Tag: Advent

To wait is to be alert

Waiting For the Bridegroom

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five of them were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones however took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Matthew 25: 1-5 N.I.V.

As a small girl Tuesdays and Thursday evening at 5 o’clock precisely I would be told ok to walk up the short lane to the bus stop at the top of the hill and arrive there at the same time as the big red bus. My favourite uncle would step down and we would walk back down the lane hand in hand together.

Sadly, life as a grown up and as a Christian has not always gone according to the same plan and pattern. There have been times of waiting and disappointment. Waiting, keeping awake and being prepared these are all things which the Lord Jesus speaks about. They are things which we barely hear; as human beings we tend to be drowsy and fall asleep a lot.

I cannot, remember now, the word which was preached that night but turning the bookmark over I can still read Col Cook’s precious note to me, concerned with the small verb ‘to wait’ and the first point he makes is ‘be alert’

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquetl

“Because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Luke 12. 35: 40

There is no clock to tell me when my Master, the Bridegroom will arrive no one to slip my arms into my coat. I must be on the watch for myself and make sure that what I need against His coming is at hand.

Lord who calls me,

Whose love draws me on,

Let me attend to Your Word and wisdom,

Keeping awake, alert and ready for I would

Not miss Thee for all the world and all the worlds,

My beloved, come.

Always, Jean❤️

A Lamp Shining in a Dark Place

…A lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1.19)

The mornings are dark, wet and cold.

I wake in the dark and wait for the first silver-grey signs that Dawn is on the way. Often scriptures wake up within me, as I am sure they must do for many reading this. We are now 7 full days into Advent and nearly at the end of 2020 which has surely earned more than one page in the World History in a day and age where there are no shortages of either chroniclers or media in which to record the events as they unfold. Do you recall this word from Ecclesiastes who complained,

“All things are wearisome” (chapter 1.v8)

“There is no remembrance of earlier things;

And also of the later things which will occur,

There will be for them no remembrance

Among those who come later still.”

Ecclesiastes chapter 1. 8, 11.

Sounds a dismal fellow, doesn’t he this Preacher who grew very wise because he was so thoughtful and took care to remember. He says about that (v 13) that it is a grievous task which God has given the sons of men to be afflicted with, and I think as time goes on that when those personal memoirs appear on bookshelves and in media archives there are many who will give a little shudder and pass them over .. for something brighter, cheerful less solemn, and leave it to the scientists and statistics people to make sure it never happens again.

This is the way of the world. The world forgets easily those things which are wearisome and doesn’t take easily to grievous tasks

The world can be forgetful.

I say that with sorrow. The world is full of people who need comfort at this time, it needs comfortable words. And yet, those who live in comfort and are comfortable ought not to forget those who have no such comforts as food, clothing, shelter or medicine, or those trying to find a refuge from poverty, or war. This is one of the messages of Advent which is not so popular, but rather grievous and wearisome to bear. Such unpopular, grievous, wearisome messages have been delivered by God’s faithful messengers down through millennia. Are they being unheard today?

May the Lord bless those who He finds faithfully hearing, remembering and acting on His word, when He comes.

‘So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1.19

Lord, when you come,

As you will come,

Silently, and in the night,

May I be found

Watchful, wakeful and trusting.

May I be found as one with a loaf of bread to spare

For a traveller in need, a coat to give away,

Straw for a Manger bed;

A lamp to hang up high

That no feet slip in the dark, cobbled alley of

Forgetful Street.

Jean

All scriptures taken from N.A.S.B.

Advent: Watching, Waiting, In Pain and Loss

Another busy week, not busy, as some have been busy with shopping for Christmas presents, foods, etc. etc. (I started that, just yesterday) but a busy week in welcoming local school children into church for their School Carol Concerts and rehearsals. I love to see their shining faces as they act and sing out the Nativity Story for parents, younger brothers and sisters, pushed up the hills in Prams and Buggys by Moms .

Every school has a different way of telling the story, and every child is different. They are walked up to church by Teachers and Teaching Assistants. This year we had plenty of rain, yet the wet and cold could not dampen their spirits or extinguish the bright candle of enthusiasm.

“Thank you Jean,” some said as they filed past at the close.

I like that. I would rather be called Jean than Miss. I am, as all tend to be, still the little child, I always was inside, and our Father in Heaven never gets weary of little children.

The children are of course, counting down the days until end of term, and Christmas Day. Not simply because they want to see what they might find in their Christmas Stockings but also because they have presents to give to… and some find it hard to keep their little surprises secret.

