The Vicar Writes – Winter 2008

Dear Friends,

Advent–Christmas–Epiphany  :  Waiting–Celebrating–Discovering

Advent Sunday this year falls on 30th November and it begins the season of waiting for Christ’s appearing. Above all Advent is a time of preparation. We all immerse ourselves in the practical preparations for celebrating Christmas such as buying presents, baking food and sending cards. Amongst all this busyness it is sometimes a challenge to prepare ourselves for the spiritual dimension of our celebrating of the birth of Jesus. To help with this I warmly recommend to you Dr Paula Gooder’s book ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting: the Spirit of Advent’ which offers us six reflections for each week of Advent (one each day but with one day off!) based around the four candles of the Advent wreath. Paula’s book is intended for personal reflection but if you would like an opportunity to meet together I will also be offering a weekly time of prayer and meditation, with time afterwards to share what has been speaking to you in ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting’. Advent meditations will be on each Monday (1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd) at 8.00 p.m. in the chapel.

St Francis of Assisi is often credited with being the first person to create a Christmas crib scene to help deepen peoples’ devotion to Jesus. So it is especially appropriate that this year there will be several such crib scenes around St Francis church. We will have our very special pottery figures in the stable near the back of church for people to see as they come in. Then our ‘Posada’ figures of Mary and Joseph will eventually find shelter in the chapel once they arrive after their journey around the parish during Advent. At the centre of our celebrations in church will be our carved wooden Malawi Nativity figures which we received last year just in time for Christmas – they will particularly form the focus for our Christmas morning Crib Service. Last but by no means least, make sure you look out for the life-size nativity scene that will be on display outside the church in the cloister area. This is being built by our older youth group ‘Faithful’ and will be part of the way we share the Christmas story to our wider community this year.

After the high point of celebrating Christmas comes the season of fulfilment that we call Epiphany; which traditionally lasts for 40 days from Christmas Day until Candlemas on 2nd February. The purpose of this season is to give us time to discover who Jesus is. What we discover as we reflect on the gospel themes of our Sunday readings is that he is the King of all Nations, he is the Son of the Father, and he is the one who transforms our humanity that we may share in his divinity. One of the amazing things about living out our Christian faith is that we find that Jesus Christ is present with us in our daily lives – we discover that indeed ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us’ (John 1.14).

During Epiphany (and maybe beyond) I want to express in our Sunday worship how our Monday-to-Saturday lives are also part of our Christian experience; as George Herbert put it ‘Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee’. So what we will be trying in our 10 o’clock Sunday services is that we will have a ‘60 second interview’ with a member of the congregation. In that time they will have the chance to tell us a little of what they do in their daily lives, ask for our prayers for something in the coming week, and chose the offertory hymn and say why they have chosen it. This will be just a little way for us, over time, to get to know one another better and to help us make the connection between our discipleship and our daily lives. If you would like to volunteer to be interviewed in this way then I would love to hear from you.

With my prayers and all best wishes for these joyful seasons of waiting for, celebrating and discovering Jesus.