The Rector Writes
(And below you will find the Bishop’s Advent Message)
During December, in this special Advent and Christmas season, we have many and varied Christmas services and events that will be happening across Hope and Emmanuel. You will find all the details in the website, in our magazine, and in widely distributed flyers..
Our aim over this period is to have something for everyone. In addition to the midweek social occasions, with a greater focus on the Christmas Story: we have the Stable Trail, the Christingle services, the*Mega Nativity* (and more) for all ages and families. We have Carols by Candlelight and Midnight Communion for those who value the traditional. Be sure to look at the Christmas Flyers printed here inside the magazine.
On Sunday 10th December at 3pm we also have The Candle Service. Arguably the most important of all our Christmas services, this quiet service is for those who find Christmas difficult. Or with silence at this time of year so often being a gift (!) this is a service too that provides space to be still. There is opportunity to light a candle in memory of a loved one or to remind us of the Light of Christ that can bring hope to us and those we know and love even in the darkest hours of our lives. It is perhaps surprising to some just how well attended this service always is.
Also on the Thursday before Christmas – we have our Pop-In Christmas Party. All through the year we have Tuesday coffee mornings in Emmanuel and Thursday coffee afternoons in Hope. At our Pop-In Christmas Party on Thursday 21st we will be singing some carols too. If you live alone or find it difficult to get out much and you would like to join us – but are unable to get yourself here – then please do get in touch with us and we will do our utmost to help. Please ask someone you know or call me directly on 01978 760439 and I will put you in touch with someone. On the Thursday after Christmas we will be having Pop-In in the church hall as normal too. (Those able to come and give a hand with the January magazine collating – thank you!)
Now we turn our thoughts to Advent. December being so busy Advent is a season that can so easily become lost, forgotten or neglected. Christmas Day being a Monday this year too – Advent this year is the shortest it can be – just 22 days long.
Advent Sunday (3 December) plays host to our annual 4pm Hope Village Christmas Lights Switch On Service. This will be the fourth year running we’ve hosted such now – and you are encouraged to arrive early for your seat! Put on your Christmas Jumper and come and join us in singing the first carols of the season with Mary, Joseph, the Angel Gabriel and the Roman Centurion as we remember that Christmas Starts With Christ.
Also on Advent Sunday at 11am in Hope we will be hosting a 1662 traditional Holy Communion Service – where we use what was the official liturgy of the Church In Wales until 1984. Each Sunday during Advent (bar Christmas Eve) we focus our thoughts on the traditional Advent readings. Do come and join us to reflect on some of the more traditional themes of Advent – such as listening, waiting and watching.
Fast-forward for a moment now if we may to January … after Advent and Christmas comes Epiphany.
I am delighted to announce that from Sunday 7th January we will be launching* ‘Hope.4.All.’ This will be our new WEEKLY Sunday Service in ‘HOPE’ Church at ‘4PM’ for ‘ALL’ ages*.
Epiphany Sunday this year falls on 7th January. Christmas Day in the Eastern Church! Epiphany is the day in the church calendar when we remember the story of the wise men from the East arriving in Bethlehem to meet the ‘boy’ (not baby) Jesus. Do come and join us for our first Hope.4.All: Three Wise Men and a Camel: The Big Epiphany Celebration! It is going to be great fun! See the flyer inside the magazine. I will write more in January’s magazine.
But for now may God bless you with a rich and reflective Advent and
joyful and peaceful Christmas.
Bishop Gregory’s Advent Pastoral Message:
Being the Face of Christ
Advent Sunday 3rd December 2017
Advent has traditionally been the time when the church thinks about the second coming of Jesus, of the end of the world and of the last judgement. In many ways this last year has felt at moments as if we’re living in the end times of the world. We’ve seen many causes for concern, wars and rumours of wars. The Middle East continues to be a source of huge concern and there’s even been suggestions of nuclear war again as America and North Korea stand up to one another in powerful rhetoric.
Even our own nations’ life has been touched by acts of terrorism, and we’re mindful of events that have taken place both in London and in Manchester. So, it does feel as if everything is a little bit apocalyptic at times.
One of the things that sticks in my mind occurred last June in London when Grenfell Tower, a high rise residential block, caught fire and was entirely engulfed in flame. Hundreds of people were disrupted, many people lost all their possessions as their homes were destroyed. Indeed, many dozens of people lost their lives. Their homes, which should have been places of safety and of security, places of refuge, instead became places of danger.
Alongside this tragedy there were also signs of hope and of redemption because we saw humanity at its best, as communities rallied around, as people from all walks of life sought to give comfort or to give hope, and to give reassurance. Now Christians have no monopoly on compassion and indeed the response from the local community was widespread and diverse.
However, it was a point of pride and joy for me to see the Christian churches rallying round and playing a prominent role in offering succour and community at a time when it was needed. Churches literally became places of refuge as they opened to offer shelter, to offer blankets and hot drinks, to provide a place where people could go, to regroup and to gather. As time went on the churches remained as centres of help and activity: places where food could be provided, where food banks were in operation, where clothing and essential supplies could be accessed. The Church really swung into action; Christians were becoming Christ for the community – they were revealing the face of Jesus – they were doing what Jesus himself would have done.
When the Church celebrates Advent, we’ve traditionally tied in the preparation for the last judgement with our preparation for Christmas, and thought about how Jesus might come to us in our own homes and our own discipleship.
What Grenfell Tower did for me was to see the whole question of Advent in a fresh way; to think not about the way in which Christ comes to us in Advent, but to think about the way in which we might become the face of Christ for others. What we saw in Grenfell Tower was the Churches being the presence of Jesus, the face of Jesus, offering the love and comfort of Christ.
We should ask the question how we can become Christ for others, not to think so much about how Christ comes to us, but how we as Christians can be the face of Christ in our communities. How we, by responding to the needs of our communities, can be the active presence and love in action of Christ revealed in the world.
Those of us at the Diocesan Conference in October will remember the very powerful address by the Bishop of Chelmsford. The theme of the conference were the words of St David – Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain / Do the Little Things – and Bishop Stephen spoke to us about how the witness of the church is not necessarily in the grand things, the big projects, but actually in the little actions we take in order to reflect Christ’s love.
And that’s the challenge this Advent – can we be the face of Jesus for those whom we encounter? Can the way in which we work, reflect the love of Christ, be the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, by our actions, by our love, by our witness. Be then a church worthy of Jesus’s name – go out there and change the world and that will be a Christmas worth celebrating.