Waiting is a hard thing to do when looking forward at any age.

Harder when we are are distressed, or fearful.


Watching and waiting, looking above, 
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love. 

So the Hymn writer, Fanny Crosby put it in her well known hymnBlessed Assurance” ~ waiting for the Festive Christmas Season can be helped by busy preparations, mince pies, cake baking, putting up the tree and decorations, writing Christmas cards, shopping, etc. etc.

But what about waiting if we are recently bereaved, ill or housebound. Then waiting can be empty of everything except the pain of isolation and loss.

Perfect submission, all is at rest! 
I in my Savior am happy and blessed, 

How can we be perfectly at rest, happy and blessed in such circumstances as bereavement, pain or loneliness?

I am going to suggest to you that it is as such times, that we find, that our Blessed Assurance, Jesus, Himself will come to our aid.


He did come to mine. I was grieved, but kept it close, locked up inside where no one could see. Or so I thought.

But the Lord Jesus Christ could and did see.

I woke in the night and as I lay there, silent in myselfI heard, a door opening somewhere way, way above; then the sound of footsteps, a man’s tread, strong and sure running down what sounded like a stone staircase, past the door of my bedroom, down, down, down until they faded to nothing …. I lay wondering…. then the feet began running back up the steps, stopped (so, it seemed to me) just the other side of my bedroom door.

A firm, big man’s voice spoke out: “Well, Jean. You had me worried. I thought you had fallen all the way to the bottom! Just remember to call out when you need help. Speak to me. Always speak to me!”


All this was many years ago but I have never forgotten, and never spoken about it until now. I share it now because someone, somewhere, at a time of loss, pain, or loneliness may draw comfort, hope, and assurance from my experience and “speak to Jesus, our Friend and Saviour about it. Shout to Him, He will hear… God doesn’t wish a single one of us to stay at the bottom of a well of despair. And the most Godly can and do that- Remember Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 38:6) Well God got him out of a deep well; He can do the same for you and all those loved ones we pray for from time to time.


Look, I go before you. There are no deeps my love cannot reach. Speak to me, there are no tears I cannot wipe away, no pain I cannot feel. I know the way … I am the Way. Give me your hand”

May Jesus, our Saviour, speak His peace to every troubled heart and keep you Watching and Waiting and Speaking to Him.

Advent: What is our’s to do’

Advent even in a traditional church like ours is not the season of empty waiting it was with no decorations to be seen. I saw a determined, resolute tweet from one church. “We will keep Advent and then the 12 Days of Christmas”

However, when hundreds of eager, bright eyed children arrive for their School Carol Concerts they do expect to see a Christmas Tree and even some of our regular Sunday worshippers will say that they don’t understand why clergy call Advent a solemn season when we are looking forward to the Happy Celebration of remembering the birth of Jesus.

Try, ever so patiently, ever so gently to explain that Advent also looks forward to Jesus coming again to judge the world, and you know, that you are fusing all their Christmas Tree lights….. you are the Grinch and most definitely stealing Christmas!

As a child, I was taught in Sunday School, that we should “keep short accounts with the Lord” that is when we know we are doing something wrong, or have done something wrong, we should stop, say sorry and ask the Lord to forgive us and that we could be sure that He will. If little children can understand this, why can’t adults understand Advent?


I have been reading that some farmers, in some parts of the U.K. will be looking to see if Winter Barley is germinating in their fields now, at this time, God has provided for us in such an abundant way that crops of some kind are always being sown, regardless of the season. Farmers have to be patient, persevering and tough to endure all kinds of weather conditions, heat, cold, flood, wind… they have to persist with ‘what is theirs’ to do’

Do we know ‘what is ours’ to do’?

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crops, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The judge is standing at the door!”

So, the Lord is!

Standing at the door, that is, and He is nearer and closer than we think.

Whatever our church tradition, personal thoughts or opinions about times or seasons; we need to watch our own field, watching over it to see what kind of crop we ourselves are producing.


Lord, I pray, that you would teach me, what is mine to do. Give me patience and a gentle spirit, grant that I may always seek first your Kingdom, your righteousness and submit to your will. Sometimes, my heart may feel you are dealing with me harshly ~ then my Father and God help me to recall that before the seed can be sown, first the ground, my heart, must be ploughed. Sun and rain you have promised and harvest in due season, just as you promised that Messiah would come, He has come, and just as He promised, He will come again. We do not know the time or the season but we know He will come again.


Scripture: James 5: 7-9 (N.I.V.)

