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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We start with our opening prayer:
Lord Jesus, as we long for an end to this pandemic
and a return to the happy freedoms we took so much for granted,
lift our hearts and make us steadfast
as we seek to protect one another and our NHS.
Give us wisdom and strength to continue
on Your path of love and care for others,
to Your glory, Amen.
(Dorothy Courtis, from the URC’s ‘prayers during the pandemic’)
Covid guidance update
Following the Government’s announcement that England will move to Plan B in response to the risks of the Omicron variant, those attending services must now wear face coverings unless exempt or leading worship. Please also continue to use hand sanitiser on arrival at church and to be considerate of others with regards to social distancing.
The Bible exploration group will meet via Zoom only for the last two sessions of the Advent course.
Reflection from 5 December
Readings: Luke 3: 1-6 and Philippians 1: 3-11
I spent quite a lot of my adult life involved with youth work in the church. A few years ago, we had to close the youth club that we ran at South Harrow. Even though it reached out to youngsters in our area who wouldn’t normally come to the church, it just wasn’t possible to run it anymore with the resources we had. It was a decision that was forced, but I did genuinely feel that God was saying that even though we were ending an activity that was an important piece of outreach, it was the right decision.
When I look back at the church and its relationship with the community, it’s changed so much over the years. So many things have come to an end, and it makes me question what are we here for now as a church, why are we here?
As churches across the Circuit recently we’ve had that chance to talk, think and pray and be challenged as to how God needs us to change and find new ways and be inspired by him as to the new ways in which he challenges us to keep his word alive and share Jesus in our communities.
Following the decision about the youth club, I prayed through my thoughts and feelings. I realised that having the youth club or anything else just because we always had it for generations wasn’t enough, that actually what God was asking us to do was just to come before him prayerfully, and consider what he wanted of us as a church wherever he’s placed us, whenever he’s placed us and however he’s called us. To bring ourselves before God and ask why are we here as a worshipping community in this time and place, with these people; the people we are, the people we know, the skills and the resources that we have, the faith journeys that we’re on? It isn’t just chance that brings us here together now to worship God. He has a purpose, he has a plan, he has a community of people out there who need to know Jesus here and now.
I think if ever there was anyone who had such an incredible sense of time, place and purpose it’s John the Baptist. Luke places John very specifically in his time and place by mentioning all those rulers and people around him at the time.
In the chapters preceding today’s reading, John’s own birth and fate was prophesied by the angels, just like Jesus. The promise of the angel is that he will be full of the Holy Spirit, that he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. It’s clear from before he was born that he is a man chosen by God to be part of his ongoing plan of salvation across time and across space.
Our reading states that the word of God came to John in the wilderness. John hears God’s word and acts on it immediately, almost as if he’d been waiting and growing and just listening for the right time. He knows what God wants him to do and why. He knows the impact it will have.
Having put John in a clear geographical context and time, Luke then makes it clear that John works out the ministry he’s been given by God in that place and time. He has a simple consistent message that he takes to the people: they should repent, be baptised and God will forgive them. To a people who felt abandoned by God, this offer of God coming, redeeming, forgiving and them being able to turn back to God was really powerful.
Although John is in this really specific time and place, he’s also working in an eternal context. He uses prophetic words from Isaiah written five hundred years before and points to a salvation that God is going to bring in the future. John’s message is not just for his Jewish audience suffering under Roman occupation, it’s not just a voice of hope and promise to them that God hasn’t abandoned them. It’s a message for all people and all time, that God is bigger, that God is coming, that God has not left, God has not turned his back and he is coming to save, and that salvation is available for all.
Two thousand years later, our message in our own time and place is also about salvation, wholeness, restoration and hope because that promise is still there, that God is coming in Jesus Christ, for all people, for all times. Our message is still that God has not abandoned or turned his back on people; they are loved by him so much that Jesus died and lived for them so that they could be forgiven, and turn back to God; so that they can seek his way in life and join him in heaven in death.
If we look from John and his call to point people to Jesus, we see in Philippians that Paul reassures and encourages the church, people already believers in Christ, to live and worship and grow in love so that other people might also know Jesus. We see this incredible deep godly love for his fellow Christians that Paul has. He prays for them, he thanks God for them, he remembers them even when we might think he’s got more important things to think about. When he’s in prison or on trial or he’s preaching to thousands, he still has time for them, to thank God with this incredible joy that they are his brothers and sisters. He’s also thankful for what they are telling people about Jesus in their time, their place, the community where they have been called. He describes it as their partnership in the gospel. That’s a fantastic phrase – partnership in the gospel; partners with God in sharing the gospel and partners with Paul and other Christians as fellow believers.
As a Christian community he reminds them that they’re not just meeting and carrying out tasks, but growing and learning together: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Being a Christian is just the start of that journey with God. We are changed and shaped by God at work in our lives, but also by speaking knowledge and understanding of God. Paul’s prayer “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” is that the church at Philippi will discover more about God and never stop seeking and growing in knowledge, and that knowledge is going to lead to growth in love for God and for other people. A cycle of growth and discovery that never reaches its end until the end of time when Christ comes again.
This love we have for each other and for God is central to our lives and community as Christians and is in itself God-given. it’s the love of Jesus in Paul that enables him to love others, to praise, and to witness whatever his situation in the pulpit or in prison.
What an amazing prayer: to know God more, to love in God’s way, to be filled with God’s love for others. To have more knowledge and understanding of what God has done in Jesus so that we understand the love he has for us. Simple, but essential for our growth and our mission as that love of God for us, for all is at the heart of it. All of it, Paul says, is so that you can discern what’s best, so you can follow God’s purposes and plans, his calling, and discern what he wants of us in this time and place. To love him and love others enough, to be motivated to do it and to follow that calling.
So what do we take from those readings? We take Paul’s words about what’s important. Living as a Christian community, being the church of Jesus Christ in the place where God has called us to be. We are partners in the gospel, part of God’s plan to offer salvation and hope in whatever way he asks in this time and in this place. Like John, we are called to witness that God loves all people, that he hasn’t abandoned them; sharing Jesus with them, who is the way back to a restored relationship with God. And as Paul makes it clear, one of the ways in which we partner and witness is by growing in love for each other and for God.
Our readings for this week
Luke 3:7-18 (NIV)
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Zephaniah 3:14-20
- Isaiah 12:2-6
- Philippians 4:4-7
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 our parade and gift service led by members of Christ Church. 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.
2 January 2022 – Rev’d Dr Leão Neto – communion and covenant service.
9 January 2022 – Christ Church worship group – parade service
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.
Church charity news
Our first fundraising event for HALO Children’s Foundation will be our church coffee morning on Saturday 8th January 2022.
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.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Ruislip Manor Methodist
- Holy Trinity, Perivale (URC/CofE)
Go gently, live well;
and be a blessing to all you meet,
trusting that God’s heart is big enough to love,
strengthen and embrace you, day by day.
(Taken from Roots)