Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Our newsletter is sent out regularly to share reflections from services, Bible readings and church news to our church family. You can find previous issues on our church website 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:
God of all seasons,
your love never wavers,
your power never fails.
You never leave us to our doubts,
you never abandon us to our insecurity.
You always hear our cry,
and you always help us to begin again –
that we may help others
in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 4 December
Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
I wonder who was your favourite, or least favourite, teacher at school? My favourite teacher was Mr Grant. He taught us English and his lessons were great fun. Pupils sat round in a horseshoe as we read and debated together the merits of poems, plays and novels. When reading out aloud we were encouraged to try to sound as authentic as the original would have been, so Chaucer’s middle English produced some very gutteral sounds while James Joyce produced some rather poor attempts at a Dublin accent.
As I said, Mr Grant’s lessons were great fun. There was lots of joking and laughter. But perhaps they were too much fun. When the results of our end-of-school exams came out, the equivalent of today’s GCSEs, the whole class had very disappointing grades. We passed, but only just.
My least favourite teacher was Mr Gordon. He taught maths. I didn’t like maths. I found it difficult, and I liked it even less because Mr Gordon was teaching us. He was very strict and indeed I can’t remember ever seeing him smile. In his class, none of the pupils spoke unless they were answering a question. If someone wasn’t paying attention, the blackboard rubber was thrown across the room at them. (This was in the days when teachers were allowed to do that sort of thing.)
Mr Gordon knew his mission and his focus didn’t waver from it. His job was to ensure we learned maths and he was determined to ensure we did, whether we liked him or not. I was scared of Mr Gordon and dreaded going to maths lessons. But, when the results of the end-of-school exams were released, we had all passed with good grades.
John the Baptist
I find John the Baptist rather scary and would much rather preach about someone or something else today. But, on the second Sunday in Advent, we always encounter John. Perhaps he’s one of those people we don’t really warm to, but who nevertheless does us some good.
John the Baptist stood in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets. Down the centuries they had proclaimed God’s message to God’s people. Sometimes that message contained a warning about disasters that lay ahead. Sometimes it comprised words of encouragement to lift the people’s spirits and promise them a hopeful future. After many generations in which the prophetic voice had been silent, John began to proclaim God’s message afresh for a new generation.
Some Old Testament prophets had given God’s people encouragement following the horror of their exile in Babylon. They gave that encouragement by speaking about a wonderful promise of hope, healing and forgiveness. In the book of Isaiah we read:
“Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God…
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm…
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;…
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint”
John announced that this promise was about to be fulfilled. God was returning to his people once again. But he was also coming to judge and the people weren’t ready for that.
To get ready the people needed to do nothing short of changing their lives, so John called them to repent. Now, repentance isn’t just feeling sorry for what we have done but shouldn’t, or for what we have failed to do but should have done. While God’s forgiveness takes away our sin, it is possible that, after receiving his forgiveness, a person continues to commit that kind of sin in the future, with the risk that a cycle is created of sinning, confessing and being forgiven, and the sin is repeated over and over again.
Repentance goes a step further than feeling sorry; it is a fundamental rejection of what is wrong and a determination to trust and obey God. Repentance, therefore, produces a complete change of lifestyle. Let’s understand that, although this call to repentance is probably what John is best remembered for, he wasn’t alone in stressing its importance.
When Jesus began his ministry, he travelled through Galilee proclaiming:
“The time has come,” … “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
(Mark 1: 15)
And on the day of Pentecost, when the crowd in Jerusalem heard Peter’s sermon and asked what they should do in response, he told them:
“Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
John delivered his message with a sense of urgency. God’s people had not been living up to their calling, but the king who would bring judgement, and the new kingdom in which he would reign, were close by. Accordingly, John called for an immediate, transformative response. He spoke strongly and bluntly because some people, including religious leaders, were complacent. They believed they would be OK regardless of how they lived. They were proud, arrogant and placed full confidence in their ancestry. They reasoned that their ethnicity, as the descendants of Abraham, trumped all other considerations. John sought to disabuse them of that belief. Everyone needed to align their lives with the life of the king who was coming.
The serious issue of sin
God doesn’t want us to keep on sinning. We need to be clear that sin doesn’t simply offend God, it also harms ourselves and others. It undermines relationships with others, whether those relationships exist at individual, community or national level, and it obstructs the relationship between God and people.