Prayer and images my own.

Watch-word: ‘ Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)

The Baby is washed~ Getting ready

The baby is washed

The days are counting down to St Giles Christmas Fayre, this coming Saturday and for the very first time the Flower Ladies are having a Festival over in the Church on the same day. Which means double the amount of work with Friday as busy as Saturday. Perhaps I should explain that the Church Hall, where the Fayre happens is separated from the Church by a very busy road.

I am not a flower arranger by any manner of means ~ so non-plussed, totally when told,

“We decided you are doing the baptistery!”

My first reaction was… I can’t do that.

Putting two flowers in a glass jar would be my limit. So I decided to take an easy way out and turn the Baptistery into a stable, using the font as a manager. Linda sent text this afternoon to tell me her husband has left me a bale of straw in the baptistery, Olwyn says going to leave me sacking, other ladies are loaning shawls for the baby; the baby is 61 years old so Iris proudly told me, “But he is a little bit dirty….”

She was quite right, the Baby needed a bath, and I gave Him one this afternoon, taking the greatest of care. It has been such a long time since I washed a doll, let alone a live baby, and that I can assure you under his/her mom’s careful supervision. I have never married, always found that Jesus was enough, still do; washing the baby bought thoughts of Mary washing Jesus to mind, as I carefully washed each tiny finger and toe nail and behind His ears. Perhaps Mary had to borrow to wrap Jesus snuggly in those swaddling bands and to make the manager warm enough.

So here we go on course for the beginning of Advent, an Adven(ture).


(Chorus) Cloth for the cradle,

Cradle for the child,

The child for our every joy and sorrow;

Find him a shawl that’s woven by us all

To welcome the Lord

Of each tomorrow.

Words from John L Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958)


…..And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Lord, you lived among us as a homeless stranger,

As a helpless child, carried in your mother’s arms in flight from a ruthless king,

Grown to manhood, you had no place to lay your head

And in your death your tomb was borrowed

Grant that every day, in everything I may be willing

To place all that I have, all that I am into your arms,

Your service,

Your keeping.

Amen

Bible verse: Luke 2.7 (NASB)

Prayer: My own

Shine Jesus, shine

This year Hanukkah and Advent Sunday shared the same 1st day, 2nd December.

My church always remembers children who need help by holding a Christingle Service and collecting gifts for the Children’s Society (Church of England,)on Advent Sunday some of our Christingles are pictured.

The orange represents the world, the red ribbon the Blood of Jesus, the four cocktail sticks with sweets and nuts, the fruits of the earth and four seasons, the candle the light of the world ~ Jesus.

New toys were also bought to the same Service and blessed before they are distributed to local children in families in need. True, good faith works, does, acts, as well as believes. And, who knowing how much our Heavenly Father loves us can ignore the needs of others ~ not enough is it, to wish someone a happy Christmas without contributing to their happiness? No we have to help our Father and gift wrap His love.

Advent Sunday marks the start of a new Liturgical Year when the cycle of church lessons and readings begins again, as we read again from the Old Testament the witness God made beforehand through the prophets of the coming of Jesus into the world, to be the Glory of His people Israel and to be a light to the gentiles, so it seems to me that in His Light we truly see light and desire the light, joy and peace of His Presence to pierce the darkness of the world which ‘knows Him not’ and those who are impoverished, hurting or sorrowful, remembering that sometimes the one who growls like a bear, and is always angry or has a sour disposition is like that, because they have suffered or are suffering at the hands of others.

Advent is our wake-up call, it shouts, rather than whispers that we should wake-up now, and take stock of the oil we have in our jars for our lamps, in order to be ready when the bridegroom comes, and about our Christian duties as His servants when Christ returns.

Hanukkah (Chanukah) remembers the purification of the Temple and its rededication in 165BC (you can read about it in the books of Maccabees included in the Apocrypha), The temple had been defiled by Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes who sacrificed a pig on the altar and poured its blood on the Scripture Scrolls. The Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks was a miracle of God’s deliverance, but Hanukkah also known as the Festival of Lights remembers another miracle the provision of oil for the eternal light in the Temple. After its cleansing, it was found that there was only one days supply of oil to relight the eternal flame, the symbol of God’s presence .. but the Lord gave another miracle and the flame burned for the eight days necessary to purify new oil.

Then as now, the Lord our God provides and will send His Holy Spirit to those who ask, His Son and Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world in order to light the lamps and candles of all who would serve God with a true heart, just as the shammash (servant candle of the nine branched hanukkiyah) is used to light the other eight each night of Hanukkah… only Jesus lights us for eternity.

