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The story of the Christingle

The word ‘Christingle’ actually means ‘Christ Light’, and celebrates the light of Jesus coming into the world.   Stories of how the Christingle began look back to the Moravian Church, which is found in the Czech Republic.  The Moravians have held Christingle services for more than 200 years, and according to them, this is how the first Christingle might have been made:

Many years ago the children in a village were asked to bring a Christmas gift to put beside the crib in the church.  One family was very poor, and had no money for gifts, but the three children were still determined to take something.  The only nice thing they had was an orange, so they decided to give the Christ-child that. 

But then they discovered the top was going green, so the eldest cut it out, and put a candle in the hole.  To add some colour, one of the girls took a red ribbon from her hair and tied it around the middle of the orange.    It was hard to make the ribbon stay still, so they fastened it in place with toothpicks.  The toothpicks looked a bit bare, so the youngest child added some raisins to them.  

The children took their decorated orange lantern to the church for the Christmas Mass.  The other children sneered at their meagre gift, but the priest seized upon it with joy.  He held it up as an example of the true understanding of the meaning of Christmas, for the following reasons:  the orange is round, like the world; the candle gives us light in the dark, like the love of God; the red ribbon goes round the ‘world’, as a symbol of Christ’s blood, given for everyone;  the four sticks point in all directions, and symbolise that God is over all: North, South, East and West; and the fruit and nuts remind us of God’s blessings.

The Children’s Society first introduced the Christingle Service to The Church of England in 1968, and it has since become a popular event in the church calendar.  This candlelit celebration is an ideal way to share the key messages of the Christian faith, while helping to raise vital funds to help vulnerable children across the country.  Visit:  www.childrenssociety.org.uk

 

Do Join us for our Christingle Service on Sunday 23rd December at 10:30 am

 

 

Headstones

 

The rows of headstones silent stand

Their message clear, though mute;

That we, in Britain’s peaceful land

Must silently salute.

Our peace was bought at dreadful price

Through rain and fear and mud –

World conflict fought not once but twice

So twice the cost in blood.

 

Each headstone bears a single name

A single husband, son,

Who, when the call to duty came

They did what must be done.

 

So, think upon those rows of stones

Be silent, still as they

Remind us of those silent homes

From when they went away.

 

Yes, spare a while to think of them

It’s just two minutes’ time;

And say aloud, just once again

That well-remembered rhyme:

 

They grow not old as we grow old,

Nor do the years condemn;

But as the days and nights unfold,

We will remember them.

 

by Nigel Beeton                                         

 

Remembrance Sunday                      

 

Television relays the programme

As thousands attend the Albert Hall,

Music plays and prayers are uttered

Waiting for the poppy fall.

 

Young men and boys of tender age,

We must remember what it cost

As they fought to save our country,

Some came home and some were lost.

 

Wars will always be amongst us

Death and darkness, dread and fear,

But one day this all will vanish

When the Prince of Peace is here.

 

by Megan Carter

 


31st  October      All Hallows Eve – or Holy Evening

Modern Halloween celebrations have their roots with the Celtic peoples of pre-Christian times. 

In those long-ago days, on the last night of October, the Celts celebrated the Festival of Samhain, or ‘Summer’s End’.  The priests, or Druids, performed ceremonies to thank and honour the sun.  For there was a very dark side to all this: Samhain also signalled the onset of winter, a time when it was feared that unfriendly ghosts, nature-spirits, and witches roamed the earth, creating mischief.  So the Druid priests lit great bonfires and performed magic rites to ward off or appease these dark supernatural powers.

Then the Romans arrived, and brought their Harvest Festival which honoured the Goddess Pomona with gifts of apples and nuts. The two festivals slowly merged.

When Christianity arrived still later, it began to replace the Roman and Druid religions.  1st November - All Saints’ Day - was dedicated to all Christian Martyrs and Saints who had died.  It was called ‘All Hallows’ Day’. The evening before became an evening of prayer and preparation and was called ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, The Holy Evening, later shortened to ‘Halloween’. 

For many centuries, however, fear of the supernatural remained strong.  During the Middle Ages, animal costumes and frightening masks were worn to ward off the evil spirits of darkness on Halloween.  Magic words and charms were used to keep away bad luck, and everybody believed that witches ride about on broomsticks.  Fortune telling was popular, and predicting the future by the use of nuts and apples was so popular that Halloween is still sometimes known as Nutcrack Night or Snap-Apple Night.

Today, Christians have learned to turn to prayer instead of charms to overcome the powers of darkness.   And the deeper, true meaning of All Hallows’ Eve, should not be forgotten.  As Christians, we all draw closer to Christ when we remember and give thanks for our loved ones and for others who have gone before us through the gates of death.

 

 

St. Swithin's day, if thou dost rain, 
For forty days it will remain; 
St. Swithin's day, if thou be fair, 
For forty days 'twill rain na mair.

 

15th July          St Swithun (or Swithin) - Saint for a Rainy Day

 

St. Swithun is apparently the saint you can blame for rainy summers.  It is said that if it rains on his special day, 15th July, it will then rain for 40 days after that.  It all began when Swithun was made Bishop of Winchester in 852 by King Ethelwulf of Wessex. It was an important posting:  Winchester was the capital of Wessex, and during the 10 years Swithun was there, Wessex became the most important kingdom of England.  

