Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thought for the week Advent 4

Christmas coming.

This Christmas, Lord,
Take a corner of my life and steal in…
Invade the busyness of doing
with the quiet of you coming.
This Christmas, Lord,
take a corner of my mind and steal in…
illuminate the darkness of my thinking
with the brightness of your seeing.
This Christmas, Lord,
take a corner of my heart and steal in…
infuse the coldness of my loving
with the warmth of your Being.
This Christmas, Lord,
as at Bethlehem stable, come and steal in…
take the unprepared places of my life
and make them fit for your dwelling.
Source unknown

Luke 1.39–45, (46–55)

Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,
‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Advent 3 Study Group More Questions than answers

Sometimes the sermons are good, sometimes they are for our own good, but sometimes they are very helpful and supportive.

I had to take an Advent group because our local vicar was busy involved in some other matter. After the group, I sent her this email.

Her response to this was a wonderful sermon to answer all my questions.

"A few of us gathered together to look at the Advent 3 Study. We read from Isaiah 61 1-11. Assuming from what we had learnt before this was Isaiah 3 and with my vast knowledge from Wikipedia - one of the only 2 anointed prophets. From what we had learnt before this seemed a strange idea of a group of people being the anointed one, but still this session was about questions not answers. We decided that this was another covenant with the promise of a second garden of Eden if the peopled followed the word of the Lord then ... The theme was incarnation for all. We really struggled to see how the passage and these reading fitted together, especially with Tony’s definition of “God in another form”. Even with the notes help of God coming to earth in human flesh we didn't really see this in the passage. Perhaps we just missed the point. We did think the anthem Spirit of the Lord did express some of this passage  better. Confusion reigned.

Thessalonians 5 didn't help us much more. We saw some instructions. We talked about happiness and joy which didn't seem abound on the faces on the congregation very often and perhaps why. We talked about the types of sermons we listened to and the formal structure of the church and perhaps how it really didn’t help matters.

By the time we reached John 1 we were a little confused about John saying that the Messiah was already standing out there in the crowd. We talked about baptism and the idea of full immersion rather than throwing a little water on the forehead. We decided that taking over the local diving pool and after full immersion of the subjects having a pool party to celebrate might have a bit more meaning to the congregation - making a happy fun memorable day rather than a solemn church occasion. We had really lost the point of incarnation around about here and we really struggled with the part “who the other prophet was”. The small p didn't help – so it wasn’t Moses.

A serious lack of old testament knowledge didn’t help us. Perhaps more is needed in sermons during the year rather than just following the lectionary from year to year without learning something new (the basics). Learning some of the basics here really would help.

We were not sure why in answer to the first question “who are you?”  The answer was who he was not??? Why would he say he wasn't the Messiah - was this just Johns peculiar way of writing?? We talked why John 1 was used at Christmas when this is a most difficult piece of text and most of the congregation are one time visitors. No wonder they don't come again!! This also raised questions why in last week’s sermon for the prophets we looked at John the Baptist who said he wasn't he wasn't one.

Confusion set in.

Why was it so important to name the place where John was? We look forward to this week’s sermon on John the Baptist not as a prophet?"

Each point was well addressed aiding not just my understanding and those of the rest of the group but also answering questions that may have not been tackled before about Christmas. Our understanding improved and now I can look on this Christmas with much better understanding.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christingle 2012

For over 40 years The Children’s Society Christingle has been a key part of celebrations within churches and has raised essential funds to support the charity’s work with vulnerable children and young people across the country.

The Christingle is an orange, which represents the world. Around this is a ribbon which represents the blood of Christ shed for all. It is also spread around the world as the spirit of the Lord is all around the Earth. There are 4 sticks in the Christingle which represent the 4 season and the 4 points of the world, North, East, South and West showing how Gods presence is all around the world.

On each of these sticks are some fruits or marshmallows representing the fruits of the world. Around the base of the candle we have a piece of green foil to represent the advent wreath  or sometimes silver foil to represent the light of Christ reflected in us. Finally there is a lighted candle,  which represents the light of the world

The origins are said to come from a Christmas in 1747 in Germany, when Bishop Johannes de Watteville thought about how he could explain the love of Jesus and what Christmas really means to the children in the church. He decided to make a simple symbol to express the message of Christmas in a fresh and lively way. Pastor Johannes de Watteville gave each child a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon, with a prayer that said "Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these dear children's hearts".

Today we had our own Christingle service with many young children coming, collecting a Christingle. We collected money for the Children's Society and collected new toys for giving to the local children's refuge to ensure that all those children had a present to open on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thought for the week Advent 3

A prayer for Advent

Lord, fill our hearts with the Advent Spirit Allow us to overflow with the real gifts this season of preparation has to offer. May we take time to enjoy the blessings of Advent. Let us stop the rush and allow the risen Lord Jesus to enter our bring. Let us clear our vision and deepen our concern. May we move from concern for self to a place where we freely give of ourselves and receive with joy the great gift of salvation the Christ Child brings.
Rev Annette Reed, Vicar of Little and Great Paxton with Diddington in Cambridgeshire

Luke 3.7–18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Thought for the Week Advent 2

Wilderness is the place of Moses,
a place of no longer captive and yet not free,
of letting go and learning new living.
Wilderness is the place of Elijah,
a place of silence and loneliness,
of awaiting the voice of God and finding clarity.
Wilderness is a place of John,
a place of repenting,
of taking first steps on the path of peace.
Wilderness is the place of Jesus,
a place of preparation,
of getting ready for the reckless life of faith.
We thank you, God, for the wilderness.
Wilderness is our place.
As we wait for the land of promise,
teach us new ways of living,
lead us to where we hear your word most clearly,
renew us and clear out the wastelands of our lives,
prepare us for life in the awareness of Christ's coming
when the desert will sing
and the wilderness blossom as the rose.
Francis Brienen

Luke 3.1–6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’