‘Look-In’ in Lockdown #33 – 4 December 2020
Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Hope that you are all continuing to keep well and stay safe. We’re looking forward to being back in the church for services next week (13 December). Our newsletter will continue to be sent out regularly to help continue to maintain contact and a sense of community while life continues to be restricted. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are looking for uplifting and encouraging content to share in future issues of this newsletter. If you have any ideas or content that we can share, please do email them to Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We start with our opening prayer:
Advent God, come amongst us.
God of hope, shine your light upon us,
Flickering, like a candle flame,
Advent God, we put our hope in you. Amen.
(Taken from The Vine at Home)
Reflection from last Sunday: Preparing for Christ’s coming
Reading: Mark 13: 24-37
As we begin our journey into Advent, we pick up a traditional theme of Christ’s Second Coming. Recently I’ve been into watching the series of ‘The Crown’. We’re not up to season 4 yet; we’re on season 3 and there’s a great episode in which the Royal Family was very interested, particularly Prince Philip, about the trip to the Moon and walking on the Moon, and the first astronauts. It’s a very interesting episode because two themes were intertwined. Firstly there’s the theme of space exploration and the advance in technology but also while Prince Philip was absorbed in watching every detail of this, he was fighting his own mind about his faith. And the episode certainly explored this through his watching the trip to the moon, but also through his experience and his conversations with the new Dean of Windsor about his own faith.
The passage today begins by looking at the heavenly bodies: the sun, the moon, the stars. It explains to us that these will start to change. The sun will be darkened, the moon will give light, the stars will change. So this could mean increased activity in the heavens such as solar eclipses, lunar eclipses and possibly earthquakes. This, the passage tells us, will be a sign that Christ’s return is drawing ever nearer.
This passage about the sun, the moon and the stars is actually a quote from Isaiah but it has resonance with other parts of the New Testament, pointing us in the direction of the returning Messiah. Just after this verse, we get this great line that tells us the Son of Man will come with great power and glory. This, if you like, is the climax of the passage, showing that Jesus will return, not as a small baby, as he did on his first visit to Earth but he will come as a conquering king in all his power, in all his glory, ready to set up the eternal kingdom.
So basically we learn from this that his second coming will be vastly different to his first coming. Next we move on to this curious little parable of the fig tree. Now in Palestine, virtually all the trees are evergreen, but the fig tree is an exception. It’s like our trees over here. It changes due to the seasons. So n autumn it loses its leaves, in winter it draws back, in spring it starts to bud and it’s only in summer it comes in flower. So the parable tells us that as the fig tree comes into bud and comes into flower that the return of Jesus is drawing ever nearer. This, if you like, is a positive to counteract the negative of the sun, the moon and the heavenly bodies shaking and changing in their shape. This idea that the fig tree is coming into bloom shows us promise, gives us hope and draws us ever nearer to a sign that Christ is coming back.
The next portion tells us that the day and the hour of Christ’s second coming is unknown; that not even the angels or Jesus himself knows when he will come back to earth. However, over the decades there have been people, time and again that have said Jesus is coming back here; this is the date, this is the time. These people are false prophets and false teachers. We are to be wary of date-setters because they do not know. The scripture tells us here, and in other places, that Jesus’s second return to earth is only known to the Father in Heaven.
So from this we are told to be alert. We’ve heard that expression in other situations recently, but we’re told to be alert, to be vigilant, to remain ready and watchful. This part of the passage underlines the key thing for us all – we are to remain in a state of preparedness. We are given this parable of the man and his staff, or servants, and he tells them to guard the house, to keep it ready for when he returns.
The house of course is earth. We are the staff or the servants and the master of course is Jesus. We are told in scripture that Jesus could return at any moment and we are to be ready for when that happens. So, what do we learn from this curious reading today? Well firstly to be alert, to be ready. To ensure that we remain sober, which means that we are not over preoccupied with our own things and that we are keeping an eye on God; that we read our scriptures, that we pray and that we are ready.
The second thing we learn is to stay prepared. This follows on from being alert. That means we are to be ready to receive Jesus into our hearts, minds and lives as he comes in his second coming. Now that can be very difficult. We have lots of things to draw us to our life on earth. But we are to be ready because this is not our home, we are just guests for the time being.
