Happy new year to you all. Hope you are keeping well and staying safe. Welcome to the first issue of our church newsletter for this year. It’s a slightly bigger issue again this time to make up for the break from the newsletter over Christmas and New Year. 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 on our church website at www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk 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 (email@example.com)
We start with our opening prayer:
As we remember the gifts of the Wise Men,
let us give thanks for the gifts of technology keeping us connected;
the gift of vaccinations and boosters, minimising our symptoms from the virus;
for flu jabs, protecting us from winter illness.
We thank you for the gifts of others that have kept us safe.
May we see that we have gifts too that can be offered in your service, Amen
Rev’d Ruth Watson, SCM MediaCityUK Church, Salford Quays
(Taken from the URC ‘Prayers during the pandemic’)
Reflection from 25 December – Stripping the nativity bare
Reading: John 1:1-14
Christmas can feel like a very hectic time of year can’t it? All the hustle and bustle leading up to the day itself; the shopping, the decorating, the preparations, the carol services, making plans and then here we are on Christmas Day itself and often the day goes by in a haze of presents, wrapping paper, food and a snooze on the sofa after the Queen’s speech.
It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings and the busyness, the pressure for Christmas to be a magical, exciting time of year. Even when we stop to pay attention to what Christmas is all about, we are drawn to the busyness of a stable scene full of shepherds, angels, and often wise men too, all gazing down on a newborn baby. Gazing in awe and wonder and full of celebration and joy.
There’s nothing wrong with being part of that crowd and the awe, wonder, celebration and joy of the manger scene. But sometimes, in amongst the busyness, it is good to stop and reflect a little more quietly.
In our reading from John for Christmas morning, the nativity scene is stripped bare. There are no angels, no shepherds, no wise men, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no star. There is simply the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. John goes straight into the heart of Christmas – Jesus, the Word made flesh. God here with us, making his dwelling among us, taking on human form, being among us.
In the Old Testament, God can sometimes seem remote – an untouchable, unimaginable, all-powerful deity. God’s ways are not our ways – they are too high, too wide, too much for our human understanding. Through Jesus though, God becomes reachable and approachable. Jesus shows us God in a way that we can understand, sharing our human experience.
In Jesus, we hear that God heals, forgives, embraces those who are outcasts, prays for those who hurt him. Through Jesus there is understanding of betrayal and denial, suffering and pain, humiliation and death, victory over despair, defeat, destruction and death.
Reading the gospels, it is clear that people weren’t afraid to approach Jesus, to reach out to him for help and to come close without fear of rejection. Jesus gives us that ability to be able to reach out to God, to come close and feel that God knows our human struggles, our sorrows, our joys and to be able to bring those to him.
As the busyness of the nativity is stripped away, we focus on Jesus at the heart of it, bringing light, giving us the right to become children of God and to be in relationship with God.
Over the last 21 months, the busyness of our own lives has been stripped away through lockdowns and restrictions. So much of the everyday things we took for granted were taken away from us and it made us realise the things that were really important to us.
For many people, the hardest thing about lockdown and restrictions was the feeling of isolation. We missed being able to see people we loved, missed the sense of community and togetherness – and while there was very much a sense of people coming together and helping each other out, we were still very much distanced from each other. We had to find new ways of building community, new ways of reaching out to each other and creating that sense of togetherness and relationship.
As we mark our second ‘Covid’ Christmas, with the rise in cases and the sense of uncertainty we are reminded again of how much life as we knew it has changed. We’ve been encouraged to prioritise with regards to our social activity, to ask ourselves once more what is really important. Many of us have cancelled activities in the hope that we would be able to spend Christmas Day itself with loved ones. Focusing on relationships that are important to us.
Relationship is at the heart of who we are as human beings. We need to be able to connect with others, draw near to them, have shared experiences and feel that others understand us, that we are not alone, that we are loved. On Christmas Day, as the nativity is stripped bare, we see that relationship is at the heart of Christmas. Jesus, here among us. God, here among us, with us. Sharing our human experiences, being with us so that we can draw closer to him. As we mark our Christmas Day today in whatever ways we have been able to do so, may we all feel God’s presence with us and feel able to draw close to him. Merry Christmas and may the peace of the Lord be with you all today and in the days ahead.
