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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Speak to us, Lord: help us to hear.
Show us your glory, Lord: help us to see.
May we taste and sense your presence, Lord:
help us to feel.
In our time, and in your time, Lord,
lead us where you want us to go,
and show us what you want us to know.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 7 January
Readings – Matthew 2:1-12 and Isaiah 60:1-6
A sky full of stars. Not a view that we see much of here in Uxbridge. We might see a few stars, but there’s too much light pollution for this kind of view.
Do you like to look at the stars? Can you recognise any constellations in the photo above? I think I can spot Orion but that’s about it.
If I was to ask you to navigate using only the stars, could you do it? I don’t think I could. I think I’d prefer to use a map or a sat-nav!
How does the view of the night sky make you feel? It makes me feel awed. It makes me realise how very small I am in comparison to the vastness and wonder of creation. How very small we all are. And yet we all matter to God. Isn’t that amazing?
In our Bible reading today we heard the story of the magi coming to visit and worship Jesus. They came because they had noticed a new star appear in the sky, and they believed that it indicated a new king had been born. They must have been very observant of the night sky to notice the appearance of a new star. Did anyone notice a new star appearing in our image of the night sky?
The magi saw a new star in the sky and saw it as a sign – a new star, a new king, a new hope. A new light in the darkness. Our reading from Isaiah also talks of a light breaking through into the darkness:
“See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”
These verses in Isaiah were written as the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. Years of longing at last fulfilled – but the Jerusalem that they returned to was a city in ruins with incompetent and corrupt officials in charge. The exiles who had kept faith and hope alive in captivity were face with a religiously apathetic population. Believing they had been punished by God, and unable to worship in a destroyed Temple, the people had drifted in their faith. And in the midst of this, the prophet tells the people to “arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you… Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” The people needed the hope that those words gave – hope like a light shining through the darkness.
The vision in Isaiah was that outsiders would come to Jerusalem with the wealth of the nations and the abundance of the sea, exotic commodities would be brought, and Jerusalem would be the centre of trade and prosperity. But in Matthew, this new hope comes in a very different way to that which had been imagined. The nations – in the form of the magi – come to worship the new king, bringing prophetic gifts and find him, not in a royal palace, but in a humble dwelling. God’s glory is revealed, not in might, riches, trade and fame, but in the weakness and frailty of a small child. As is often the case throughout Jesus’s life, we see the conventions of the world turned upside down.
Gold is given, a gift for a king. But this king has no wealth, no armies, no power – and yet changes the fate of peoples and nations. Frankincense – a gift for a priest. A priest who comes with more questions than answers, and who inspires women and men throughout the ages to worship and live radical lives. And the gift of myrrh – representing Jesus’s sacrifice – a sacrifice that shows us the power of love which defeats all that is evil, even if the defeat involves pain and humiliation.
The magi’s journey takes them from their homes, looking for glory in a royal palace and finding it in a humble dwelling. Their expectations had been turned upside-down and they found the new king, the new hope, in an unexpected place.
We too often find God in unexpected places. In times of darkness, we hold on to hope that things will change and will be better – but when hope comes, it can sometimes come in a different way to what we anticipated. When we follow God’s calling for our lives, it can take us on a different journey to the one we had expected to take.
And so here we are at the start of a new year and a new journey through the year. A year that for many starts in the darkness of war, and oppression, and for those of us reading the news, perhaps a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. In the midst of the darkness, we hold on to the hope that God is bigger than all of this, trusting that there is light in the darkness.
Sometimes, as we were reminded in Maggie Hindley’s reflection a couple of weeks’ ago, we can be too busy or distracted to see that light or to be aware of how God is working in our lives changing things, calling us. Sometimes the light is just a pinprick and we may not have noticed that a change, a shift – just as we might have missed the new star appearing in the slides earlier. But the light is there.
Wherever your journey takes you throughout this coming year, may you be open to the new possibilities that lie ahead, and may there be peace, and hope, and joy to be found along the way. Amen.
Louise George (adapted from the URC Worship Notes for 7/1/23)
Readings for 14 January
1 Samuel 3: 1-20
The Lord Calls Samuel
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”
15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18
- 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20
- John 1: 43-51
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 service led by Christ Church member, Neil Mackin. 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.
14 January – Neil Mackin (Christ Church member) – parade service
21 January – Alan Yates (URC lay preacher)
28 January – Revd Dr Claire Potter (Methodist minister) – Holy Communion
4 February – Peter Knowles (URC lay preacher)
From the URC
Discipleship Matters: A monthly online conversation
You are invited to join our Synod Discipleship Enabler, Eddie Boon for the second of our new informal online informal conversations to encourage our Whole-life Discipleship on Wednesday 17th January 7.30pm or 24th January at 3pm. The meeting will last a maximum of one hour and will include opportunity for Q&A. Please contact Eddie (email@example.com) for more details.
A Happy New Year from the Synod Green Team! We would like your help to make 2024 a Green One – in our homes, churches and communities. A Rocha (the Christian Conservation Group that runs the Eco Church Programme) has produced a downloadable easy Eco Tips Calendar. As the A Rocha Team says, it offers ‘simple yet impactful tips per month to make a positive difference in your home and community, to benefit the planet and future generations and draw you closer to God’.
Small actions can lead to significant impact; the calendar focuses on easy-to-implement tips, ensuring that everyone can contribute, regardless of their lifestyle or schedule. Download the calendar at https://arocha.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/ARUK-Eco-Tips-Calendar-2024.pdf
The focus for January is making ‘enjoying nature’ our priority – after all if we enjoy nature we will want to protect and care for it. The A Rocha Team writes: Make ‘enjoying nature’ your priority. From bird watching to writing about or drawing something that inspires you in nature, growing your own fruit or vegetables, or exploring an area of outstanding natural beauty in the UK, be sure to fall in love with nature in a new way this coming year and allow it to lead your thoughts towards God our Creator. Further ideas can be found at www.arocha.org.uk/ideas-to-enjoy-nature/
Dates for your diary
|Annual Congregational Meeting
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Yiewsley Methodist
- Ickenham URC
- St Andrew’s Church, Uxbridge
As we go through this week with confidence in you,
our loving God who leads us;
you know our weaknesses and our strengths.
Lord, call us, guide us,
and strengthen us in your service.
(Adapted from Roots)