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Sunday, 26 December 2021
Acts 7:51-60

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Stephen siad to the high priest and the council:

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, 
you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, 
just as your ancestors used to do. 

Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? 
They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, 
and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 

You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, 
and yet you have not kept it.”

When they heard these things, 
they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.

But filled with the Holy Spirit, 
he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God 
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 

“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened 
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 

But they covered their ears, 
and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 

Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; 
and the witnesses laid their coats 
at the feet of a young man named Saul. 

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 

Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, 
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” 
When he had said this, he died.


Matthew 10:17-22

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Jesus said to the twelve:

"Beware of them, 
for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 

and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, 
as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 

When they hand you over, 
do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; 
for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 

for it is not you who speak, 
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 

Brother will betray brother to death, 
and a father his child, 
and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 

and you will be hated by all because of my name. 
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.


Address

God came to us in Christ in a world full of tensions and divisions. In fact, the sort of world we live in now. Jesus was born in temporary accommodation when his parents were travelling. 

When Jesus was taken to the Temple at six weeks’ old, there was the prophecy that he would shake up many lives and that a sword will pierce his mother's heart. That seen as referring especially to Mary’s pain at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Before long, Jesus’ family will be refugees heading for Egypt to escape the murderous Herod.

About thirty years’ on, after the Resurrection, in the early days of the Church, in Jerusalem, the Christians initially behaved much as the Jews did. They tried to provide regularly for the needy, who were largely the widows, who would probably not have a stable income. The Christians there were of two sorts. The majority had been born as Jews, and probably spoke Aramaic, as did Jesus. Then there were a smaller number, mostly, - but not all, - born as Jews, but who normally spoke Greek. It was the widespread language in the ancient world, and – you will remember – that the New Testament was written in Greek.

The Greek-speaking Christians at that time in Jerusalem felt that their widows weren't doing so well in the food distribution, as the Aramaic-speaking widows, so seven men were chosen, and indeed ordained, to sort it out. Stephen was the most prominent one of the seven, who were called deacons. Besides having those administrative responsibilities, deacons were also to be preachers, and, in those very early days, Stephen managed to upset the local synagogues and the Jewish leaders by his preaching. He was accused of being against Moses and the Temple.

But Moses, Stephen was actually very keen on, and the Jewish Law. Probably the Temple not so much - it was not around in Moses’ time, and Stephen might have been unconvinced about some of the activities going on in the Temple in his day. Stephen was quite a young man, possibly under thirty when he died, being killed after giving a speech to the Jewish leaders, outlining the essentials of Jewish history, and pointing out that God's great prophets had usually been persecuted by the Jewish leadership, and that they had done the very same thing to Jesus, the greatest of all. They had messed up to the ultimate degree.

Stephen courageously said what he was moved to say and paid the price. One of the leading Jews who opposed him was Saul, who looked after people's clothes for them during Stephen’s stoning. The outcome, of course, was that before long, Saul would change - from being famous as a violent persecutor of the Church, -  to become St Paul, himself enduring all sorts of hardships, and becoming the most famous of all for spreading the faith around the ancient world. Stephen's witness must have played a big part in triggering Paul's conversion.

So, what does all this say to us? The Church now, when there are serious differences and divisions, seems often to choose the route of papering over divisions, very politely, and with very pretty paper. Confrontation and hurt to be avoided at all costs. Anything leading to painful change for anyone, to be dodged and side-stepped. But is the Church of England thriving like that? I think Stephen and Paul would want us to ponder. Like Christ, they never rushed to take the easy way, and it was their courage and leadership and examples and sacrifices which brought many others to God.

