There is a post each day of Advent and for Christmas Day.

The Advent Wreath, like the Christmas tree, grew out of the legends surrounding St Boniface. St Boniface ministered to pagans in northern Germany He took the winter solstice wreaths of evergreen and adapted them to give a lesson through Advent and in preparation for Christmas.

An Advent wreath is a ring of evergreen foliage with 3 purple or blue candles and 1 pink candle on it. In the centre is a white or gold candle.

The ring represents the eternity of God and the evergreen signifies the continuity of life which Jesus gives.

There are several traditions about the meaning of each candle but the one which fits best with the Common Worship Principle Service Lectionary is

Advent 1 (blue) The Patriarchs: Abraham our father in faith, David the ancestor in whose city David was born.

Advent 2 (blue) The Prophets: those who foretold the birth of the Messiah.

Advent 3 (pink) John the Baptist: who proclaimed the Saviour.

Advent 4 (blue) The Virgin Mary: who gave birth to Jesus.

Christmas Day The Christ.

(gold or white)

At the beginning of each week you will find a worship page centred on an Advent Wreath. We suggest that you follow this worship as a family daily. But feel free also to have an imaginary wreath and we do not all have a family.

The daily bible readings and meditation are on the pages following the worship page

14 December 2018

Friday December 14 ~~ De weg door de donkerheid Le chemin de l’obscurité


 Lesser Festival for John of the Cross, poet, teacher of the faith, 1591



De weg door de donkerheid
Le chemin de l’obscurité

What mysteries are here! Is Jesus really saying that the world has had its chance to work out who he is, and that God’s presence is now to be restricted to those who recognised the merits of keeping the commandments: the obedient, the rule-followers? Is it now too late for everybody else? Judas is also confused and asks Jesus for clarification. The answer is reassuring. A right response is to be measured not by an ability to conform to the rules, but rather by a capacity to love, which will go hand in hand with keeping Jesus’ words. John of the Cross discovered that to love and to keep Jesus’ words sometimes leads us directly to what feels like the opposite of what is promised here. The dark night of the soul brings anguish and disorientation: we feel like orphans, we feel alone. But this, according to John of the Cross, is a sign that we are moving into a deeper relationship with God. It is merely this part of the journey, taking leave of the things of the world, that feels dark. If we keep going, keep loving, keep listening, we will see Jesus and we will live.

Suggested listening: Rückert-Lieder. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world). Alice Coote


Jane McBride

Attribution:


Amorosa Inebriatio from The Life of Saint John of the Cross (or The Soul Embracing the Cross as a Token of his Ardent Love for Christ from The Spiritual Song of the Carmelite John of the Cross), by Antonius Wierix III (Dutch, 1596–1624), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1951, www.metmuseum.org.

13 December 2018

Thursday December 13, Lesser Festival for Lucy, martyr, 304

Thursday December 13, Lesser Festival for Lucy, martyr, 304


On the 13th of December St Lucy, an ancient martyr of 3rd century Rome, is commemorated, a young girl who boldly proclaimed her Christian faith under the reign of the emperor Diocletian, and had to pay for it with her life. Her destiny, but also the Bible texts of today, draw my thoughts to another young girl, nearer to us in time, who also gave her life for what she believed in: Sophie Scholl (1921-1943). A student in the Munich of the 1940’s, together with her brother Hans and their friends, she formed a secret resistance movement called The White Rose. They wrote and spread anonymous flyers in which they pointed to the crimes of the Nazi regime and encouraged people to passive resistance with the aim of ending the war and bringing the government to a swift fall. After months of ceaseless fear she and her brother were caught by a caretaker in the university light hall where they were delivering flyers. The authorities were called upon, they were put to trial, sentenced to death and immediately executed. During this Autumn I have both read books about The White Rose and visited places connected to them. This photo is from the light hall of the university of Munich where they were caught during their last flyer action.


What made Sophie and her brother Hans take this step, very consciously risking their lives to speak up for freedom? Well, letters, diaries and testimonies from people who knew them personally give us some answers: their childhood in a warm home where critical thinking was encouraged and where political matters were discussed, their interest in art and nature, fervent study of classical literature such as for example St Augustine but also, last but not least, a genuine faith in Christ. What an inspiration for us in our time of polarisation and hard rhetoric, where sometimes xenophobia and isolationism is defended in the name of Christianity. May Christ inspire us all to walk in the footsteps of the martyrs also today and do what we can to spread His warm light of humanity, love and compassion.