Sin erodes dignity and self-worth, and deprives people of the physical and economic resources necessary to develop to their full potential and enjoy a fulfilling life. Repentance matters because it breaks the cycle of sinning.
Sometimes we get stuck in that cycle because we think our sin doesn’t really matter. We hold firm to the promise of forgiveness and think that everything will be OK because, if we confess everything to God, he will forgive everything. We treat forgiveness a bit like an insurance policy. As long as we pay the premium, so to speak, by confessing our wrongdoing, we’ll be covered.
This overlooks the fact that, while God meets us where we are and loves us as we are, it is contrary to his good intentions for us always to remain where and how we are. He longs for us to become more like him in our character and attitude.
John used two images to shake his listeners out of their complacency. He talked about fruit trees that failed to bear fruit being cut down because their continued existence served no purpose. And he talked about the threshing process in which the valuable grain that had been harvested from the crop fields was separated from the chaff to which the grain was attached when growing. The chaff had no use so was routinely burned by the farmer.
If we think that this talk of judgement sounds overly stern and more appropriate to the Old Testament than the New, let’s remember that Jesus also taught about a coming time when people would be judged on how they had responded to him.
Do we take the subject of our own sin sufficiently seriously to want to change our lives?
Sometimes we get stuck in a cycle of sinning because our human nature is so weak that we cannot escape the cycle by relying on our strength alone. Our desire to obey God is genuine, yet we find that we simply cannot, despite our good intentions. It’s hugely frustrating and disappointing.
In his letter to the Romans Paul neatly expressed this predicament when he wrote:
“I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I hate.”
(Romans 7: 15)
The good news is that we don’t have to rely on our strength alone. Our enemy may be strong, tempting us with all kinds of things that seem attractive or which we believe we cannot live without, but our God is stronger and will give his strength to us. Yes, we need to change, but the Holy Spirit will come to live within us and transform us from the inside. And, on the occasions when we still fail, the forgiveness held out to us becomes an encouragement not to be disheartened by our past but to try for improvement again, rather than an insurance policy that might be viewed as providing an excuse not to try to improve at all.
And sometimes we might need additional help from other people we can trust, whether they be Christian friends or pastors who will pray with us; or professional counsellors; or a group of people experiencing similar struggles who will help us review our progress, reflect on the difficulties we have encountered, and share our journey towards wholeness. Making ourselves accountable to others may sound scary, but they are there to help rather than to humiliate. We shouldn’t feel afraid or ashamed of accepting help and encouragement from the people God brings alongside us.
How can anyone tell that someone has repented? The baptism practised by John was a ritual washing. It was symbolic; it couldn’t take sin away. Yet, the symbolic action led to tangible change, because when people came for baptism they dedicated themselves to achieving a transformation of heart and lifestyle. Of course, only God knows what goes on inside a person’s heart. But, what lies inside our heart influences our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs and those are, inevitably, reflected in our outward words and actions.
So, when we repent, committing ourselves to turn away from sin and strive more faithfully to obey God, the change that takes place on the inside will become apparent on the outside too. We may become more generous, more peaceful, more patient, more faithful, better able to exercise self-control.
Our family likeness to our heavenly father becomes both deeper and more apparent to the people we interact with. God’s priorities and his ways become ours too. Our repentance may be a private matter between ourself and God, but the difference it makes cannot be hidden.
The secular world around us is already in the season of Christmas, which, to their minds, ends with Christmas Day itself. From Boxing Day onwards the world around us enters into a new season of sales and booking summer holidays. But, for Christians, it’s not Christmas yet. It’s Advent, the season of preparation.
As important as it may seem to be to get ready for Christmas by making sure your gifts are all bought and wrapped, your cards are posted and homes decorated, let’s get our priorities right. Surely it is more important to get ready for the day when we meet Jesus face-to-face. Let’s not be too keen to rush through Advent, but accept this time of preparation through reflection and repentance as the valuable gift it truly is.
Readings for 11 December
Matthew 11:2-11 (NIV)
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 35:1-10
- Psalm 146:5-10
- James 5:7-10
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. Our service this week will be a parade and gift service with a scratch Nativity and will be led by Christ Church member Louise George. 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.
