Advent: I’ve included an article from the Christian Resource Institute website that helpfully explains the Church’s season of Advent, giving a historical perspective and a relevance for today.
30th November is Advent Sunday: Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24).
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s in breaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbour as yourself.”
It is only as we experience that full cycle, beginning with unbridled joy in Advent that slowly fades into the realization of what we have done with and to the Christ, that the awful reality of Good Friday can have its full impact. And in that realization we can finally be ready to hear the Good News on Resurrection Sunday! That is the journey the disciples took. So there is value in taking the same journey beginning with the anticipation and joy of Advent!
So, we celebrate with gladness the great promise in the Advent, yet knowing that there is also a sombre tone as the theme of threat is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment on sin. But this is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.
Because of the dual themes of threat and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting & anticipating a great light (Isa 9)!
The spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable. But even then, the prayer of Advent is still:
Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel!
HT Treasurer: Philip Sunderland has been a brilliant Treasurer for a number of years, sadly he is having to resign a few months early due to having intensive radiotherapy treatment every day from Wednesday 29th December. Please pray for peace and complete healing. Holy Trinity are looking for a Treasurer to work alongside Philip from January with a view to being appointed by the first PCC after the April AGM. This is a very important office so please pray for the right person.
Diocesan Synod: Included in this newsletter is Bishop Alastair’s excellent charge to the November Diocesan Synod. You will see from it his heart for justice in Nepal. Please do pray for him as he is on the group that goes to the Vatican to talk about human trafficking and leads the Bishops in the House of Lords on this subject. There are some music CD’s on sale at the back of both churches in aid of the Bishop’s Harvest Appeal which would make good stocking fillers.
St. Mary’s Prayer Day: Thank you to all who prayed for St. Mary’s either in the church on the Prayer Day or at home. We’ve already had a touch of God’s grace with an increase in giving by pledges of over £1,000. Not surprising is it? Please give thanks and continue to pray with expectation because He’s a great God.
Jesus at the heart of Christmas is the theme for this Christmas and is going on the posters and invitations. Do pray that this message will bring joy to us as Jesus disciples and faith to other hearers.
Open Doors: I hope you’ve a copy of the recent prayer leaflet, either by email or a paper copy given out in church. Ask the Lord to make both Parishes ‘open door Parishes’ as in Acts He made whole areas open to the Apostles and co. Then ask for open hearts so that we may courageously share the Good News of Jesus to open hearts as in Acts 16 v 14. Soon the invitation cards for Christmas services will be available, ask the Lord who to invite to which service and pray for open hearts to accept the invitation and open heart to respond to the message. Cultures of Expectation and Evangelism, remember?
Carol Services: there are three at St. M’s. The WI Via Gellia Group Service at 7pm Thursday 4th, Royal British Legion 3pm on Sunday 7th and the Arkwright Society at 7.30pm on Friday 19th. The latter begins with Christmas Dinner at 6.00pm in their café – please book through the Society – then Wassailing to the church from 7.15pm. Period costume will be worn by those who wish! We’ll need help please with cakes, mince pies and helping serve the refreshments afterwards. Let me know if you are able to help please.
Holy Trinity (HT) are as usual hosting the United Benefice Carol Service at 6.00pm on Sunday 23rd. In addition there are two Christmas Concerts at HT. The Fishpond Choir are kindly having a concert at 7.30pm on
Sunday Saturday 13th, all proceeds will go to Matlock Bath Pre School. Let me know if you are able to help with welcome, making mince pies or serving refreshments. The DaleDiva are hosting a concert at 7.30pm on Thursday 18th in aid of their competition trip to the States in October 2015.
Crib Service: we are repeating the Crib Service at St. Mary’s at 4.00pm on Christmas Eve. Last year it went very well. Mince pies and refreshment help is required too please.
Tough time: for many Christmas is a tough time. Maybe because of losing a loved one, perhaps because of family break up or not having much money. Do remember these dear ones in your prayers and giving. Practically if you’d like to either donate to Church on the Bus via the basket at the back of church or by giving Co-op or Sainsbury’s gift vouchers via the collection. As an offering to the Lord I’ll see that they get to the correct homes.
Overseas Mission: on Sunday 30th November at Holy Trinity and Sunday 7th December Michael is preaching on the importance of supporting Overseas Missions. This Benefice has a really good track record of prayer and giving to Interserve with Catherine Truman in India, the Lees with CMS (the Church Missionary Society) and Jigsaw in the Philippines, CMS and Gill Ball (now retired) in Ecuador and, a previous youth worker here, Andy Thompson, now vicar of Abu Dhabi. Please pray that Michael in his usual business will have the time to pray and prepare, and that we will have open hearts to hear his message.
Safe traveling to those who will be away with family and friends over Christmas, and may you all know Jesus at the heart of Christmas.
With love in the Lord,
Holy Trinity now has a Wi-Fi connection, should you wish to use it please ask Caroline in the Church Office for the Password.
Please do not give it to anyone outside the congregation.
Our thanks to Allen for his work on this.