Fr Roger
Saturday, 25 December 2021
Christmas morning and our service of Holy Communion with carols was at 10 am. Father Roger was the celebrant and we had families of all generations in the congregation! The Choir sang Away in a Manger (Kirkpatrick, arr Wilcox) after communion and we see the Magi are approaching our crib! Father Roger thanked Joanna, the Choir, those who decorated the church, Chris and Janet our wonderful Curch Wardens, and everyone who helped make Christmas so special and beautiful at St Mary's. We would like to thank Father Roger for all his help during our Interregnum, for keeping us going, and for all his work in the parish, and his excellent,  informative and thought provoking  sermons each week!






On their way to the Manger!



The shepherds have lots of sheep!






Titus 3:4-7

A reading from the letter of Paul to Titus.

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 

he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, 
but according to his mercy, 
through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 

This Spirit he poured out on us richly 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 

so that, having been justified by his grace, 
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.


Luke 2:8-20

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, 
keeping watch over their flock by night. 

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, 
and they were terrified. 

But the angel said to them, 
“Do not be afraid; for see—
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 

to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, 
who is the Messiah, the Lord. 

This will be a sign for you: 
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 
and lying in a manger.” 

And suddenly there was with the angel 
a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
 the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let us go now to Bethlehem 
and see this thing that has taken place, 
which the Lord has made known to us.” 

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the child lying in the manger. 

When they saw this, 
they made known what had been told them about this child; 

and all who heard it were amazed 
at what the shepherds told them. 

But Mary treasured all these words 
and pondered them in her heart. 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God 
for all they had heard and seen, 
as it had been told them.


Address

We read the familiar story, a warm and colourful scene, and something portrayed on countless Christmas cards. But, of course, many, - surely most, - Christmas cards these days, may be wintery but not seriously religious and often not in the least religious. But, for us, the issue this morning might be that the colourful picture in our gospel reading is probably not the cosy scene we thought it was!

The reading begins, 'shepherds on a hillside'. Shepherds. A rough lot. They may be doing a vital job, but ... shepherds... Some of the greatest Jewish heroes had been shepherds. Moses, King David...the prophet Amos.... But, many hundreds of years later, in Jesus' day, shepherds were looked down on by the religious leaders. How can you keep your meat kitchen properly separated from your dairy kitchen when you’re camped out on a hill? How can the lady of your house light your sabbath candles at sunset on Fridays saying or singing the correct Hebrew blessing, and you stop working for a day, - when you're stuck out on a hill, and the sheep need as much care on the sabbath as on any other day? As a shepherd, you might be sleeping across the entrance of a sheepfold keeping wild animals out. You just can't manage to keep the rules as a respectable Jew if you’re a shepherd.

Then, the Angels. Terrifying. God is right on your case. And there's a host of angels - a host is a formidable army… help! The shepherds go to the stable. The stable is emergency temporary accommodation for travellers, not normally for human habitation.

God's love to us in Christ is announced to the less respectable end of society, and Jesus is born in less-than-ideal circumstances. God reaching out to all sorts, and in all situations.

Rather than just see the nativity scene as decorative, we can see it with a different lens. The star leads to the one who is THE star. The Angels, messengers of God, point to the one who is THE messenger of God. The shepherds come to the one who is THE good shepherd of his people. The wise men, later, will come to the one who will grow up to be THE wise man. The wise men's gifts will be for the one who is THE ultimate gift to us. 

And, perhaps, saying ‘thank you’ for that gift should turn our thoughts to the less comfortable fringes of our society and to serving God and finding God, there.

Fr Roger

Friday, 24 December 2021
Our Midnight service, the first Eucharist of Christmas, was at 11:00pm on Christmas eve. Father Roger was the celebrant, and the congregation and choir sang hymns and carols. The choir sang 'Ding dong merrily on high' as an anthem. We left the church wishing each other merry Christmas, and saying hello to many extended families home for Christmas.






Our crib






Hebrews 1:1-4

A reading from the letter to the Hebrews.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors 
in many and various ways by the prophets, 

but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things, 
through whom he also created the worlds. 

He is the reflection of God’s glory 
and the exact imprint of God’s very being, 
and he sustains all things by his powerful word. 
When he had made purification for sins, 
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.