 Sara Gabrielsson 


Attribution

Lichthof/atrium, Ludwig- Maximilians-Universität, München
By Sara Gabrielsson. Permission granted to use in this publication.

12 December 2018

Wednesday December 12 ~~~ It is good to praise God


The rabbis of Roman times said the Psalms were not arranged in their order of composition, because the psalms written when David was fleeing from Saul (e.g. Psalms 54, 56, 57 and 59) come after the psalm about Absalom’s rebellion (Psalm 3), something which happened many years later.


We see the same thing here in Psalm 62. Although Psalms 59 and 63 were written when he was still a young outlaw fleeing from Saul, Psalms 60 and 62 date from the time when he was king. In Psalm 62 we can see this from two things. First, he speaks of those seeking to topple him from his exalted position (v. 4). He wouldn’t have said that if he was still hiding in caves. And, second, the psalm is ascribed to Jeduthun, one of the three directors of music whom David appointed to offer continual praise to God in Jerusalem night and day.

This ministry of praise and worship which David set up was something new for Israel. There is no hint that the Israelites sang continual praises to God in Moses’ time. Nor in the time of the judges. Nor in Saul’s time. But David initiated it. And the result was that, in one generation, Israel’s story was turned from defeat to victory, from continual oppression by the Philistines, to complete subjugation of their enemies on every side.

Seek for yourself a praising heart. It will be the best medicine for all your sorrows, and will make a door for the Holy Spirit to enter your life and turn your darkness to light.

Il est bon de louer Dieu, Hallelujah!

David Mitchell


Attribution:

David, ca. 1408–10, by Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni), Italian, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gwynne Andrews and Marquand Funds, and Gift of Mrs. Ralph J. Hines, by exchange, 1965, www.metmuseum.org.

11 December 2018

Tuesday December 11 ~~~A call to the mature





Isaiah is one of my favourite books. Its declamatory, energetic, earnest, and outreaching style is attractive in its aim to bring rebellious people back under God’s protective wing. What caught my eye in chapter 46 was the call to older people who had been carried by God throughout their lives to remain faithful. The chapter points out that older people are susceptible to the temptation of turning gold into a god. 

Our modern-day parallel would perhaps be the dangers of putting too much store by the accumulated savings and pension entitlements that some older people have access to.

The chapter warns that though the mature may “cry out to it (gold), it does not answer” - a misplaced trust in financial wherewithal that produces no fruit.

For sure, over-satisfaction with wealth can lead to a state of “stubborn heartedness” and a standing that is “far from righteousness” (v. 12).

God’s stark response is “I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me” (v. 9). Only God himself has a license to be so arrogant!

 But at the same time, the chapter finishes with the makings of a solution: in his compassion, God makes the move towards sinful people, saying he is “bringing my righteousness near” - a foretaste of the later offer of salvation through Christ perhaps. Let’s be inspired throughout our lives, and especially as we get older, to remain clear-headed about where our true gold resides.


Le chapitre 46 d’Isaïe nous avertit du danger, tant qu’on devient plus âge, de se fier à l’or physique et pas à l’or spirituel, qui survient de Dieu.

Sue Bird


Attribution:
Death and the Miser, by Thomas Rowlandson, December 20, 1801,The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959, www.metmuseum.org.

10 December 2018

Monday December 10 ~~ Rescue Ranger God

Psalm 44      Isaiah 45.14-25    1 Thessalonians1   Matthew 14.1-12
Psaume 44    Esaie 45.14-25     1 Thessaloniciens 1  Matthieu 14.1-12
Psalmen 44   Jesaja 45.14-25    1 Thessalonicenzen 1 Mattheus 14.1-12


When I read this Psalm it was around the time of Armistice Day and so I immediately thought of the poor soldiers fighting in World War I. Is this what they were thinking and going through? Did they feel like God had abandoned them whilst they were knee-deep in the mud of Flanders and France? Did they beg for their lives or had they lost all hope and feel like a sacrifice to save the world? A more recent event that came to mind was the forest fires of California. Did the people living in those parishes also feel abandoned and demand that God should come to their rescue? We need to try and find the beauty of God in the little things. Like a story I read about the Thanksgiving celebrations in California where the pre-fire homeless people were sharing their meal with the post-fire homeless. Try today to search for the beauty of God in your daily life (sunrise, a kind word of someone, a smile on the bus …) Probeer vandaag om de schoonheid van God in jouw dagelijks leven terug te vinden (zonsopgang, een vriendelijk woord van iemand, een glimlach op de bus ...)