During his life, instead of washing out people’s summer holidays, and damping down their spirits, Swithun seems to have done a lot of good.  He was famous for his charitable gifts and for his energy in getting churches built.  When he was dying in 862, he asked that he be buried in the cemetery of the Old Minster, just outside the west door. 

If he had been left there in peace, who knows how many rainy summers the English may have been spared over the last 1000 years.  But, no, it was decided to move Swithun.  By now, the 960s, Winchester had become the first monastic cathedral chapter in England, and the newly installed monks wanted Swithun in the cathedral with them.  So finally, on 15 July 971, his bones were dug up and Swithun was translated into the cathedral. 

That same day many people claimed to have had miraculous cures.  Certainly everyone got wet, for the heavens opened.  The unusually heavy rain that day, and on the days following, was attributed to the power of St Swithun.  Swithun was moved again in 1093, into the new Winchester cathedral.  His shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the middle ages.  The shrine was destroyed during the Reformation and restored in 1962.  There are 58 ancient dedications to Swithun in England. 

 

18th May - Day of Pentecost                        20th May - Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost took place on the well-established Jewish festival of Firstfruits, which was observed at the beginning of the wheat harvest.  It was exactly 50 days after the Passover, the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

A feast day to celebrate the country’s wheat harvest does not sound exactly world-changing, but that year, it became one of the most important days in world history.  For Pentecost was the day that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit - the day the Church was born.

Jesus had told His disciples that something big was going to happen, and that they were to wait for it in Jerusalem, instead of returning to Galilee.   Jesus had plans for His disciples – but He knew they could not do the work themselves – they would need His help.

And so they waited in Jerusalem, praying together with his other followers, for many days. And then on that fateful morning there was suddenly the sound as of a mighty rushing wind.  Tongues of flame flickered on their heads, and they began to praise God in many tongues – to the astonishment of those who heard them. The curse of Babel (Genesis 11: 1- 9) was dramatically reversed that morning.    

That morning the Holy Spirit came to indwell the disciples and followers of Jesus: and the Church was born.  The Christians were suddenly full of life and power, utterly different from their former fearful selves.  The change in them was permanent.

Peter gave the first ever sermon of the Christian Church that morning:  proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah.  His boldness in the face of possible death was in marked contrast to the man who had denied Jesus 50 days before.   And 3,000 people responded, were converted, and were baptised.  How’s that for fast church growth!

Of course, Pentecost was not the first time the Holy Spirit had acted in this world.  All through the Old Testament there are accounts of how God’s Spirit guided people and strengthened them.  But now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, He could INDWELL them.  From now on, every Christian could have the confidence that Jesus was with them constantly, through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

10th May 2018

 Ascension Day - 40 Days with the Risen Christ

40 days after Easter comes Ascension Day. These are the 40 days during which the Risen Christ appeared again and again to His disciples, following His death and resurrection.  (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; and John 20.)

The Gospels give us little of Christ’s teachings and deeds during those 40 days.  Jesus was seen by numerous of His disciples: on the road to Emmaus, by the Sea of Galilee, in houses, etc.  He strengthened and encouraged His disciples, and at last opened their eyes to all that the Scriptures had promised about the Messiah.  Jesus also told them that as the Father had sent Him, He was now going to send them - to all corners of the earth, as His witnesses.

Surely the most tender, moving ‘farewell’ in history took place on Ascension Day.   Luke records the story with great poignancy:  “When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands - and blessed them.” 

As Christmas began the story of Jesus’ life on earth, so Ascension Day completes it, with His return to His Father in heaven.   Jesus’ last act on earth was to bless His disciples.  He and they had a bond as close as could be:  they had just lived through three tumultuous years of public ministry and miracles – persecution and death – and resurrection!  Just as we part from our nearest and dearest by still looking at them with love and memories in our eyes, so exactly did Jesus:  ‘While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.’  (Luke 24:50-1)   He was not forsaking them, but merely going on ahead to a kingdom which would also be theirs one day:  ‘I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God...’  (John 20:17)

The disciples were surely the most favoured folk in history.  Imagine being one of the last few people on earth to be face to face with Jesus, and have Him look on you with love.  No wonder then that Luke goes on: ‘they worshipped Him - and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’    (Luke 24:52,53)

No wonder they praised God!  They knew they would see Jesus again one day!  ‘I am going to prepare a place for you... I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ (John 14:2,3)  In the meantime, Jesus had work for them to do: to take the Gospel to every nation on earth.

 

 

 

 

EASTER  –  the most joyful day of the year

Easter is the most joyful day of the year for Christians.  Christ has died for our sins. We are forgiven.   Christ has risen!  We are redeemed!   We can look forward to an eternity in His joy! Hallelujah! 

The Good News of Jesus Christ is a message so simple that you can explain it to someone in a few minutes.  It is so profound that for the rest of their lives they will still be ‘growing’ in their Christian walk with God.

