Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are all keeping well. Our church is open for Sunday services but we will continue to live-stream our services and send out our newsletter regularly for the foreseeable future.
You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are always 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 (email@example.com)
We start with our opening prayer:
Father of Creation,
you have made us a little lower than the angels,
and a little higher than the creatures who live on the earth.
Give us a longing to help others to achieve the best they can.
(Taken from Roots)
Covid guidance update
Following the tightening of Covid restrictions due to rising cases and increased concerns over the Omicron variant, both the URC and Methodist Church have issued updated guidance. Those attending services are encouraged to wear face coverings throughout the service, including while singing, unless exempt or leading worship from a safe distance.
Reflection from 28 November: Hearts up!
Reading: Luke 21:28
Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
A fortnight ago we marked Remembrance Sunday. It is one of those occasions that always reminds me of my childhood. Every year, all the uniformed organisations in the village came together and marched about a mile down to the parish church. On the way, we passed the village green where the war memorial stands. As each part of the parade went past, the NCO leading it would command ‘Eyes left’ and those marching would obediently turn their heads to look at the monument.
Later, I studied Latin with an expert teacher who told me that he did not like the beginning of the English translation of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in the communion service. The Latin, he explained, was ‘Sursum Corda’ and it is like the Sgt Major’s command. ‘Hearts up!’ ‘Lift up your hearts’ didn’t seem to him to be quite the same. I saw his point, though I wonder if something has changed in recent years. As we’ve moved from using service books to having our liturgy on the screen, the congregation have looked up rather than down. ‘Lift up your hearts: We lift them to the Lord’ maybe has more enthusiasm apparent, more engagement in it than it did.
Because posture matters. Earlier this month I was on a course about leadership in a University and was surprised when one lecturer began by asking us to change the way we were sitting. It was not simply, she explained, that the way in which you hold yourself affects the way that others see you – you feel better and think more clearly in certain positions. And I am sure that there are physiological explanations for that. So – Hearts up, heads up.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus was talking to his disciples about troubled times ahead. It is possible that when the early church heard what Jesus had said and recorded it they thought that the world was coming to its end. There were going to be odd phenomena occurring; everything would be shaken and people would be afraid. Jesus would be seen returning in glory but from the beginning of these things happening the followers of Jesus were to look up. The Advent people are commanded to stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. As the calamities unfolded around them the friends of Jesus were to expect his return. A small, possibly persecuted, certainly unpopular community was invited to look beyond the immediate to see God’s purpose being fulfilled. When all around gives occasion to be fearful, lift up your hearts. God is working out God’s purpose.
It was the message that Jeremiah had proclaimed centuries before. He spoke to people who were living through troubled times. It was not difficult to see that the days of Judah as an independent nation were numbered as the power of the Babylonians increased. In the verses immediately before the passage that we heard, Jeremiah’s prediction was that Jerusalem would soon fall: it seems entirely rational. What is perhaps surprising is that he goes on to say that this does not mean that God’s promise has failed; far from it. The Messiah will come; peace will be restored; and the city will be called ‘The Lord, our righteousness’ – a place where all live as God intends.
So the Advent message is a call to lift up our hearts in the midst of trouble and to look out for the rule of God. Beyond the havoc wrought by the pandemic and the anxiety about a new variant, beyond the tragedy of the deaths in the channel and the failure properly to care for those who seek asylum, beyond the fear of global warming and the devastation of extreme weather, beyond the pressure of rising prices and the worries about supply chains, we are called to lift up our heads and to lift up our hearts. Because when we do so, we might see that God is still in control and that beyond these immediate troubles is God’s reign of peace, righteousness and justice.
Anyone who has played sport will have experienced moments when the game is going badly. The opposition is on top, every tactic seems to be failing, and the hope of victory seems to be fading away. The captain will often be heard in moments like that to shout “Heads up, players.” Heads up, because when the heads have dropped defeat becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A team with its head up can keep concentrating, keep playing, and keep alive the hope of a win.
Such hope can be infectious. I watched the highlights of a soccer match on TV recently. The first 30 minutes were dull, but then something happened. One of the managers became angry and berated the referee; the other manager became equally agitated. His passion ignited the crowd and the crowd’s passion was picked up by the team who raised their game. Suddenly, they looked as if they wanted to win.
Lifting up our hearts, we can infect the world with hope. We can live as those who believe that God will bring in God’s rule of justice and peace and that injustice will not have the final word. Our posture as a church can proclaim our hope and over the last few years that is what we have done. We have not been afraid to say that black lives matter in the face of continuing racial injustice; we have challenged ourselves to commit to net zero carbon emissions in the context of a climate emergency; we have hosted food banks and used benevolent funds in a society where even those in work struggle on benefits to make both ends meet; we have called for hospitality to the stranger whilst some use migrant as a term of abuse. We have lifted up our hearts.
Advent is the time when the Church thinks particularly about the coming of Christ – not only as the baby of Bethlehem but also as the ruler of all. When Jesus spoke of that to his disciples he urged them not to be weighed down. ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life’ As the preacher I heard yesterday said, dissipation and drunkenness might not be a problem for many Methodists, but the worries of this life certainly are. And the worries can be extremely trivial: how many hours and how much money will be spent over the next few weeks to ensure that Christmas is just right, that traditions are appropriately observed, that the whole gamut of expected food and drink is provided? Celebrating the birth of our Lord is important but sometimes the little things can come to dominate and our heads drop because of the burdens that we place on ourselves. We fear increased restrictions; we fear supplies not being available; we fear having to cancel long-promised arrangements – but we do not need to fear because beyond all these things, God is in control and God is bringing in God’s rule of justice and peace. Our challenge is to lift up our hearts and our heads and to infect the world with that hope.