Reflection from 26 December – Hasn’t he grown?!
Readings: Luke 2:41-52 and 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
“Oh, my goodness, haven’t they grown?!” These are words I’ve heard a lot this year. All those months of lockdown and limited socialising has meant that there are a lot of friends who haven’t seen us for quite some time and are struck at the change in our children since they last saw us. I’m sure we’re not alone in that experience.
And here we are in today’s reading with a twelve-year old Jesus going to the temple with Mary and Joseph. It seems like only yesterday that we were looking down at a newborn baby in the manger. Oh, wait a moment, it really was yesterday…
Jesus’s childhood has passed by in the blink of an eye. What happened in those years, I wonder? They’re not considered significant enough to be recorded in the Bible. Was it just an ordinary childhood or were there obvious signs along the way reminding Jesus and his family that this was no ordinary boy. In our Bible exploration group the other week, we took a closer look at Jesus’s cousin John and wondered if Jesus and John ever got together much as children, and if so, what might they have talked about? Did they ever discuss their divine purpose or were they just like two ordinary boys?
Twelve-year-old Jesus knows where he needs to be though. As his family head back home, he stays behind in the temple, in his Father’s house, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. In the meantime, Mary and Joseph notice his absence and search for him among their family and friends. I can imagine they must have been frantic, wondering what on earth had happened to Jesus. They spend three days searching for him in the wrong places before finally coming back to the temple and discovering he’s been there all along.
We do that sometimes too, don’t we? Look for Jesus in the wrong places, through the filter of our own expectations as to who Jesus is, and what he should be doing for us. And perhaps like Mary and Joseph, when Jesus doesn’t live up to the expectations we have for him, we might then ask, “why have you treated us like this?” Have you ever had those moments? When life really doesn’t go the way you thought it would, when something bad happens, when tragedy strikes, when grief hits, when depression overwhelms – do you ever ask “why?” I know I certainly have.
We all have expectations of how life should be. Sometimes as Christians, we can be in danger of believing that if we do the right things, or pray the right prayers, that our lives will go the way we want them to go. But often our own search for Jesus doesn’t lead us where we expect it to go and we might find ourselves annoyed that life hasn’t gone the way we thought it would. But Jesus didn’t come to fulfil our expectations of how we wish life could be. We have to let those expectations go and be prepared to leave our comfort zone, and be willing to see where God might be leading us.
In today’s readings we get a glimpse of two mothers having to let go in order for their sons to fulfil their destinies. Hannah, who prayed so desperately for a child and then gave her son Samuel up to the Lord after he was weaned. I can imagine her pouring out her love for him into every stitch of the robe she made each year and brought him when she and her husband came to make their annual sacrifice. Mary, who must have been worried sick searching for Jesus in those few days before finding him at the temple only to then be reminded that his place was not with her, but in his Father’s house.
We know little of either Jesus or Samuel’s childhood, but they are both described at the end of each of today’s readings as growing “in stature and in favour with the Lord and with people”.
How do we grow as Christians here today, here in our own time and place? What are we being called to do as individuals, and as a church? As a church, we are offering the opportunity to explore those questions in more detail in the new year, through the Stepwise Faith-Filled Life course which will be starting on 18th January. Stepwise is the discipleship development programme from the URC which provides an opportunity for people to deepen their discipleship and explore their faith, discovering where God might be leading you and how you can make a difference in your church and the world. It looks at identity and faith, exploring how faith shapes our daily lives, where we fit into our community and our part in God’s mission, our own journeys with God and how we deal with challenges.
Each of us has our own gifts and talents, our own strengths and skills, our own individual experiences and journeys with God. There are moments when we all find ourselves searching, wondering where God is in our lives, where he is calling us to be. Sometimes, those searches might lead us to unexpected places, or retracing our steps back to where we might have already been? Where might your search for God be leading you today?