Why does the date move around so much? Because the date of Passover moves around, and according to the biblical account, Easter is tied to the Passover.    Passover celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and it lasts for seven days, from the middle of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which equates to late March or early April.

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first to use the Hebrew lunar calendar to come up with firm dates for Good Friday: Friday 7 April 30 AD or Friday 3 April, 33 AD, with Easter Day falling two days later.  Modern scholars continue to think these the most likely. 

Most people will tell you that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is broadly true.  But the precise calculations are complicated and involve something called an ‘ecclesiastical full moon’, which is not the same as the moon in the sky.  The earliest possible date for Easter in the West is 22 March, which last fell in 1818. The latest is 25 April, which last happened in 1943. 

Why the name, ‘Easter’?  In almost every European language, the festival’s name comes from ‘Pesach’, the Hebrew word for Passover.  The Germanic word ‘Easter’, however, seems to come from Eostre, a Saxon fertility goddess mentioned by the Venerable Bede.  He thought that the Saxons worshipped her in ‘Eostur month’, but may have confused her with the classical dawn goddesses like Eos and Aurora, whose names mean ‘shining in the east’.  So, Easter might have meant simply ‘beginning month’ – a good time for starting up again after a long winter.

Finally, why Easter eggs?  On one hand, they are an ancient symbol of birth in most European cultures.  On the other hand, hens start laying regularly again each Spring.  Since eggs were forbidden during Lent, it’s easy to see how decorating and eating them became a practical way to celebrate Easter. 

 

Jesus’ appearances after His Resurrection

 

The following list of witnesses may help you put all those references in order….

 

Mary Magdalene                                Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18

Other women at the tomb                  Matthew 28:8-10

Peter in Jerusalem                              Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5

The two travellers on the road           Mark 16:12,13

10 disciples behind closed doors        Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25

11 disciples WITH Thomas                  John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5

7 disciples while fishing                      John 21:1-14

11 disciples on the mountain              Matthew 28:16-20

A crowd of 500                                    1 Corinthians 15:6

Jesus’ brother – James                        1 Corinthians 15:7

Those who saw the Ascension            Luke 24:44-49;  Acts 1:3-8

 

Why Easter will never go away

How do you make sense of the Resurrection?  Dead men don’t rise, so why believe that this particular dead man did rise?

At the end of St Luke’s Gospel we read that: “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement” (Luke 24.4).  This is highly significant.  The Gospels do not show us a group of disciples who were in a receptive frame of mind.  After the crucifixion, they were in hiding, frightened and scattered.  Then suddenly, they came out of hiding and were totally different; excited, joyful.   By Pentecost they were confident, with one firm message: “You crucified Jesus, but God raised him up!” 

How did they know this?  Because of direct personal experience.  Some of them had visited the tomb of Jesus: it was empty.  Others claimed to have seen and touched the risen Lord.  Were they hallucinating?  People can hallucinate in groups – when taking drugs, for example. But, of course each one will see a different hallucination.  But the disciples all saw the same thing.  Or rather, the same person.  Jesus.

Were they lying?  Jesus had died a humiliating death as a criminal. Perhaps they wanted to rescue His good name. So did they pretend they had seen Him? 

This theory has a big problem.  Their preaching led them into trouble with the authorities. They were beaten and imprisoned and some of them killed.  People will die for ideas and causes which they believe in passionately.  But not for things they have made up.  We might suffer for our convictions, we will not suffer for our inventions.

What about the ‘swoon’ theory?  That Jesus didn’t die on the cross, despite terrible wounds. He recovered in the tomb,  and then escaped.  The disciples nursed Him back to health.  But Roman soldiers knew when a man was dead; and there was the guard on the tomb.  Also, the events which followed simply don’t fit. If the disciples had been hiding Jesus, they would have kept very low-key, and out of the way, so that the authorities did not come after Him again.

Besides, to preach that God had raised Jesus from the dead – which is exactly what they did preach – would have been a lie.  Beatings and threat of death would soon have loosened their tongues. Inventions crumble under pressure; convictions hold fast.

Another reason for believing in the Resurrection is this:   Jesus’ continuing impact.  Thousands and soon millions of people in every generation since have shared an inescapable sense of being ‘accompanied’ through life.  Though unseen, they identify this presence as the Risen Lord.

Sometimes this experience of meeting Jesus is gentle and fitful. Sometimes it is dramatic and life-changing.  This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus is not just an interesting historical puzzle.  It is a vital, present day reality. It brings wonderful comfort, assuring us of the central Christian truths: death is dead; Jesus is alive; God is love.

This central notion was captured, most movingly, by the great Albert Schweitzer:  ‘He came to those men who knew Him not.  He speaks to us the same word:  “Follow thou me”, and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time.  He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the suffering which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is.’ Have a joyful – and a challenging – Easter.

 

17th March: St Patrick's Day

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.  If you’ve ever been in New York on St Patrick’s Day, you’d think he was the patron saint of New York as well... the flamboyant parade is full of American/Irish razzmatazz. 