Rev’d Dr Jonathan Hustler
Our readings for this week
Luke 3:1-4 (NIV)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Malachi 3:1-4
- Luke 1:68-79
- Philippians 1:3-11
We meet at 11am for our Sunday services, which are also live-streamed on our Facebook page. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them at www.facebook.com/christchurchuxbridge. 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. This week’s service will be led by Methodist local preacher, Catherine Wells. You can find the order of service here.
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.
5 December – Ms Catherine Wells (Methodist local preacher)
12 December – Christ Church worship group – parade and gift service
19 December – Christ Church worship group – carol service
25 December – Mr Graham Hinton (URC lay preacher and member of Christ Church) – Christmas Day service (10.30am)
26 December – Christ Church worship group (online service only). Please note there will be no service in the church building on this day.
Carols and Mince Pies
Our annual carols and mince pies service will take place on Friday 17th December at 12noon in the chapel. All are welcome to join us.
From the Methodist Circuit
The latest issue of ‘Circuit Life’ is now available to read and can be found here.
Church charity news
Table-top games afternoon
Thank you to everyone who attended the table-top games afternoon on 28 November. It was a fun afternoon with a nice variety of games available, and a lovely way to finish our fundraising for HOPE not hate.
Our final fundraising total was £1,309.85, including £22 from the table-top games afternoon and £28 raised from Christmas craft sales. Thank you to everyone who has supported our church charity over the last two years. Our church charity for 2022 will be HALO Children’s Foundation.
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
Stepwise Faith-Filled Life
We are planning on starting a Stepwise Faith-Filled Life course at Christ Church on Tuesday 18 January 2022. Stepwise is a discipleship programme from the URC, which provides an opportunity to explore who you are, where you fit and how to move forward in your faith.
The course will be held fortnightly on Tuesday evenings with approximately eight sessions lasting around 2 hours each. There is a small amount of work to be done between sessions and by holding this every other week we hope people can use the other week to do that preparation. It will run in a hybrid format so you can join in person or via Zoom. The location of the in-person group will be decided based on where people are based and available hosts.
I can heartily recommend the Stepwise Faith Filled Life course. It really helped focus me on the direction my life should be going with my faith.
Over the weeks you look at who you are, where you fit and where you are going. It also deals in dealing with difficult situations. You are encouraged to keep a simple journal and talk to a mentor as you progress. It’s not academic or heavily theological but fixed in the real life that everyone will be able to relate to. Together you will be able to explore and grow in your faith with this course. Feel free to ask me about it next time you see me.
Operation Christmas Child
Making an overseas’ child’s Christmas.
A BIG THANK YOU to all who contributed filled Christmas-gift shoeboxes via Christ Church to this year’s Operation Christmas Child appeal.. Our Church’s final count was 47, from our congregation, our Brigades’ families and our buildings’ users. Your boxes have been taken to local Collection Centres where they are processed before being sent overseas.
The video we saw in our service when we dedicated the boxes shows the joy when they’re received – gifts of love from us and the message of God’s gift to us all of Jesus.
Those who arranged it will receive an e-mail telling them where their box went to. Some people start now collecting the contents for their box next year! Thanks again.
Graham and Denise Hinton
Christmas stamps 2021
The Christmas stamps are now on sale. This year there are eight stamps celebrating the Nativity story – from the angel’s visit up until the arrival of the three magi delivering gifts. Artist Jorge Cocco created the six designs through post-cubist art. Unfortunately, the stamps are too small to see the full detail without a magnifying glass!
A message from the CTU Chair
Greetings! My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Hillingdon at this Christmas time. May all the gifts and benefits that come from above be yours. In your abundance do come share & multiply your joy with your local church community – you know you’ll be welcome. But you might also be experiencing how events in the run-up to Christmas can be a noisy, busy frenzy of shopping and social events that drown out your joy and quiet spiritual stirrings inside. Indeed it might be a time when your thoughts turn to loved ones you have lost, whether through death or fractured relationships, and become conscious of empty chairs at the Christmas table.
So we bring our celebration to church, but church goes a lot deeper – I’ll let you in on a secret – the offering that makes the heavenly angels sing is of your brokenness, your realisation that you’re at the end of your rope, that you can’t figure it all out by yourself. That is your passport to a deeper and more realistic community, more than anything you can engineer with gravy and goose fat. Us churchgoers may not be much to look at, and may seem to worship in a muddle of odd ways, but what we share inside is a growing freedom from the anxieties that the world stokes up and the false comforts it offers. As churches we are, a wise pastor once said, colonies of heaven in the country of death. So whatever your condition, whether in your fullness or in your need I invite you to take a free passage and experience church this Christmas, this better place that we are together working on. You may not wish to go back to where you came from!
Chair, Churches Together in Uxbridge
CTU Christmas services are shown below. Please click on the image for more details.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Ruislip Methodist
- Gerrards Cross URC
May the road we travel be smooth and straight,
every rut filled in, every bump smoothed out,
any diversions easy to navigate,
any obstacles easy to manoeuvre round.
May good companions share our journey,
and may we be voices for good in the world,
a sign of Jesus’ love for all.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)