John 1:1-14

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God. 

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things came into being through him, 
and without him not one thing came into being. 
What has come into being 

in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, 
whose name was John. 

He came as a witness to testify to the light, 
so that all might believe through him. 

He himself was not the light, 
but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, 
which enlightens everyone, 
was coming into the world.

He was in the world, 
and the world came into being through him; 
yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, 
who believed in his name, 
he gave power to become children of God, 

who were born, 
not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, 
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, 
and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.


Address

We are here at the traditional time – the dark low point of the day, and the dark low point of the year, looking at the hope God gives us.

There are those who tell us that the special food is the best part of Christmas. We should probably pray for them! Nor is Christmas the excuse of the year. And as for celebrating Percy Pigmas….
Our best focus now is our reading from St John, who means business. The whole Bible began with ‘In the beginning, God created…’ St John is picking up on that, ‘In the beginning was the Word….’, he says. God creatively active, again, reaching out, and now, in Jesus, showing himself in our flesh.

For good reason we also read this passage as the climax of Carol services.  For that, the clergy are probably meant to sound pious and the educated, and use the weighty introduction, ‘St John unfolds the great mystery of the incarnation’. But – conscious of the pantomime season - I’m always tempted to say, ‘Oh no he doesn’t!’  St John does enormously well, but this great mystery of the incarnation is not the sort of mystery which can ever be fully fathomed or neatly unfolded. 

St John struggles valiantly to say something useful about a unique event. He takes the Greek and Jewish ideas and language, from his world and bends them to try to speak of the unfathomable mystery. The reading ends by saying that Christ is full of grace and truth. 

Grace and truth. To the Greek mind, ‘grace’ means something like ‘charm’. But for the New Testament it has another meaning. Grace is about a life-giving relationship with himself which God offers to humanity in Christ’s coming.

As for ‘truth’, it seems to be having a tough time at the moment. We sometimes hear that we are now in a post-truth society, where what is actually true often seems to matter less than what it might suit someone to believe, or what they think they can get away with, or what someone can induce us to accept. Post-truth is something we must be wary of, and it is seeming to infect the world of politics!
The idea of truth, for the Jews, was essentially about what worked in practice. Jesus was found to be a reliable guide to life. For the Greeks truth was more in the world of ideas. Are the highest possibilities for being a human to he found in a Caesar, or a Hitler, or a Casanova or a philosopher, or an athlete, or a Miss World? People would say, rather, that Jesus is the true human. True humanity is something we might sense, in terms of love, freedom, integrity, creativity, moral sensitivity, and so on. In that sense Jesus is the truth about humanity, and at the same time, he is our best clue to the nature of the God behind all things.

As for the best bit of Christmas being the food, it isn’t the purveyors of luxury food and the advocates of the decadent whom we need to listen to, but listen to Jesus, when he says, ‘Take, and eat this, in remembrance of me.’ His way of life, himself, to share among ourselves, to nourish us and unite us in the ways most essential to us being fully human.

Fr Roger

Sunday, 19 December 2021
We held our Nine lessons and Carol service at 6:00pm on Sunday. The Church was beautifully decorated and lit to welcome those who felt comfortable to join us in the present covid situation. We all wore masks, and sat in family groups the young children and their families in the transepts, the doors were opened for ventilation. 

Father Roger took the service and we had a number of congregational hymns and carols, a great joy after last year when the congregation could not sing at all! We also had the full choir this year  rather than our smaller 'covid choir' of last Christmas!

The Choir sang ;
Adam lay y'bounden                Setting by Peter Warlock (1894-1930)

A virgin most pure                    Arranged by Charles Wood (1866-1926)

The Angel Gabriel                   Words S Baring-Gould (1834-1924) arr Edgar Pettman

Away in a Manger                    Words 19C American  Melody W.J Kirkpatrick arr Wilcocks

Ding dong Merrily on High      Words G.R.Woodward    16thC French arr Willcocks

O little one Sweet                    Trans from German Percy Dearmer  melody harmonized by J S Bach

Welcome Yule                          Trad 15C  Setting C. Hubert Parry. 