 

It’s all a far cry from the hard life of this 5th century humble Christian who became in time both bishop and apostle of Ireland.   Patrick was born the son of a town councillor in the west of England, between the Severn and the Clyde.  But as a young man he was captured by Irish pirates, kidnapped to Ireland, and reduced to slavery. He was made to tend his master’s herds.

 

Desolate and despairing, Patrick turned to prayer.  He found God was there for him, even in such desperate circumstances. He spent much time in prayer, and his faith grew and deepened, in contrast to his earlier years, when he “knew not the true God”. 

 

Then, after six gruelling, lonely years he was told in a dream he would soon go to his own country.  He either escaped or was freed, made his way to a port 200 miles away and eventually persuaded some sailors to take him with them away from Ireland. 

 

After various adventures in other lands, including near-starvation, Patrick landed on English soil at last, and returned to his family.  But he was much changed.  He had enjoyed his life of plenty before; now he wanted to devote the rest of his life to Christ. Patrick received some form of training for the priesthood, but not the higher education he really wanted.

 

But by 435, well educated or not, Patrick was badly needed.   Palladius’ mission to the Irish had failed, and so the Pope sent Patrick back to the land of his slavery.  He set up his see at Armagh, and worked principally in the north.    He urged the Irish to greater spirituality, set up a school, and made several missionary journeys. 

 

Patrick’s writings are the first literature certainly identified from the British Church.  They reveal sincere simplicity and a deep pastoral care.   He wanted to abolish paganism, idolatry, and was ready for imprisonment or death in the following of Christ.

 

Patrick remains the most popular of the Irish saints. The principal cathedral of New York is dedicated to him, as, of course, is the Anglican cathedral of Dublin.

 

 

 

1st March is St David’s Day, and it’s time for the Welsh to wear daffodils or leeks. Shakespeare called this custom ‘an honourable tradition begun upon an honourable request’ - but nobody knows the reason.  Why should anyone have ever ‘requested’ that the Welsh wear leeks or daffodils to honour their patron saint? It’s a mystery!

 

We do know that David - or Dafydd - of Pembrokeshire was a monk and bishop of the 6th century.  In the 12th century he was made patron of Wales, and he has the honour of being the only Welsh saint to be canonised and culted in the Western Church. Tradition has it that he was austere with himself, and generous with others - living on water and vegetables (leeks, perhaps?!) and devoting himself to works of mercy.  He was much loved.

 

In art, St David is usually depicted in Episcopal vestments, standing on a mound with a dove at his shoulder, in memory of his share at an important Synod for the Welsh Church, the Synod of Brevi.

 

Ash Wednesday

mourning our sins

 

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.  But why 'Ash' Wednesday?  The reason has to do with getting things right between you and God, and the tradition goes right back to the Old Testament.

 

In the Old Testament, the Israelites often sinned.  When they finally came to their senses, and saw their evil ways as God saw them, they could do nothing but repent in sorrow.   They mourned for the damage and evil they had done.  As part of this repentance, they covered their heads with ashes.  For the Israelites, putting ashes on your head, and even rending your clothes, was an outward sign of their heart-felt repentance and acknowledgement of sin.  (See Genesis 18:27; 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 2:8, 30:19; Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:6)

 

 In the very early Christian Church, the yearly 'class' of penitents had ashes sprinkled over them at the beginning of Lent. They were turning to God for the first time, and mourning their sins.   But soon many other Christians wanted to take part in the custom, and to do so at the very start of Lent.  They heeded Joel's call to 'rend your hearts and not your garments' (Joel 2:12-19).  Ash Wednesday became known as either the 'beginning of the fast' or ‘the day of the ashes’.

 

 The collect for today goes back to the Prayer Book, and stresses the penitential character of the day. It encourages us with the reminder of the readiness of God to forgive us and to renew us. 

 

The Bible readings for today are often Joel 2:1-2, 12 – 18,  Matthew 6: 1-6,16 – 21 and Paul’s moving catalogue of suffering, "as having nothing and yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10)

 

The actual custom of 'ashing' was abolished at the Reformation, though the old name for the day remained.  Today, throughout the Church of England, receiving the mark of ashes on one’s forehead is optional.   Certainly the mark of ashes on the forehead reminds people of their mortality:   "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return..."  (Genesis 3:19)

 

The late medieval custom was to burn the branches used on Palm Sunday in the previous year in order to create the ashes for today. 

 

 The Collect for Ash Wednesday is:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

 

 

 

6 January Epiphany

On 6th January we celebrate Epiphany - the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus. But who were these wise men? No one knows for sure. Matthew calls them ‘Magi’, and that was the name of an ancient caste of a priestly kind from Persia. It wasn’t until the third century that they were called kings - by a church father, Tertullian. 

Another church father, Origin, assumed there were three - to correspond with the gifts given. Later Christian interpretation came to understand gold as a symbol of wisdom and wealth, incense as a symbol of worship and sacrifice, and myrrh as a symbol of healing - and even embalming. Certainly Jesus challenged and set aright the way in which the world handled all three of these things. Since the 8th century, the magi have had the names Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior.

Where did the Wise Men come from?

