In Her Own Good Time

For the first time in more than 40 years, St Giles has a Christmas baby, born at 1.30am 25th December 2012, Megan Louise made her way safely into the world, weighing 7lbs 6oz. Her proud first time Grand mother sent a text message at 2.30am so that a thrilled to bits, warden would pass the message on, and her birth was announced with a flourish at the two Christmas Day morning services.

The news of Megan’s birth was conveyed by means of text, and telephone, The Lord Jesus was announced by angels, the word spread by shepherds and Magi … All births should be Good News … Say a prayer for tragic situations where they are not …and another prayer …that when Jesus comes again the world may be ready!

Remember that God’s timing is perfect, the last wedding in St Giles took place on the 22nd December, the bride was 25 minutes late, but The Lord Jesus and His Bride won’t be late; like Megan Louise, His Bride will arrive in her own good time, God’s Good Time.

How silently, How Silently

White ChristmasThe days are busy, but not rushed. Christmas will come in its own time, just as my friends first grandchild will arrive in his own time, perhaps for Christmas and perhaps not. The Tree in church is up and the lights were switched on for tonights Carol Service; however the tree lights did n’t steal the show. All eyes were fixed in rapt attention on the crib figures, Mary, Joseph with his lantern, the ox and donkey, the empty manger, waiting for Jesus to arrive … we will put him in the straw at the children’s crib service tomorrow… there is plenty of straw in our stable (the oak altar table converted by removing the frontal)  Strange, how folk in their eighties become children again at this time of the year, yet perhaps not so strange, almost it would seem; people who normally do not have any hestitation in stating their complete unbelief and disinterest in things godly at all other times of the year, welcome the opportunity to come home for Christmas to linger in the candle light, and find their way to light a candle, perhaps because they don’t know the right words to say, or how to ask….

Now, I cannot recall who it was who first told me I had a Father in heaven, I know He was with me my first day in school, God has always been with me, but even as a child , I felt there was something more.  At Sunday School I was the smart one, who won all the prizes; but knowing all the bible verses, was never enough.  I can hear my lovely teachers and elders now, telling us that faith was the important thing, not feelings…. well, faith I had. I knew my God was right there, I only had to ask, and I often did for everything and anything; and the Lord was good and is good and answered my every little prayer, and most importantly, in His time …. answered the prayer I could not pray, because I did not know what that one thing more was….

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n!

That line from the Christmas Hymn ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’ comes often to  mind. Growing up, it would come to mind as I sat on my bed, pondering what it was I needed and did n’t know how to ask for.  You see, I knew God loved me, I knew Jesus died for me, I knew Jesus was my Saviour, I knew that God heard my prayers, that He heard me… what then was it that I yet lacked?

I had to wait until I was twenty years old before I found the answer to that. No, rather the answer found me.  I was alone, and the Holy Spirit came and stayed, there was no laying on of hands, just simple instruction on what to do next.  It is as simple as that!

I know, somewhere, some very Theologically minded person might well be thinking that He was there all the time; yes probably, but not in the same way as He was now and is now. But for now I wish for all who might read this post …

All the Joy that the Fullness of the Spirit brings and a very happy Christmas

 

Praying for those in the storm

Today, it was and still is in many churches, the custom to light the pink candle of the Advent Wreath at evening prayer, but this morning other candles have been lit, each person in church coming forward to light a small candle to join our prayers and tears to those shed across the Atlantic in the aftermath of the terrible shootings in Connecticut.

Somehow words are not enough and cannot express all that our spirit wants to say,so with just a brief bidding prayer the prayers of our deepest hearts were offered up in the kind of silence where you can hear the heart-beat of God, the kind of silence where the Holy Spirit carries the groans and sighs that cannot be expressed in words to the Father Heart of God. The same God who suffered for us in the person of Jesus on the cross, the one who sees the smallest sparrow fall.

We prayed in the quietness of church, a church whose walls have been built strongly to withstand the stormy blasts on the top of a high hill, for those in Connecticut, in the U.S.A. for those caught up in overwhelming, torrents of grief that they may know that Jesus is with them in their small boat, always.