We closed our service with a rousing 'Good King Wencelas' sung by choir and congregation.

Although it is still a week to Christmas Day, we left feeling ready for the celebration.





















 Genesis 3:8-13

They heard the sound of the Lord God 
walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, 
and the man and his wife hid themselves 
from the presence of the Lord God
among the trees of the garden. 

But the Lord God called to the man, 
and said to him, 
“Where are you?” 

He said, 
“I heard the sound of you in the garden, 
and I was afraid, because I was naked; 
and I hid myself.” 

He said, 
“Who told you that you were naked? 
Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 

The man said, 
“The woman whom you gave to be with me, 
she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 

Then the Lord God said to the woman, 
“What is this that you have done?” 
The woman said, 
“The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 


Genesis 22:15-18

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham 
a second time from heaven, 

and said, 
“By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: 
Because you have done this, 
and have not withheld your son, your only son, 

I will indeed bless you, 
and I will make your offspring as numerous 
as the stars of heaven 
and as the sand that is on the seashore. 
And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 

and by your offspring 
shall all the nations of the earth 
gain blessing for themselves, 
because you have obeyed my voice.” 


Isaiah 9:2.6-7

In days to come
he mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.

For you have forsaken the ways of your people,
O house of Jacob.
Indeed they are full of diviners[b] from the east
and of soothsayers like the Philistines,
and they clasp hands with foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.


Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.


Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God 
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 

to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, 
of the house of David. 
The virgin’s name was Mary. 

And he came to her and said, 
“Greetings, favoured one! 
The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words 
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 

The angel said to her, 
“Do not be afraid, Mary, 
for you have found favour with God. 

And now, 
you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son, 
and you will name him Jesus. 

He will be great, 
and will be called the Son of the Most High, 
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, 
and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, 
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel said to her, 
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, 
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; 
therefore the child to be born will be holy; 
he will be called Son of God. 

And now, 
your relative Elizabeth in her old age 
has also conceived a son; 
and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 

For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

Then Mary said, 
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; 
let it be with me according to your word.” 
Then the angel departed from her.


Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, 
but before they lived together, 
she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 

Her husband Joseph, 
being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, 
planned to dismiss her quietly. 

But just when he had resolved to do this, 
an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 
“Joseph, son of David, 
do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, 
for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 

She will bear a son, 
and you are to name him Jesus, 
for he will save his people from their sins.” 

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
 and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 

When Joseph awoke from sleep, 
he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; 
he took her as his wife, 

but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;
and he named him Jesus.


Luke 2:8-20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, 
keeping watch over their flock by night. 

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, 
and they were terrified. 

But the angel said to them, 
“Do not be afraid; for see—
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 

to you is born this day in the city of David 
a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 

This will be a sign for you: 
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, 
the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, 
which the Lord has made known to us.” 

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the child lying in the manger. 

When they saw this, 
they made known what had been told them about this child; 

and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 

The shepherds returned, 
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, 
as it had been told them.


Matthew 2:1-11

In the time of King Herod, 
after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, 
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 

asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? 
For we observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.” 

When King Herod heard this, 
he was frightened, 
and all Jerusalem with him; 

and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, 
he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

They told him, 
“In Bethlehem of Judea; 
for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men
and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 

Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 
"Go and search diligently for the child; 
and when you have found him, 
bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 

When they had heard the king, they set out; 
and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,
until it stopped over the place where the child was. 

When they saw that the star had stopped,
they were overwhelmed with joy. 

On entering the house, 
they saw the child with Mary his mother; 
and they knelt down and paid him homage. 
Then, opening their treasure chests, 
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God. 

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being. 
What has come into being 

in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, 
whose name was John. 