Magi from the East – it isn’t a lot to go on. The Magi had originally been a religious caste among the Persians. Their devotion to astrology, divination and the interpretation of dreams led to an extension in the meaning of the word, and by the first century the Magi in Matthew’s gospel could have been astrologers from outside of Persia. Some scholars believe they might have come from what was then Arabia Felix, or as we would say today, southern Arabia. 

Certainly, in the first century astrology was practised there, and it was the region where the Queen of Sheba had lived. She of course had visited Solomon and would have heard the prophecies about how one day a Messiah would be born to the Israelites and become their king. 

Matthew’s gospel (chapter 2) is clear that the Magi asked Herod: ‘Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ So it is possible that in southern Arabia the Queen of Sheba’s story of how a Messiah would one day be sent to the Israelites had survived. Certainly, there are a number of other early legends that connect southern Arabia with Solomon’s Israel. 

To many people this makes sense: that the ancient stories of a Messiah, linked to later astrological study, prompted these alert and god-fearing men to the realisation that something very stupendous was happening in Israel. They realised that after all these centuries, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, was about to be born. 

One more interesting thing that gives weight to the theory that the magi came from southern Arabia is this: if you study any map of Palestine as it was during biblical times, you will find that the old Arabian caravan routes all entered Palestine ‘from the East’. 

What about the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

The story of the coming of the Magi grew in the telling. By the 6th century they had acquired names: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. By medieval times they were considered to be kings. Whoever they were, we do know from Matthew that they brought three gifts to Jesus. 

What about their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? While we cannot know for sure what was in the minds of first century Magi, one Victorian scholar has offered a possible explanation as to the significance of their gifts. He was the Rev John Henry Hopkins, an American Episcopalian minister, who in 1857 wrote his much-loved Christmas carol, ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’.

Gold, said John Henry Hopkins, was a gift that would have been given to a king. Frankincense had traditionally been brought by priests as they worshipped God in the Temple. Myrrh was a spice that the ancients used in preparing bodies for burial. 

If that is true, then you could say that the Wise Men, in choosing their gifts for this infant, honoured Jesus with gold because He was King of the Jews, with frankincense because He was to be worshipped as divine; and with myrrh, because He would also become a sacrifice and die for His people.

The Wise Men were the very first gentiles ever to worship Jesus. What faith they had! They travelled for months over difficult terrain, they never saw any evidence of Jesus’ kingship, His divinity or His sacrificial death. They worshipped Him through faith in God’s promises about Him. Isaiah foresaw this response to Jesus: ‘Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.’ The Magi’s eyes of faith saw clearly and far into the future. 

1st January 2018

 

 

1st December 2017

 

With Christmas in mind...

Take C-H-R-I-S-T out of Christmas and you're left with a “miss." - Anon

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect. - Anon


The Son came out from the Father to help us to come out from the world; He descended to us to enable us to ascend to Him. - Anthony of Padua

Christ became what we are that He might make us what he is. - Athanasius

In Jesus Christ heaven meets earth and earth ascends to heaven. - Anon

 

6th November 2017

We Remember

The Somme, Dunkirk and Passchendaele
Cause us to think of times of war,
When men and boys went bravely out
They fought, some died and returned no more.

They gave their all that we should live,
We never should forget such cost,
Remembering with thankful hearts
Our freedom gained as lives were lost.

Another Man gave up His life,
Another war, another fight,
With all mankind held fast in chains
As darkness fell as black as night.

The cost was high, a sinless life
To break the chains and set us free,
The Lamb of God on Calvary’s cross
Paid that price for you and me.


By Megan Carter

 

 

30th October

 

 

25th October

Emergency Numbers

While on holiday I noticed a Church had a set of Bible references called 'Emergency Numbers' displayed both inside the Church and on noticeboards outside.These serve as a great reference point both for worshipping Christians and the wider community.

1st July 2017

The Hand of Christ

The hand of Christ rests gently on my head,
Love’s blessings flow from God’s eternal heart
Into my veins.
The Spirit’s breath pulsates within my soul
And in the life that Christ has won for all
On Calvary’s hill
I step out gladly into God’s Creation,
There to praise the holy Name of God,
In triune-majesty forever reigning.
 
O God most high,
Most Holy Father, blessed Son,
and gracious Spirit, Three-in-One.
We bow before the eternal throne
and, in the strength of love received,
we give your love in blessing
to your world.


By Sam Doubtfire

 

Pentecost - Whit Sunday

Pentecost took place on the well-established Jewish festival of Firstfruits, which was observed at the beginning of the wheat harvest.  It was exactly 50 days after the Passover, the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

A feast day to celebrate the country’s wheat harvest does not sound exactly world-changing, but that year, it became one of the most important days in world history.  For Pentecost was the day that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit - the day the Church was born.

Jesus had told His apostles that something big was going to happen, and that they were to wait for it in Jerusalem, instead of returning to Galilee.   Jesus had plans for his apostles – but He knew they could not do the work themselves – they would need His help.

And so the apostles and disciples waited in Jerusalem, praying together for several days. And then on that fateful morning there was suddenly the sound as of a mighty rushing wind.  Tongues of flame flickered on their heads, and they began to praise God in many tongues – to the astonishment of those who heard them. The curse of Babel (Genesis 11: 1- 9) was dramatically reversed that morning.    