When the Service was over, and folk gone home, two of us stayed awhile longer to make a stable beneath the main altar, we took away the purple Advent Frontal laid straw and put in place the Crib figures, Mary, Joseph holding aloft his lantern to keep the dark shadows at bay, the donkey, the ox, the manger, but no baby in the manger yet. He will first make an appearance for the children’s crib service on Christmas Eve. Then the purple hanging was replaced until the first School Carol Service
Wednesday morning when no doubt 300 or so school children will also be saying a prayer for the children lost, the families in Connecticut; the baby born at Bethlehem was the First Born in a very large family, He would have us do that.

The ways deep and the weather sharp

It has been a cold, week with hard frosts evoking for me the opening words of the poem The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey , and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,….”

The journey is of course the journey and search for the new born King, Jesus and ends for the wise men in Bethlehem.

In this cold week I may possibly have met two such searchers, perhaps they have no consideration that they may be journeying or seeking, but I have had the privilege of witnessing The Lord meeting with them. There are lovely words in chapter 10, verse 21 of Mark’s Gospel “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Yes, I have seen Jesus looking at two young men and felt his reaching out in love.

The first, no more than a boy, came with a School Party and sat quietly by himself in the very last seat just inside the church… looking …. looking for what?

Looking up and seeing me, this young Asian man asked. “Is there a prayer book. Why don’t white people pray. No one,” he said in my class believes in God. No one prays.”

“Do you?” I asked.

“At the Gurdwara” he replied, and said that his mother said the prayers at home, he would like to say the prayers but was afraid that he might hold the prayer book in the wrong way, make a mistake. But he really did n’t understand why white people did not pray when God made us and loves us all. That was when I felt the love of Jesus for a young man of another faith.

What answer could I give.

I gave the answer that the spirit whispered, and gently asked our young visitor to follow me to the prayer desk in the lady chapel handed him the Prayer Book, showed him the prayers read every day and on the list, divided into days the day in the month when our vicar prays for his school, for him and his fellow students.

I have a feeling that he will come back led by a star.

The second searcher was older and came with a party of men doing Pay Back time for the Community under the supervision of probation services … what ever their misdeeds these people have worked hard and worked wonders in maintaining the churchyard, many have blessed and thanked them for their care of loved ones graves.

“What are the Oranges all about?”

“Ah. They are Christingles…. the orange representing the word, the four cocktail sticks the four corners of the world, or the seasons, the fruit and sweets the fruit of the earth, the red ribbon the shed blood of Jesus who died for all of us… the candle is Christ the Light of the World.”

“So that’s what it’s all about!”

One of the Christingles just blessed was put safely away in the van, a present for the children at home.

Advent is about seeking, searching … but who is doing the searching?
The sheep or the shepherd?
The ways deep and the weather sharp

A Rose glows in Advent

At heart I am a Mary, but since there are so few Marthas about the place these days I find myself wearing Martha’s shoes, and they are far too big for me to fill and I leave you to imagine the rest.  If you ever wore your big sisters shoes as a child you know exactly what I mean.  The days leading up to Christmas will just get busier and I think that this is one Mary who will be glad to find a secret closet somewhere to hide in and when the Martha’s have finished with their Christmas preperations they will be sure to find me out … but we won’t go into that.

In the meantime we have the Candles sorted, Communion Wine stocked, rotas typed up and the Church Singers are practising the Carols; this year we will be joined by a bass all the way from Australia.  He tells me that 69 years ago he was a boy chorister here so tonight he sat in his old choir stall recalling days of youth and mischief.  We don’t have a robed choir anymore, commitment to regular practices and the robes put folk off; instead we have a bunch of cheerful, willing and slightly older folk who like to sing for the sheer pleasure of it.

Me?

I like to sit in on the practices and be Mary for half an hour.

Advent is a time for reflection, for sorting ourselves out and asking ourselves some serious questions and ultimately it is waking ourselves up to the possibility that today, tonight, may be the time when the Lord Jesus, our Master returns.  And, will He find us about our Master’s business, will He find us awake or asleep – busy as Martha or attentive like her sister Mary…..?

For nearly two weeks now I have noticed that the white rose given to me in consolation is still with me, fresh, fragrant and incandescent; yes this rose glows, brightens the darkest hour and warms me through, wraps me about and this is one Mary-Martha who feels cherished and loved beyond words.  I am a woman of many faults but this I know,

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love towards those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103: 10-12).

And when I see Him, I do not think I shall be afraid, this rose lightens the darkness.