He came as a witness to testify to the light, 
so that all might believe through him. 

He himself was not the light, 
but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, 
which enlightens everyone, 
was coming into the world.

He was in the world, 
and the world came into being through him; 
yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, 
who believed in his name, 
he gave power to become children of God, 

who were born, 
not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, 
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, 
and we have seen his glory, 
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth. 
This morning our 10 am service was Matins as this is the third Sunday in December. Father Roger took the service and in his sermon he talked about how we cant wait for Christmas to come, not just for the birth of the baby Christ, but for all his teachings mean to us in this life and the next.

We sang advent Hymns, the Venite, psalm 144, the Benedicite and the Jubilate Deo as it is Advent and had coffee after the service.

4th Sunday in Advent







8am 

Hebrews 10:5-10

A reading from the letter to the Hebrews.

 When Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, 
‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”

When Christ said, 
“You have neither desired nor taken pleasure 
in sacrifices and offerings 
and burnt offerings and sin offerings” 
(these are offered according to the law), 

then he added, 
“See, I have come to do your will.” 
He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 

And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified 
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ 
once for all.


Luke 1:39-45

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

Mary set out and went with haste 
to a Judean town in the hill country, 

where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth. 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, 
the child leaped in her womb. 
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 

and exclaimed with a loud cry, 
“Blessed are you among women, 
and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

And why has this happened to me, 
that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 

For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, 
the child in my womb leaped for joy. 

And blessed is she who believed 
that there would be a fulfillment 
of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”


10am Sung Mattins

Isaiah 32:1-8

8 But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

9 Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.

10 Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.

11 Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.

12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.

13 Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:


Revelation 22:6-21

6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.

7 Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.

9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


Homily

‘I can’t wait.’ That seems to be the theme for today. We might dimly (in some cases) remember our feelings as a child just before Christmas or a birthday, when very soon presents might appear. In Bishop Martin’s case, and mine, birthday and Christmas presents arrived about the same time. Today, the last Sunday before Christmas, has something of that feel. 

We might be thinking at Christmas of a new king coming. In the first reading, Isaiah and his community just can’t wait for a decent new King. It seems that King Hezekiah was the answer to their prayers about 700BC. He was King of Judah, the southern part of the Holy Land. King Hezekiah was around when the other part, the northern part, the Kingdom of Israel, was overwhelmed by a heathen army. That region’s religion became compromised, and their ethnicity become more mixed. They became the Samaritans, whom the Jews in the South would come to detest. 

Hezekiah proved to be one of the best-respected kings and was of the House of David. And so, he was an ancestor of Joseph, and therefore legally, at least, the ancestor of Jesus. 
In the second reading, St John is just finishing his Book of Revelation. In the end, God will have things right, and John can’t wait. 

Had we been at the Eucharist today, the focus would be on Mary, preparing for the birth of her baby. She will be looking forward to that soon to being over. 
When we were looking at the prophets at the Family ser
vice, we said that prophecy is not like visions of the future in a crystal ball. The seers see into the reality of their own times, as God might see it, and speak of hoping in him, and of what he wants of us.  Today we might have been expecting another passage from Isaiah, ‘a virgin will conceive and bear a son, called Immanuel’. So, is the prophet in that passage really foreseeing Jesus’ conceived by Mary in a particular house in Nazareth many centuries ahead? The prophet’s Hebrew message to the people at a bad time was, rather, something like, ‘a young woman will have a baby, and, with God’s help, things will get better.’ By the time it had been translated through Greek and Latin it was not simply a young woman, but a virgin. We must hesitate to project prophecies centuries ahead - or to translate things without care!