11 December – Christ Church worship group – parade and gift service
18 December – Christ Church worship group – carol service
25 December – Sue Lloyd (Methodist local preacher) – Christmas Day service
1 January – Christ Church worship group
Christmas at Christ Church
Advent Bible Study – Tuesdays 11am until 20 December
Join us in the chapel or online via Zoom as we reflect on the theme of making room at Christmas through some of the key players in the Christmas story. Please see Louise for more details.
Gift service – Sunday 11 December
Our gifts from this year’s gift service will be donated to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal. If you would like to bring a gift, new and unwrapped gifts and toys for children would be welcomed. Our service on this Sunday will be a parade service and will also feature a scratch nativity.
Carols and Mince Pies – Friday 16 December, 12noon
Our annual carols and mince pies will take place in the chapel on Friday 16th December at 12noon. All welcome.
Carol Service – Sunday 18 December
We are planning a Songs of Praise style service for this year’s carol service and would like members of our church family to choose a carol to share as part of this. If you have a carol that you would like to be included in this service, please let Joanne know.
Christmas Day service – Sunday 25 December, 11am
Our Christmas morning service will be led by Methodist local preacher, Sue Lloyd.
Church charity news
Christmas cards on sale
Christmas cards featuring Amirah’s winning design from the children’s Christmas card competition are now available at coffee mornings at £2.50 for a pack of 5 cards. All profits from sales of the Christmas cards will be donated to Halo.
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk/activities/churchcharity2022To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
As part of our café review, we would like to collect more information on the views of our congregation and those who use the café. Please take a moment to fill in the survey to share your experiences and thoughts about our church café. You can find the survey online here.
Hillingdon Warm Spaces
Drop-in for warmth, company and a cuppa.
Mondays to Fridays
9.30am – 1.30pm Hillingdon Park Baptist Church (Tel: 01895 814424)
10am – 12noon St Margaret’s (Tel: 01895 258766)
10am – 2pm Christ Church (Tel: 01895 258956)
10am – 3pm Salvation Army (Tel: 01895 234088)
10am – 11am Waterloo Road Church (first Wednesday of the month only) (Tel: 01895 257663)
10am – 3pm Salvation Army (Tel: 01895 234088)
11am – 1pm St Margaret’s (Tel: 01895 258766)
9.30am – 11.30am Waterloo Road Church (first Saturday of the month only) (Tel: 01895 257663)
Other activities with a warm welcome
Tuesdays and Thursdays
10am – 2pm Café at Christ Church (Tel: 01895 258956)
Monday to Friday
12noon Lunches at Hillingdon Park Baptist Church (Tel: 01895 814424)
A warm spaces register can also be found online at https://www.warmwelcome.uk/
Communion Services in the Circuit and LAG
Our next communion service at Christ Church will be on Sunday 29 January. If you would like to attend a communion service in December or early January, please see the list below of communion services taking place around the Circuit and LAG:
Sunday 11th December
9.30am – Eastcote Methodist, North Hillingdon Methodist
10.45am – Ruislip Manor Methodist, Wealdstone Methodist
11am – Hayes Methodist, South Harrow Methodist, Yiewsley Methodist
2pm – Trinity, Harrow (URC & Methodist)
Sunday 18th December
10.45am – Kenton Methodist, Ruislip Methodist
11am – Hayes End Methodist, Ickenham URC, Pinner Methodist
Saturday 24th December
5pm – Pinner Methodist
Sunday 1st January
10.30am – Trinity, Harrow (URC & Methodist)
CTU Friendly Bible Study series – Jan-Feb 2023 – Judith
(Apocryphal) Book of Judith chapters 8-16
You’re invited to an 8 session series studying how God speaks to us through the lurid tale of the Jewish heroine who takes on the captain of the Asyrians with guts, guile, prayer & song.
Weekly: Tuesdays 1.15 – 2.15 pm. Quaker Meeting House, York Road.
From January 3rd to 21st February 2023
You might like to read the first part (available online at https://www.bible.com/bible/37/JDT.1.ceb) but we’ll recap regularly on the whole narrative, and there should be enough translations available to compare and explore together. Hope to see you there!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0775 7775625
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Yiewsley Methodist
- Ickenham URC
Lord, as we go out into the world,
may we be signs of your coming kingdom.
As we struggle through the dark,
may we know that you are there with us.
And, as we walk the way of faith,
may we know that your faithfulness is deeper than our doubts. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)