Reflection from 2 January – A Covenant of Peace, a renewed Covenant
Readings: Deuteronomy 29:10-15; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 12:1-2 and Mark 14:22-25
A student from Oxford, the president of Oxford Union, questioned Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The student thought that, instead of bringing Peace, the process of telling the truth of criminal acts and being allowed to leave free and forgiven would bring a civil war rather than peace. Archbishop Tutu sought a new beginning for South Africa, reconciled and free. Facing the truth and being forgiven would deliver it. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission process won the day not only with the Oxford Student but with a whole country.
God is love. God loves us in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit makes that love a new possibility for us and for the world every new day. If we look truth in the eye with love and forgiveness, then, peace and reconciliation have a chance. That is how peace, deep peace is made. Deep peace growing in us, God’s peace following over us. God calls us to a renewed Covenant of Peace with Godself, ourselves, others and with creation. Like in the OT reading we heard that all are invited and involved in the Covenant, from the leaders to those who collect the wood for the fire and the water.
Things in life may go wrong. We might lose perspective even about ourselves. Our relationships might go wrong. Our relationship with ourselves, even with the ones close to us, and sometimes even with God can go sour. It is part of the nature of things, they go sour. It seems that it is intrinsic to them to go wrong. That is why we have to work to keep them in check. However, that always offers a possibility to continue transforming things, bad to good, sinful to saintly, (Rm 12) through the renewal of our minds, and the renewal of the world.
The law of entropy says: there is a measure of disorder in the universe. To bring order and peace back it requires constant work and vigilance. The spiritual intention of truth and reconciliation requires: a renewed covenant with ourselves, with God, and with the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the humanity and the planet.
For example, there is tremendous inequality in the world, in this country, in the global economic system. Though we produce more than enough for all, because it is badly distributed, and the mal-distribution is systemic, many lack even the most essential things for existence: food, heath care, housing, work. The vaccination against coronavirus is an example of inequality in the world. And yet, what we need to overcome the pandemic is a new covenant amongst the nations in order to tackle the problem together. There will only be a solution when there is a solution for everybody. People and nations will only be safe when all are safe. We need a new covenant, a renewed Covenant. The World Health Organisation keeps asking rich nations to contribute to a global campaign of vaccination otherwise, it will be impossible to overcome the pandemic. The truth is rich countries are not doing enough yet to get vaccines to all.
A more long-term threat to the world is the climate emergency. Don’t we need a new Covenant with Creation? We are in desperate need of it. The constant extraction of resources from creation, and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, brought climate change that treats the existence of many species, including ours. If nothing is done to correct that, we are in big trouble. We still have a chance, and we should try to play our part leading us all into a new Covenant with creation, with ourselves, and with God. Peace will come if we take that path of reconciliation with nature.
What else needs to be reconciled, needs a new Covenant?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu believed in reconciliation but did not kid himself. He opposed the oppressive system in his country when it was raging. The Archbishop named the Apartheid system as a sinful system. He said that South Africans needed a new Covenant, they needed to become a rainbow nation where everyone was equal and free. A new Covenant, a renewed Covenant of equality for all, of justice and of peace. The world helped to overcome that situation by boycotting the South African Apartheid regime (this did not include the USA, or Margaret Thatcher’s government – they thought the ANC and Nelson Mandela were terrorists).
The need for a new Covenant could be applied in many places in the planet today, including Brazil, where I come from. There, the poor are so poor and the rich so rich that it creates a social aberration. Whole families have to live on the streets. The young are abandoned to fend for themselves. The concentration of wealth, the way that the economy operates, could be compared to a crime. The rich are able to evade tax. It is a robbery in the day light. It is the crucifixion of the poor. Black people are discriminated against. And to make things worse, the present government of Jair Bolsonaro is determined to transform the Amazon rainforest into pasture for even more cattle, and mining operation regardless the indigenous people and the needs of the Planet. What we need in Brazil is a new Covenant, a Covenant of equality, justice, and certainly of peace with the environment. The country needs to find its soul again.