That is not, of course, to deny the Virgin Birth. It can have interesting meanings, about a special new start for humanity, but will also raise much mystery. Was Jesus being a ‘Son of David’ simply a Jewish legal thing through Joseph, for which he would not need to be Jesus biological father? In 1922, almost 100 years’ ago, the two Archbishops got excited about this and other issues. They probably realised that the bishops are supposed to be the guardians of our doctrine. So they thought that they ought to discover what doctrine was actually held by the more enlightened in their Church of England. They appointed a commission. It was obviously, a tricky job, as it took the group appointed until 1938! Even so, some of our younger members may have missed the whole thing. Here is my copy.

We must insist always that Jesus was fully human, - one of us, - whatever else he was. And it is harder to maintain that if he wasn’t born normally. Much more could be said, but in the last resort, our salvation does not depend on the Virgin Birth! As a matter of history, it seems, Jesus was called ‘Son of God’ because of how he was, not because of rumours about his conception. And had he not been very special, no one would remotely care about rumours surrounding his birth.

So what we are looking forward to? At weddings now, the couples tend to be older than half a century ago. In Portsmouth Diocese in 1960s I think I must have married some brides, and possibly bridegrooms, below the new legal age which is just arriving. But I wonder what couples make of the current prayer about growing old together joyfully looking forward to heaven?  I’m not sure that that is on their minds at the time of the wedding.

We started Advent talking of trusting God to see us through, whatever we need to go through along the way. We are ending Advent by looking forward to the good end of things, where Christ will be at the centre. Especially if we are of a modern scientific bent, we can’t really now envisage heaven as set in the sort of time and space that we now know, - so we will struggle to envisage it at all! It is not far into the sky or simply into the future. Recently I used a prayer of John Donne at David Baron’s service, which seems to get it right, as best we can. 

“Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.” 
This is about being constantly fulfilled without being bored. Free from threat, or cause for anxiety. 

I can’t wait! 

Fr Roger

Sunday, 12 December 2021
This morning we reach the third Sunday in Advent called Gaudate Sunday, Gaudate is the Latin for rejoice, and this third Sunday in Advent the solomn mood lightens a little, the candle colour for this Sunday is pink, and today we look ahead to the coming of the Christ Child, and his herald, John the Baptist.



This morning we had extra cause for rejoicing because we were joined by Bishop Martin, who celebrated the Eucharist with us, Father Roger was also with us and read the Gospel. Bishop Martin welcomed us all to 'Rosy' Sunday, and spoke in his homily about this lifting of mood as we look towards Christmas, and how we need to look at our Christian responsibilities, in our personal lives, our community and national lives and our relationship to the whole world, to prepare for the second coming of the Prince of Peace. 

The Choir sang 'This is the Record of John,' by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1621) based on the text of St John's Gospel in the Geneva Bible. Dr Hilary Platts sang the solo accompanied by our Musical Director, Mrs Joanna Chivers with the chorus sung by the rest of the choir.

The Sunday School young people joined us for communion, and after the service they held their Christmas Sale in aid of their chosen charities in the rooms. 

Bishop Martin joined us for a coffee at the sale before wishing us all a Happy Christmas as he left. 

At the end of our service Bishop Martin told us that the Diocese was actively looking for the right person to be our Priest, and that we were very much in the mind and prayers of himself and the Arch Deacon. He also told the children of his visit to the home of Saint Nicholas the origin of Santa Claus, in southern Italy, and that presents are important to receive but also to give, that we give Jesus our love and hearts as a present on his birthday.  

Next Sunday, the 10 am service will be Matins, and at 6pm we will have our service of 9 lessons and carols.







 Philippians 4:4-7

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always; 
again I will say, Rejoice.

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. 
The Lord is near. 

Do not worry about anything, 
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God. 

And the peace of God, 
which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Luke 3:7-18

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, 
“You brood of vipers! 
Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 

Bear fruits worthy of repentance. 
Do not begin to say to yourselves, 
‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; 
for I tell you, 
God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 

Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; 
every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down 
and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, 
“What then should we do?” 

In reply he said to them, 
“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; 
and whoever has food must do likewise.” 

Even tax collectors came to be baptized, 
and they asked him, 
“Teacher, what should we do?” 

