit quietly and allow our heavenly Father to draw near to us. We may picture Mary inviting us to gaze with her at her Son, born to save us from our sins. In the silence of our imagination, we may join the chorus of angels announcing His birth to the shepherds:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”
It was that chorus which inspired an American Minister, Edmund Sears, to write the Christmas hymn, ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’. Sears, troubled by the world’s turbulent history and failure to hear the Christmas message, was himself recovering from a breakdown. Written in 1849, his words have a timeless ring about them:
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
|Day||Date||WHAT’S ON IN DECEMBER 2021||Time|
|Sunday||5th||FAMILY SERVICE with|
HOLY COMMUNION led by
|Monday||6th||Church Committee meets on Zoom||7 pm|
|Wednesday||8th||M.W.A. Christmas Celebration||1.15 pm|
|Sunday||12th||FAMILY SERVICE led by Br John||11 am|
|Sunday||19th||FAMILY SERVICE led by Br Peter||11 am|
Service with Holy Communion