Every Sunday at 11 am we have a Family Church Service. On the first & third Sunday of the month Holy Communion is celebrated at this service. (Please note that occasionally services take place at Brookmans Park URC – check our Calendar page)
Thinking of Christmas – Janet O’Connor
As I write this letter, I am thinking of Advent and Christmas and all that it entails.
For children it is an exciting time starting on 1st December, opening their Advent Calendars, or lighting their Advent Candle , with presents and Santa Claus and Christmas trees and decorations. For parents it is a very busy time- the writing of cards, buying of presents and quantities of food- some of which will not be touched. For most of us it is a family time when even the teenagers are expected to stay home.
BUT – the real reason for all the festivities is the birth of Jesus. His parents, Mary & Joseph travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Mary very pregnant riding on a donkey over many miles – they must have stopped at least once overnight probably Joseph laying a blanket on the rough ground for Mary to lie on. And then when they had reached their destination no comfortable bed but just the stable was all the landlord could offer. Everyone knows the rest of the story.
So when we are enjoying our turkey, let’s think of all the people in the world who are hungry, homeless children scavaging in the landfill sites to sell for a meagre amount of money to buy a slice of bread or less. Those too in our own land who are sleeping on the streets with no family to care for them.
When the day dawns for us in our warm and comfortable homes let us give thanks for all the luxuries we enjoy and take for granted .
On behalf of the Elders, I wish you all a very happy Christmas and may the New Year bring you good health and happiness. We extend a warm welcome to you to join us at any of our Christmas Services which appear on page 15.
On behalf of the Elders
Geoffery Peterson’s Monthly Message
Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine
Last month, I dwelled upon the constancy of God and his love for us and his promise ‘to never leave us nor forsake us’ and that ‘His love is eternal’ – Glory to his name! These promises are repeated by the writer of the letter to the Hebrew church, but the words come from the time when the people of Abraham, under Moses their leader, were about to journey into the land that their God had promised them.
The early churches, Paul, and the writer of ‘Hebrews’ were in no doubt that the promise applied too, to those who put their trust in Jesus, the Christ promised from those early times. Last month I noted that ‘Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever’.
The promise of the Gospels is that when we put our trust in Him then this is still true today, what ever befalls us. Since last month ‘befalls’ has become ‘befallen’ and the nation is still in ‘limbo’, and part of the fall-out is that we have a General Election during Advent. This is a pity because Advent is far more important than the outcome of our exit from Europe – important as that is to us.
The period of Advent starts with Sunday 1st December and continues until the eve of Christmas; then we progress to the Day of Christmas, the New Year and to Epiphany on 6th January. This Newsletter will span that period. The Christmas story is laid out for us chronologically in the Gospel of Luke, it also appears in Matthew and Mark. We will stay with the Lukan account.
Herod was the king of Judea, this being all of Palestine at that time. Zechariah was a Priest at the temple in Jerusalem which is within and the capital city of that region. Elizabeth was wife to Zechariah and they both lived good lives in the sight of God – so they would have been ‘righteous in the sight of God’ as was Abraham about two thousand years earlier, the later being the father of Gods’ people Israel. Elizabeth and Zechariah have no children and are very old, yet he has a vision in the Temple when an angel tells him that he shall have a son and he is to name him John. Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy an Angel comes to a young girl in Nazareth who is promised in marriage to Joseph a carpenter of Nazareth and a lineal relative of King David. She is told that she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and have a baby who is to be called Jesus and will be known as the Son of God. Mary must have been a wonderful person, to accept what had happened and she praises the Lord with the words ‘I am the Lords servant, may it happen to me as the angel said’. Soon afterwards Mary goes to visit Elizabeth who is related to her and who is at six months; her baby ‘recognises’ the young mother-to-be of Jesus and great joy fills the house.
This must have strengthened Mary enormously because these were strange events. Mary must have been a lovely person, do read the Song of Mary in praise of these events which you will find in Chapter 1 vvs 46 to 56, it is a lovely song and forms o part of the liturgy of the established church.
Shortly afterwards John is born and named; then the Emperor Augustus calls a census decreeing that all people must return to their town of birth and so Joseph and Mary have to go south from Nazareth through Jerusalem to Bethlehem which is the other side of Jerusalem and there Jesus is born, to be worshipped by the shepherds. Epiphany is the time of the adoration of shepherds and wise men; then the episode of the
flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth occurs next although Luke does not mention it.
Now I fast forward you to the Gospel of John (the Divine ). John, the son of Elizabeth, is teaching and baptising in the river Jordan and he see Jesus coming toward him, he says ‘there is the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world’ thus endorsing the work and mission of Jesus. He also says at that time ‘I tell you that he is the Son of God’ .The very next day he sees Jesus again and exclaims ‘there is the Lamb of God’ and thereafter Jesus begins to collect disciples, and his redemptive work begins.
Turn now to the beginning of the Gospel of John (chapter 1) and read the first 18 verses, here you find a creation account, and if you read on to vs 42 you can read a concise account of the person of the (baby) Jesus, his destiny and work of Salvation of mankind and how you personally fit into God’s plan.
My heading this month is the first line of that lovely song by Christina Rossetti
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
I commend this song to you to think on this Christmas time,
and remember that this is the beginning of the story, it ends with Calvary with its meaning and purpose, and then Resurrection Sunday which seals the Truth of that Promise.
I wish you a blessed Christmas,
There are two longish ‘reads’ on the above, do read them quietly on your own, in your daily Quiet time, they will enhance your understanding and enrich your personal prayer time. They would make two sessions – but this newsletter runs over two months so you should find sufficient time to fit them in alongside your scheduled Bible reading programme !