He said to them, 
“Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 

Soldiers also asked him, 
“And we, what should we do?” 
He said to them, 
“Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, 
and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, 
and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, 
whether he might be the Messiah,

John answered all of them by saying, 
“I baptize you with water; 
but one who is more powerful than I is coming; 
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. 
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 

His winnowing fork is in his hand, 
to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his granary; 
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, 
he proclaimed the good news to the people.


Sunday, 5 December 2021
This has been a busy weekend for St Marys, as we held our Christmas Market on Saturday 
The Market took place in the Church, the new Rooms and on the Vicarage Lawn! Holding it between 11am and 3pm allowed us to offer lunch time food of a traditional German style, along with gluhwein and warm spiced apple juice, or coffee. The stalls were accompanied by the entrants in the Christmas tree competition, which was won by Amelia, who made a thought provoking 'Rubbish Christmas Tree'  The whole event was very successful and raised money for the church, the Grand Draw will take place on the 16th of December, there is still time to buy tickets!!!
Many thanks to every one who made this event such a success especially to Janet Harland and Chris Field, who made it happen!

Sunday was the second of Advent, and a Family Service as it was the first Sunday of the month. We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath which represents the Prophets, and Father Roger told us about the history of the Old Testament Prophets in his address, quite a hard job being a Prophet!!

The Choir sang 'How Beautiful upon the Mountains' by John Stainer as the Anthem. It was lovely to see the Junior Choir singing with the adults. There was coffee after the service.







Philippians 1:3-11

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians.

My brothers and sisters,

I thank my God every time I remember you, 
constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 

because of your sharing in the gospel 
from the first day until now. 

I am confident of this, 
that the one who began a good work among you 
will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 

It is right for me to think this way about all of you, 
because you hold me in your heart,
for all of you share in God’s grace with me, 
both in my imprisonment 
and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 

For God is my witness, 
how I long for all of you 
with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 

And this is my prayer, 
that your love may overflow more and more 
with knowledge and full insight 

to help you to determine what is best, 
so that in the day of Christ 
you may be pure and blameless, 

having produced the harvest of righteousness 
that comes through Jesus Christ 
for the glory and praise of God.


Luke 3:1-6

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was ruler of Galilee, 
and his brother Philip 
ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 

He went into all the region around the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”


Homily

Our first Advent candle was to remember the patriarchs, the leaders when God’s people started. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later Moses. The important Jews who lived over 1000 years before Jesus.

Today we are remembering the great prophets, who lived in the last 1000 years before Jesus, right up to Jesus’ time, and John the Baptist was the very last one.

At the November family service we had the story of Jonah, who didn't want to speak up for God and be a prophet, delivering God's messages, because it was a tough and dangerous job.  There are quite a few exciting prophets, and their story fills the 1000 years before Jesus was born.

The story in our reading today, happens just as Jesus is starting his work. John the Baptist, who was the last of the great prophets is quoting the earlier prophet Isaiah. You will probably hear about John the Baptist properly next week from the Archdeacon. John told them to prepare for something special, just as Jesus was arriving on the scene. John was tough and brave, and eventually got his head chopped off. Many people have great respect for John. In an Orthodox Church, an icon of John the Baptist is one of those special artworks always there for people to kiss as they arrive. 

So...beginning a 1000 years before Jesus:  the Jews had got into their Promised Land, the Holy Land, and had an idea. 'We should have a King, just like other nations do.' But that was a bit rash, they were not supposed to be ‘just like other nations’, and God was meant to be their King. Things did not go well. They had three kings over 100 years. The first one, Saul was not a great success, David was, but he was naughty, then there was Solomon, who was better.