Shine, Jesus, shine,

Fill this land with the Father’s glory;

Blaze, Spirit, blaze,

Set our heart’s on fire,

Flow, river, flow,

Flood the nations with grace and metcy;

Send forth your Word, Lord,

And let there be light,

(Graham Kendrick (b. 1930)

May Jesus the Glory of His people Israel the Light of the Nations (Gentiles) fill us all with the Father’s glory.

The Illustrated Bible

cropped-img_0424.jpgI stood behind the Scripture Gift Stall, which looked a little different to the other stalls at the Church Christmas Fayre; no elves, no Santa Claus, no glitter balls, cuddly toys, bags, shawls, scarves – just Bibles, book marks, books, journals, pens, all kinds of everything but all with a scripture verse, or Christian Message. I just didn’t want the Nativity Story, or the true meaning of Christmas to be forgotten – is Christmas really about Father Christmas in his Grotto, the Elves packing Christmas Gifts; or shouldn’t there be a child in swaddling clothes somewhere.

Lots of people came and went, and I am happy to say took with them a little gift for someone who couldn’t be here, this afternoon.

Then as I was absorbed in a child’s picture bible, my first Advent Blessing arrived; in the form of a tall young man, dressed in leather jacket and warm woolly jumper;  he stopped to buy ‘Footprints’ bookmarks and noticing the colourful picture books, took out a mobile phone,

“Look,” he said and showed me a photo of Christ wearing the crown of thorns, and another of the Virgin Mary.

“I have this one tattooed on my back,” He said with twinkle in his eye, “And Mary on my front” – he somehow managed to lift jacket and jumper high enough for me to take a look, then very quickly covered up again.

“Oh,” I said, “You are an illustrated bible!”

He just grinned, “Don’t tell everybody” and walked briskly away.

Well, I have thought about it, like this.

Jesus and the Crown on thorns on his back – because Jesus, wearing that crown, carried us all on His back as he carried that cross to Calvary, our redemption to win,

and because the infant Jesus needed a little help to arrive into this world, in order to do that, Mary who said yes on his heart.

Somehow it all made perfect sense – we are all called to carry our cross following closely our Saviour up front, but first we all have to agree with our Father and say our yes as Mary did hers.

With every blessing this Advent Season, from the Illustrated Bible and me!

Stormy Advent Waters

I had an Irish friend, Aileen, but she answered to Ellen, amongst other things. Ellen, lovely Ellen, was kind, homely, hospitable, and a terror to pastors. Every remembrance of her comes with a smile. Baptised and bought up as a Catholic she had avoided church like a plague for most of her life, she would’ve have loved the thought of these words being posted here, because Ellen believed in telling it, and did tell it like it was. Ellen’s sister in law was a staunch baptist and despite her best efforts, Ellen avoided her baptist church as well, until one day having turned 60 years old, she suddenly felt a tremendous conviction that she must go to church and at that church she heard the Pastor say, “You must be born again,” utterly convicted, Ellen was baptised, and as a born again Christian and staunch baptist, staunchly anti Rome and Catholicism.

In all things Ellen was fervent, she was vivacious, outgoing, and forthright in the way a true Irish woman is, and it wasn’t long, before she found the baptist way a bit too solemn and she discovered the small, Pentecostal hall, almost on her doorstep, from being overlooked, and regarded with a sniff, that little church became Ellen’s heaven. She loved everyone dearly and was dearly loved, but, and but is a big but here, Ellen always knew what the Lord was telling, and wanted the Pastor, the elders and everyone else to do. Problem was no one’s hearing was as sharp as Ellen’s … Consequently she was always sailing on stormy seas, but she never ran aground, Jesus the Captain of her soul, made sure of that. Fiercely determined, stubborn, when she made up her mind; a gentle word from the Lord would cause her to break down and weep.

This is a true story, a paragraph out of my memory book. Something had happened at the little chapel, Ellen didn’t like it, she stamped her foot and swore to the Lord, in her friend’s hearing, “No Lord, I won’t”

Ever done that?
Been so angry and worked up over some trifle, some word, put your foot down and sworn an oath?

The friend, with a reputation for quietness and meekness, held her peace, until some weeks later when Ellen asked her into her home to pray for her “foot” Yes the very same foot that had been stamped, apparently, the Doctor had diagnosed a rheumatoid flare up, on asking the question, the friend was told that the condition had developed the day following her temper.