That morning the Holy Spirit came to indwell the apostles and disciples of Jesus: and the Church was born.  The Christians were suddenly full of life and power, utterly different from their former fearful selves.  The change in them was permanent.

Peter gave the first ever sermon of the Christian Church that morning:  proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah.  His boldness in the face of possible death was in marked contrast to the man who had denied Jesus 50 days before.   And 3,000 people responded, were converted, and were baptised.  How’s that for fast church growth!

Of course Pentecost was not the first time the Holy Spirit had acted in this world.  All through the Old Testament there are accounts of how God’s Spirit guided people and strengthened them.  But now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, he could INDWELL them.   From now on, every Christian could have the confidence that Jesus was with them constantly, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

Come, Holy Spirit of Jesus

(Rev 3:20 Acts 2:4)

At my invitation,
at the opening of my heart,
just as you promised, Lord, you come,
to ignite your flame of love and presence,
to leap through words of scripture 
and prayers and songs.

Into my life, Lord, you come,
bringing purpose, joy, peace
and the assurance
that this is just the beginning 
of forever and ever.

Holy Spirit of Jesus
come, fill me, comfort me, 
equip me, inspire me 
today.


By Daphne Kitching

 

Making Time to Pray...

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task;
'Why doesn't God help me?' I wondered.
He answered, 'You didn't ask.'
I wanted to see joy and beauty
But the day toiled on grey and bleak
I wondered why God didn't show me
He said, 'But you didn't seek',
I tried to come into God's presence;
I used all my keys in the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
'My child, you didn't knock.'


I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

 

Author Unknown

                  

 

A Little Humour....

Enjoy!

A father was approached by his small son who told him proudly,

"I know what the Bible means!"
His father smiled and replied,

"What do you mean, you 'know' what the Bible means?
The son replied,

"I do know!"
"Okay," said his father. "What does the Bible mean?"
"That's easy, Daddy..." the young boy replied excitedly," It stands for 'Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.' 

========

There was a very gracious lady who was mailing an old family Bible to her brother in another part of the country.


"Is there anything breakable in here?" asked the postal clerk.  

"Only the Ten Commandments," answered the lady.

 ========

Somebody has said there are only two kinds of people in the world.  There are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good morning, Lord," and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good Lord, it's morning."

 ========

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn't find a space with a meter.  Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read:

"I have circled the block 10 times. If I don't park here, I'll miss my appointment.   Forgive us our trespasses."


When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note:

"I've circled this block for 10 years.  If I don't give you a ticket I'll lose my job.  Lead us not into temptation."

========

There is the story of a pastor who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation:

"I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad news is, it's still out there in your pockets."

========

While driving in Pennsylvania , a family caught up to an Amish carriage.  The owner of the carriage obviously had a sense of humour, because attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign...

"Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass.  Caution: Do not step in exhaust."

======

A Sunday School teacher began her lesson with a question,

"Boys and girls, what do we know about God?"
A hand shot up in the air.

"He is an artist!" said the kindergarten boy.


"Really? How do you know?" the teacher asked.


"You know - Our Father, who does art in Heaven..."

========

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with fuel just before a long holiday weekend.  The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him.  Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.


"Reverend," said the young man, "I'm so sorry about the delay.  It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip."


The minister chuckled, "I know what you mean.  It's the same in my business."

========

People want the front of the bus, the back of the church, and the centre of attention.

========

                                                   

                                                            The Heart of Things                                                                      

I had trained as an apprentice engineer in the maintenance of textile machinery and so when something went wrong with any of the functions, we set about repairing the fault and getting the machine back into production.

Now I see machinery on television which appears much more complicated and also uses the latest technology, most of which I would not understand. Such machinery operates at speeds which probably makes matters more difficult when anything goes wrong. I realise when talking to people involved, that diagnostic equipment which shows faults has also improved, so in fact problems are solved with haste. This results in goods and services not being delayed for too long.

It is the same with our cars. With all the added equipment, you need a computer to fix the faults and that has to be tuned for the error causing the problem to be fixed.

I often wonder when doing repair work, and now when I see the equipment operating, if the designers would have done things differently if they were the ones who would have to fix any problems that occurred later.

My thoughts, drifting around such things, often bring me back to our human frames and body make up, and I realise there must have been a designer of this complicated piece of mechanism we call us.

In Genesis Ch 1 to 3  we are told the designer was God. He looked at creation as it was developing and thought that a human person could live there and develop life and nature to make a beautiful planet. A great idea! -Adam and Eve became God’s representatives to start on the great task of making a world where people could live and enjoy the beauty of all that nature could produce for their needs of life to be met. Sadly, things didn’t go well along the way, and faults have occurred.

God persevered and in the end sent his son Jesus to try and sort things out. Unfortunately those who should have supported him became jealous of his popularity and we know the result was a Cross on Calvary. But God had other plans. This was the start of a new era to empower the friends Jesus had trained to take over the task of telling the people of the good news: Jesus was still alive and contactable to put things back into working order.