So, when someone like the great King David was naughty, who did God send along to tell him to behave? A prophet. In this case, Nathan the Prophet. To shake King David up, Nathan very bravely told the King a story.  A rich man had a lot of sheep, and a poor man who had just one lamb which he was very fond of. When the rich man needed a lamb to make a meal his guests, instead of using one of his own many sheep, he took the poor man's only one. The King didn't like Nathan's story. 'Where is that scoundrel who does that sort of thing? We'll punish him.' Nathan said to the King, 'You are the man' ‘You're the man who behaves like that!’  King David had everything he could possibly need, but he wanted to marry a poorer man's wife, and even had the man killed, to help him do that. Very naughty. 2 Sam 12. The dramatic story should remind us that if we read a lesson in church, we always need to discover what it’s about, and not end up obscuring it, and we need to convey any drama there, not let it be lost. 

One of the problems of having a King, was that, to keep the peace, your King had to marry a princess from another country. It’s what you do. But the foreign country didn't worship God, so we have a Queen arriving at the heart of God’s Holy Land with a different religion and bringing along different prophets, sometimes a lot. So God's prophets had lots of dangerous work trying to keep the King and the nation on the right track. The prophet Elijah had a weary time with Queen Jezebel and her hundreds of problem prophets. And Elijah had to flee for his life.

After the 100 years of Kings Saul, David and Solomon, - trouble - and the country split in two. A Jewish King in the north, and another Jewish King in the south around Jerusalem. And each had their prophets trying to keep things right. Up north, early on, they had the great prophet Amos. He was scathing about the need for God’s people to do better. He accuses them of ‘trampling the needy and doing away with the poor -  wanting to sell grain, skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.’ Amos 8:4-6  Amos also speaks against the rich women ‘who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to their husbands, ‘Bring us some drinks!’ ‘ Amos 4:1,8:5-6  He labels them with the name of a famous breed of prize cows.

Around 700 BC, or BCE as we say now, that northern Kingdom was conquered. They went in a different direction from the southern Jews and became the Samaritans whom the Jews in the South ended up hating. And they hated Jesus when he made a Samaritan the hero of his Good Samaritan story. But Jesus was, of course, making a very good point about caring for all of our fellow human beings, whether they are like us or not.

Eventually the southern Jews themselves were in trouble, and taken as captives to Babylon. As the psalm, number 137, and the pop song say, 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. Our captors demanded of us a song, but how could we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?'

They had lost everything. Their homes and their families' lands, their Temple and village synagogues, their proper Jewish food, their times when they could rest on the Jewish Sabbath, and their chance to worship properly. So whom did God send along? A prophet. In this case, Jeremiah. He said, 'you may think you have lost everything, but you haven't lost God. Build houses, plant crops, look after yourselves, raise families, strengthen your community for the future.' Eventually a foreign King, Cyrus the Great of Persia, conquered the Babylonians, and he let the Jews go back home and try to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

But life wasn't easy – in the three hundred years before Jesus, they were controlled by the Persians, the Greeks, and lastly the Romans, in Jesus' time. 

So, at the time of the first Christmas, the Jews were very unsettled. 'We haven't had a decent King for ages. We haven't had a decent prophet for ages. We haven't been free of foreigners controlling us for ages. Help, God!' What they got was Jesus, and John the Baptist as a prophet announcing him. Not what they expected, not what many of them would accept, but Christians believe Jesus was what they needed!

The prophets are called seers. People who see. They don't have a crystal ball, saying. 'I can see someone in 583 years’ time wearing red and doing so and so.' It's not like that.  Prophets 'see' - understand - how God looks at things - and what he must think about the leaders, and the community, and what God wants done to make things better. The prophet has to tell people that and will often upset them and be unpopular and get into danger - which takes courage. A prophet only does the job because he feels that God has picked him out for it, and he had better do it. It’s not a job you’d ever apply for, but they were the heroes over the 1000 years before Jesus. 

Prophecy though, is not completely over. Any of us can be moved to it. Clergy are ordained to be ‘watchmen of the Lord’, and to stir things up and be unpopular, if called to it. 

Fr Roger

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links


Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:


  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  6. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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