And finally, and perhaps most difficultly at this time, we are to wait with expectation and hopefulness. We are living in a time which is so challenging at the moment. Many of us have been told to self-isolate, many of us don’t see family and friends and many of us are finding this time hard. But we’re told in the passage to be hopeful because Christ is coming back to set up the eternal kingdom. Our wrongs will be righted and things will be put right once and for all
So overall this passage teaches us that Christ is coming back; we are to remain alert and prepared and we are to remain hopeful, knowing that brighter days lie ahead. May God bless you this Advent and this coming Christmas. Stay safe with your families and loved ones and every blessing to each one of you. Amen.
Our readings for this week:
Mark 1:1-8 (NIV)
John the Baptist prepares the way
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way’ –
3 ‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 40:1-11
- Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
- 2 Peter 3:8-15a
Services in the church building will resume on 13 December and continue to be live-streamed on Facebook at 11am each Sunday. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them here. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch them – our services are publicly viewable. You can also view a recent service on our church website here. This week’s service will be led by Methodist local preacher Cathy Smith.
We meet via Zoom immediately after the service for a virtual ‘coffee and chat’. The link for this will be shared in the comments on Facebook during the service.
If you are unable to join us in person or online for our Sunday services, but would like to receive a recording of them on a memory stick to watch at home, please let us know.
Church charity news
Thank you to everyone who took part in our silent auction. The winners of each item have now been contacted and we raised £169 for our church charity.
Virtual games evening
We will be having a virtual games evening via Zoom on Saturday 12th December at 7.30pm in aid of our church charities. Come and join us for a fun evening of games. We’ll be using the whiteboard feature on Zoom for a game of Pictionary, or Hangman, as well as playing other games such as word scatter or online bingo. Suggested minimum donation of £2, Zoom meeting details will be sent out via email once your donation has been received.
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table here. Gifts and donations can be made online via Virgin Money Giving or by cash or cheque made payable to Christ Church and clearly marked for the church charity.
‘Twas a month before Christmas
‘Twas a month before Christmas and all through the town,
People wore masks that covered their frown.
The frown had begun way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic changed everything.
They called it corona, but unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times, it didn’t bring cheer.
Contagious and deadly, this virus spread fast,
Like a wildfire that starts when fueled by gas.
Airplanes were grounded, travel was banned.
Borders were closed across air, sea and land.
As the world entered lockdown to flatten the curve,
The economy halted, and folks lost their nerve.
From March to July we rode the first wave,
People stayed home, they tried to behave.
When summer emerged the lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution, many folks drifted.
Now it’s November and cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived, much to our disliking.
Frontline workers, doctors and nurses,
Try to save people from riding in hearses.
This virus is awful, this COVID-19.
There isn’t a cure. There is no vaccine.
It’s true that this year has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget the year 2020.
And just ‘round the corner – the holiday season,
But why be merry? Is there even one reason?
To decorate the house and put up the tree,
When no one will see it, no-one but me.
But outside my window the snow gently falls,
And I think to myself, let’s deck the halls!
So, I gather the ribbon, the garland and bows,
As I play those old carols, my happiness grows.
Christmas ain’t cancelled and neither is hope.
If we lean on each other, I know we can cope.
(Written by Shawna Hickling, shared by Stephanie Marr)
One of my joys for two Sundays has been to listen to the semi-finalists in the Songs of Praise Chorister of the Year competition. The five girls and five boys were all a delight to hear. The finals are next Sunday and I commend them to you.
It occurs to me again that we in the Methodist and URC churches have cut ourselves off from choral music. We sing lustily as congregations but deny ourselves the uplifting moments that beautiful voices can give us. Even when our congregations include members with lovely voices, we rarely ask them to sing solos or duets.
When I worshipped at City Temple (then a Congregational church with a Methodist minister) there was a choir and the introit and the anthem were important elements of the services. The choir was of high quality. Nowadays Methodist and URC congregations have largely dispensed with choirs or else have ones that rend the music rather than render it!! When I worked at St Paul’s Cathedral the choir was a central part of the worship and it was worth attending morning service (even if on duty!) just to hear it.
Christmas could be a time for hearing exquisite music so must we sentence ourselves to the same old carols yet again? Is it time we did some fresh thinking?
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Pinner Methodist Church
- Ickenham URC
We go from this moment, into a week of many moments. Hoping for an encounter with your grace, with your Spirit. Come amongst us, Advent God.
(Taken from The Vine at Home)