“Maybe” the friend suggested, she should say “sorry” —-

Ellen, dear daughter of God, burst into tears and did just that. The pain went within the hour.

I don’t know why I should suddenly be thinking of Ellen, she was a good woman, but like most of us the gold in her character was mixed with other metals, mercurial temperament and iron clad stubbornness being two of them, and she was, perhaps not strangely often right when it came to Pastors .. She just couldn’t help ruffling feathers! Something that Old Testament Prophets were quite good at too.

I promised a fellow blogger that I would answer a few question about myself, and if she is reading this, I will do .. But somehow Ellen who sailed stormy waters to be near her Friend Jesus has been in my thoughts.

The picture is a collage of things around me, a picture of stormy Advent Seas, a candlestick, my bible, open at Isaiah ch. 2 verse 5, “let us walk in the light if the Lord” and a purple ribbon given to me last Sunday to remind me that the First Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church Year. Our hearts are often storm tossed, even the quietest of us experiences angry, disturbed thoughts from time to time, I know I do, and that I need the Lord to steer my ship, I need to come–about and pitch unwanted cargo overboard, I need the Light of Christ.

Whether you are sailing stormy seas, or peaceful ones, take the Light of Christ with you and you will journey safely

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The Slow Watches

The days are busy, full of coming and going, but they are also short, darkness falls earlier each day, but it is not the darkness of my childhood days. Down the lane of my birth, the gas lamps were widely spaced and only one side of the lane was lit, but there again the few houses were only set on one side of the lane the opposite side was bordered by a steep bank and rough fields. My word, the lane was steep, my little legs sometimes wondered if they would ever reach the top, and snowfalls meant we were snowbound; whilst ice and frost on the pavement meant you reached the bottom quicker than expected.

What really sticks in my mind about those dark, winter nights are the starry skies. In the absence of light pollution the still, silent stars were thrilling. So much so that I wanted to know their names and all I could about them. When I became older, I became the owner of two telescopes, a refractor and a reflector – I still have them – but more, and more housing developments, and glows from motorways etc mean that the stars have lost their glory … Light pollution they call it.

Down through the years I have been questioned many times, by many kinds if people on how it is possible to have a love of the stars, to know them by name and at the same believe that God created them. I can’t really answer that but I don’t have any difficulties, never have done. I am sure that God knows all their names too.

Yes, I know everything is so vast, there are galaxies beyond number, let alone stars; there is so much, very much more knowledge about the cosmos gained since I was a little girl of 4 or 5, a teenager and a young woman learning the math and how to draw a planetary orbit, make my own star charts, but still it seems to me that the Maker of the stars looks over my shoulder and takes an interest in what I am doing, what I am learning now. In just the same friendly way He was with us a little while ago as we practised carols for the Christmas Service.

John was with us too, born in the village he emigrated to Australia many years ago, but comes over to visit around this time, and to sit in the choir stalls where he sat as a little boy. It was John, who reminded me of the way people used to make sure, if they heard on the wireless that snow was coming, to leave the entry door open because if the snow came and piled up against it folk were stuck. No one ever went into the house by the front door, front doors were only opened when a coffin was carried out. John is older than I, but born like me into an old fashioned world which has changed so rapidly, in so very short a time. Nothing stands still, but these dark, still (yes the echo of the stillness is still there underneath the traffic’s hum) Advent Nights are still times of waiting, if we have a power cut tonight the stars would suddenly shine out.

Thy kingdom come! on bended knee
The passing ages pray;
And faithful souls have yearned to see
On earth that kingdom’s day.

But the slow watches of the night
Not less to God belong;
And for the everlasting right
The silent stars are strong.

And lo, already on the hills
The flags of dawn appear;
Gird up your loins, ye prophet souls,
Proclaim the day is near.

The day in whose clear shining light
All wrong shall stand revealed,
When justice shall be throned in might,
And every hurt be healed.

When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
Shall walk the earth abroad;
The day of perfect righteousness,
The promised day of God.

(words by Frederick L. Hosmer (1891)

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I love this painting, if you look very closely over the head of Jesus you can see a star, the artist Holman Hunt, painted in the planet Venus (the evening and the morning star). Now Jesus is the Morning Star and I look for His coming. However rapid the advances in science, however great the changes, deep down things, the earth is still waiting for ‘the day when knowledge, hand in hand with peace, shall walk the earth abroad.’

Jesus also is standing at the front door and waiting.

Who will let Him in?
The promised day of perfect righteousness cannot happen until we do this.