Jenny Freeman

Sunrise over the bay, Little Gasparilla Island, Florida.
By Mmacbeth - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30614607

09 December 2018

Sunday December 9 ~~ Our family

Second Sunday of Advent


As I write this, I am returning from two intense weeks of extended family brought together by events, namely a wedding and American Thanksgiving.

Family is a complicated thing for many of us. Of that, there is no better reminder than spending holidays together after time apart. Navigating changing family dynamics, new members, differing opinions on just about everything, and relationship maintenance across varying distances - it all can add up to a lot of work!

The family of God is no less complicated - the church is made up of broken people in a broken world. Given the admonishing tone of many of Paul's letters to the early church, it's clear that it was no less complicated in the beginning. And yet, in this passage we're reminded that despite the difficulties that people inevitably face when choosing to be family to one another, we also have so much to be grateful for in one another.

In late October, we held an All Age Worship Service on the topic of thankfulness. In it, people of many ages and backgrounds shared things that they were particularly thankful for in this season of their lives.

What struck me about these testimonies was that in each stage of life, every person mentioned one or more relationships in their lives through which they are richly blessed. These ran the gamut from siblings and parents to significant others to friends to the church family itself. It is such a beautiful testament to the work of God in our lives that despite all the potential complications, God is constantly working through each of us to show love and grace to others, and through them to show love and grace to us.
 
This Advent, may we live out Paul's prayer of thankfulness for the Philippians. May we abound in love for each other, and in our love help one another to grow. May we see our huge, complicated family as a blessing and not a burden, and through our striving to love one another better, may we prepare for the coming of Christ this Christmas. Amen.



Natalie Jones




Attribution:

Paul Preaching at Philippi from a set of Scenes from the Life of Saint Paul, ca. 1600, Flemish, Brussels, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Lillian Stokes Gillespie Collection, Bequest of Lillian Stokes Gillespie, 1915, www.metmuseum.org.    

08 December 2018

Saturday December 8 ~~ Will I say ‘yes’ to God today?

Lesser Festival of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Many Christians, particularly since the Reformation have been troubled by what they see as an undue focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, in some of the ancient churches.   But today’s feast has been in our church’s calendar since the 7th Century and was not removed at the Reformation.

Why?  Because all the feasts of Mary are, at their heart, feasts of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, ‘born of the Virgin Mary’.

Mary’s obedience – “Let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38) made it possible for the Saviour of the World to be born.

The choice of the reading from Genesis 3, contrasts Mary’s obedience with the disobedience of Eve, (though of course Adam was equally disobedient), and the consequences of their disobedience.  

It reminds us that Mary’s ‘yes’ to God, comes together with God’s ‘yes’ to humanity (including Mary herself).

God’s ‘yes’ in the birth, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, undoes the effects of humanity’s ‘no’, bringing life where there was death, freedom where there was bondage, pardon where there was guilt, light where there was darkness.
All that is required to receive this gift is a ‘yes’ from us.

Will I say ‘yes’ to God today?



Notre Seigneur nous appelle à lui dire ‘oui’, comme la vierge Marie lui a dit ‘oui’, afin que nous puissions recevoir les bienfaits de la naissance, la mort, la résurrection, et l’exaltation de son Fils incarné.

Sommes-nous prêts à lui dire ‘oui’ aujourd’hui ?


John Wilkinson


Attribution:

Arcusiridis [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Description:

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Bletsoe, Bedford. Grade II Listed Building.  Medieval parish church, much restored in mid C19. Coursed limestone rubble. Irregular cruciform plan with central tower, whose form suggests Saxo-Norman origins, though details at top, corner gargoyles and double trefoiled lights in each side, are C14. The chancel is a C19 restoration of a C14 rebuilding. It has two arched tomb recesses and is derelict, being bricked off from the tower. The roofless vestry to the north is a C19 rebuilding. The north transept overlaps both tower and chancel: approached from the tower, it is a C19 renovation of the St John Chapel, and contains a wall memorial to Frances Countess Bolingbroke d. 1678. The south transept, C14 restored, is slightly askew to the axis of the tower. The aisleless nave, heavily restored but probably of late C13 origins, now contains the Sir John St John (d. 1559) memorial, moved in 1978 from the north transept. It is in alabaster and shows his family under a canopy supported by columns. There is a C19 rebuilt porch to the south of the nave, which has diagonal corner buttresses at its west end. The octagonal font is C15.