This is at the Heart of Things, the Gospel, the good news that God, though sometimes it does not seem like it, is still there to put things right when they go wrong.

 

Whisper a prayer in the morning,

Whisper a prayer at noon,

Whisper a prayer in the evening,

To keep your heart in tune.

 

For God answers prayer in the morning,

God answers prayer at noon,

God answers prayer in the evening,

To keep your heart in tune.

Now for the maths. I believe the human heart beats somewhere about 60 times a minute when functioning properly. How old are you?

So 60 X 60 beats per hour 360; 360 X 24 beats per day 8640; 8640 X 365 beats per year 3153600. How old are you? 3153600 X? Quite a total! My calculator had not enough numbers.  

I reckon for me there was a designer to make it all possible don't you? I call him God my guardian and heavenly father.

With thanks also to the many repairers in the NHS.

 

Yours,

Ron.

  

A thought for the year ahead...

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, "Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"

And he replied, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."    Minnie Louise Haskins 1908

 

 

Why the Shepherds?

Isn't it strange that princes and kings,

And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,

That ordinary folk like you and me,

Are builders of eternity?

R Lee Sharpe

We were watching a recording of the "Big Sing" and as we enjoyed the carols, I wondered if they would sing "While shepherds watched their flocks by night" (they didn't). I could not remember singing the carol at any service I had been to this year and wondered why that was the case.

This started a train of thought about why the Angels visited the shepherds up on the hillside above Bethlehem when there were plenty of people in the little town. A fair question!

Let’s set the scene: shepherds getting together, having led their flocks through the day to find places to let them graze on the sparse grasses available; sheep hopefully settled for the night in their flocks; shepherds eating their evening food, drinking probably water from the oasis and chatting about their day’s travels and what they had seen. There would no doubt be some comments about how crowded the little town was because of the census requirements, whereas where they now were, all was quiet except for the murmur of the wind in the hills.

Suddenly all was to change. The sky lit up like they had never seen it before. There were singing voices with a big announcement about some baby that had just arrived and was born in a backyard stable at the inn. When things had calmed a little, they tried to come to terms with all that had been said to them, as though they were meant to do something about it. No doubt someone will have said, "We must go and see what all this is about."

They selected who should go and investigate, and who should stay and keep guard in case it was all some rustlers’ hoax to get them away so they could plunder their flocks.

Off a group went and when they got down the hill, they found all sorts of family reunions and get-togethers. They searched and asked until they came to the stable in the Inn’s backyard. As they entered, they found it to be as the Angel voices had proclaimed, "a baby in the cattle's manger."

Humbly, I reckon, they knelt and looked in awe and wonder at this little fellow sleeping in the cattle's feeding trough. They worshiped him and I figure they brought their gift, one of their lambs possibly born on that same day. "Amazing Wow!" (Remember our Christingle Service?)

What a story they had to tell their mates when they got to the hills: We have seen the baby that the Heavenly Choirs sang about – it’s really true! We felt he was someone very special!

It could all have ended there - they could have kept their secret.

In the Middle East in 1952/3 I saw nomadic shepherds with their flocks. They always walked in front when on the move, and you could hear them quietly urging their flocks to follow and keep up.

Our Shepherds were nomadic at the time of the birth of Jesus as they travelled about the areas finding grazing for their flocks. I reckon wherever they went they told their story of their night’s experience on the hills near Bethlehem because they knew in their hearts there was something very special about this baby. So the spread of the gospel, the good news, began.

Did you find time to stop among all your Christmas activities to think about that baby in the manger? Did you find him like the shepherds and think here is someone special? I hope you did and will, like the shepherds, mention him to others.

I pray you will - there has perhaps never been a more important time when the "Old, Old Story" needs telling.

With every blessing for the New Year.          

Ron        

 

Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is coming and the shops and T.V. adverts all remind us this fact, like it or not. No doubt you are making plans of how you will spend Christmas, most likely with family and or friends?

Advent 1 Nazareth

What about the family involved in the first Christmas?

It's the story of a young couple in love who were making their arrangements for their forthcoming wedding. Mary, the young lady involved, was thinking of her wedding dress, about the home she and her young man Joseph were hoping to have ready for when they got back from their honeymoon. At the same time, Joseph was busy fitting jobs in and getting nice pieces of furniture ready for moving to their new home together - great! Then suddenly all went awry. Mary had a visitor who told her that she was being specially selected to be the mother of a very special baby and before or shortly after their planned wedding, the baby boy - a Son - would be born. How could she break the news to Joseph? She had not been unfaithful but although she felt he loved her dearly, would he believe her story?

God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform and accomplish. He had a word with Joseph saying that he could go ahead with the marriage arrangements and that the baby Mary was to bare, by being born in this way, was His chosen way to communicate with the world.

We cannot imagine how the two of them braved the first face to face encounter to break the news they had to each other, but they did and their wedding plans went ahead.

No sooner had they got started back on making their arrangements than another change to their planning had to be made. Some official guy decided he needed to count how many people he had under his authority so he  ordered a census to be taken. It had to be a head count of where everybody was and where they were from - there were no web sites in those days 2016 years ago! So, it was pack a bag and go to the place of your birth register and be head counted. For Joseph and Mary this meant a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. 