It is not only Brazil, Desmond Tutu said Israel ran an apartheid system by its policy of discrimination against the Palestinians. Palestinians are confined to particular secluded areas, areas now encircled by the separation wall. The Palestinians cannot move freely, they have to pass through the check points. I have been to the very infamous, notorious check point 300 between Bethlehem and Jerusalem – I have seen it – how people are treated as if they were cattle. It is oppressive and humiliating for the Palestinians. This sort of apartheid also traps Israelis into a mind-set, of fear. That is no life for them either. Organisations like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch amongst others, like Demon Tutu have denounced the occupation and the illegal settlements as a policy of apartheid, of reducing the other, the Palestinians to less than equals. Israeli and Palestinians need a new Covenant of truth and reconciliation, to turn the whole situation into a Rainbow region of two nations, three religions or more region, of peaceful co-existence.
And in the UK as well as in Europe, the way we are treating refugees and immigrants offends any human heart that is not made of stone, it conspires against our own humanity. All the legal ways to immigrate are blocked. Of course, desperate people will risk their lives on an attempt to find a better and safer place for themselves and their loved ones to live. This is a sinful situation that requires a new Covenant of love and compassion, that requires a human heart made of love and solidarity. That starts with ourselves, to love and respect our humanity and to welcome others. A new relationship with God, the father of all. A Covenant with Jesus the child refugee.
When we Christians break Bread and share Wine together at the table of the Lord, we re-enter into a Covenant with God, and communion with one another. Through HC we are restored to ourselves and to the other, we are restored to God through Christ. We receive the new Covenant as we receive Christ, through Christ’s body and blood. That divination, transforms our minds through the memory of Jesus, the prophet of love: his life, his teaching, his saving death and life giving resurrection. Holy Communion makes us one with God and with each other. Here we are all equals before each other and before God in Christ. As we approach the table let us make peace with God, with ourselves, and with others. Let us seek a new Covenant.
Let’s keep our commitment to review it all in the light of truth and reconciliation – with God’s help – to transform and be transformed, to abide with God in a Covenant of Peace. Amen.
Rev’d Dr R F Leão-Neto
Readings for 9 January
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (NIV)
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 baptise 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 baptise 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.”
21 When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 43:1-7
- Psalm 29
- Acts 8:14-17
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 a parade 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.
9 January – Christ Church worship group – parade service
16 January – Christ Church worship group – Inclusive Church service
23 January – Mrs Anne Byfield (URC lay preacher)
30 January – Rev’d Andrew McLuskey (URC minister) – communion service
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.
If you are interested in joining this course, please speak to Joanne Mackin.
Church charity news
Film afternoon – Saturday 22nd January, 1pm
Our next fundraising activity for this year’s church charity, HALO Children’s Foundation, will be a family film afternoon in the chapel from 1pm on Saturday 22nd January. Popcorn and snacks will be available to enjoy during the film. There is no charge for the event, but if you would like to make a donation to HALO, you can either do so via our online fundraising page (details are below) or give via the collection jar on the day.
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
Thank you from Hillingdon Refugee Support Group
On behalf of all the Trustees at the Hillingdon Refugee Support Organisation, staff, volunteers, and young people, I am writing to thank the members of your Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade and all at Christ Church Uxbridge for the kind donations collected during your Christmas Gift Service held on Sunday 12th December 2021. This included an excellent assortment of Stationary items.
They were very much appreciated and well received by young refugees and asylum seekers and brought smiles to many faces.
We truly appreciate your continual support to young vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees. It is very much appreciated during this difficult time and has already helped to put a smile on many young people’s faces.
Many thanks again. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Freda Ritchie, Managing Director
Thank you from Slough Salvation Army
Please pass on our thanks to all those at Christ Church who kindly donated Christmas gifts and toys which are greatly appreciated. The gifts have been distributed and will help to make Christmas Day a happy one for the families who have benefited.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Yiewsley Methodist
- Ickenham URC
Holy Spirit, go with us into the world.
Re-source us with your power and your presence.
Father God, help us to know your love,
and that we are your beloved sons and daughters.
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to learn from you,
and to follow your example,
that we may share belovedness
with everyone we meet.
(Taken from Roots)