Ladies, think of Mary very late in her pregnancy, expecting her baby any time and realising how important it was that the baby would be okay. But  no matter. Authority said the journey had to made - no taxi, no National Express coach service, no British rail equivalent or small plane flight - just a donkey ride to Bethlehem. The place itself was full to the rafters with those, who like our young couple from Nazareth, had had to come to the place of their line of origin. They searched for somewhere as quick as possible. They must have been getting very desperate and very tired when they were offered that stable and the manger.

And so Jesus was Born in a Manger and I am sure it made his mother cry.

The special Shepherds, keepers of the flocks for offerings in the Temple, were in for a disturbed night too, settling down to sleep or doing their turn on watch chatting about their day around crowded Bethlehem. When suddenly the whole sky was ablaze with light and they could hear singing like they had never heard before. They all realised they were being asked to go and see this baby, who the voices said had been born. How they decided who went, we are not told, but some of them did go and found that baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. 

In another place out East, star gazers were looking up tracking the stars and no doubt logging the stars movements and positioning the new star they had been expecting. Wow, what a thrill for them! They must go where it guided them and with camels loaded, they set off to solve the mystery. Being human they got the first bit wrong, but where else would you look for a king than in a palace? Yet they were not giving up. They too found the special baby the star was all about.

So, what  of us?

 

Advent 2016 Pudsey

The best laid plans as they say...We are caught up in the general pre Xmas shopping spree even if we are not making a purchase. We plan out Xmas activities with family and friends and some fly off for new adventures to warmer climes. The list is pretty endless of the plans folk make.

It was as I sat day-dreaming and these thoughts were drifting around in my mind, I wondered what would I do if God stepped in and changed all of my plans?

Could I cope as Mary and Joseph did? Would I miss a night's sleep to go in search of some Baby which I did not even know about before? Would I pack my travelling gear and telescope, get the car out, fill it up with fuel and set off on what may be a wild chase?

My thoughts drifted on and I realised once again that the old, old story is for ever new and this story could happen again in 2016. The Baby Jesus said he will come again but no one - only God - has control of when, and where, and how it will take effect and in what place.

Why did Advent 1 happen when it did?

In 1952 while in Egypt's desert doing National Service, our Padre Rev Breakspear (A Methodist ) suggested to us that God chose then because He used the Roman Roads they had built for the spread of the Gospel. The good news of Jesus would journey to our own land in the U.K.  

We have truly international communication, the World Wide Web and mobile phones we cannot escape from unless we switch them off. The list of getting to people grows. God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. We know not how or when he will act and change all those well laid plans we make.

Things are going to be very shook up in the next few years. Donald Trump will be taking over in America, we have just heard the news of the death of Fidel Castro and his brother taking over in Cuba and in our own country we are on the Brexit journey. Not to mention the problems of the Middle East and other areas of conflict.

Could God use our plans and ways of communication to enact a second coming into our world affairs? Even Jesus did not know, so we can only rely on his words to his disciples that he would come again and receive us into his plans.     

May I suggest  we all start to replace the X and put Jesus in his rightful place in Christmas. If we do we can be assured that whatever happens, it is because God Loves us he will make it all come right.

Have a "Blessed Christmas" and keep in touch with the baby, he is great.     

Ron Walker

 

 

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd = that's a Relationship!

I shall not want = that's Supply!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures = that's Rest!

He leadeth me beside the still waters = that's Refreshment!

He resoreth my soul = that's Healing!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness = that's Guidance!

For His name sake = that's purpose!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death = that's Testing!

I will fear no evil = that's Protection!

For thou art with me = that's Faithfulness!

Thy rod and thy staff comfort me = that's Discipline!

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies = that's Hope!

Thou anointest my head with oil = that's Consecration!

My cup runneth over = that's Abundance!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life = that's Blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord = that's Security!

Forever = that's Eternity!

Now face it, the Lord is crazy about you. 

 

And now for a challenge...

Can You Find the 16 Books of the Bible in this text?

I once made a remark about the hidden books of the BIBLE. It was a lulu kept people looking so hard for the facts and for others it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the name of the books were not capitalized, but the truth finally struck home to numbers of readers. To others, it was a real job. We want it to be a most fascinating few moments for you. YES THERE WILL BE SOME REALLY EASY ONES TO SPOT, others may require judges to help them. I will quickly admit it usually takes a minister to find one of them, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews cups of tea, so she can concentrate better. See how well you can compete. Relax now for there are really sixteen names of books of the Bible in this story.

(One preacher found 15 books in 20 minutes, but it took him 3 weeks to find the sixteenth one.)

 

A little humour...

God's Plan for Aging 

Most seniors never get enough exercise. In his wisdom, God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things, thus doing more walking. And God looked down and saw that it was good. 

Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made senior lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach and stretch. And God looked down and saw that it was good. 

Then God considered the function of the bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise. God looked down and saw that it was good.

So if you find as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember it's God's will. It is all in your best interest, even though you mutter under your breath.