Letter from the Vicar...
It’s that time of year again when, having fed my Christmas cake with brandy for a few weeks, ‘marzipanned’ and iced it, I sit back and wait until the time comes for me to ‘pour’ myself a slice, I can’t wait….
Yet of course that is just what the season of Advent is all about, waiting. But just what are we waiting for? For the answer we need to dissect the word Advent, Ad – towards and vent- the coming, so it means towards the coming, that’s what we are waiting for.
If like me you are a child at heart one of the things we wait for and look toward the coming of, is snow at Christmas. Yet as adults we know in reality it hardly ever happens.
Advent is the season that begins the Church’s annual celebrations of festivals, feast days and Holy times. It is a time when, rather than open cardboard doors and find chocolate, we open our hearts, examine our lives and think through just what the coming of Jesus has meant, to the world and to us and how this might change the things we do during this coming year.
From that moment around 2000 years ago, that will be retold in many a nativity play and carol service this December, to the present moment and the gifts God presents us with now, we are challenged every Advent to look to the future, the end of all time. In this way Advent has become the time when we look back, and look forward and try to deal with the present.
That’s all a bit deep I hear you say, shouldn’t we all be Ho! Ho! Hoing! at this time of the year.
Yes, we should celebrate Christmas, sing carols, give presents, support charities and eat Christmas cake, for we are marking the birthday of the Saviour of the world. However, our ‘Salvator Mundi’ is not a painting (costing us millions of dollars), Our Saviour of the world gave himself for all the world at no cost to us, just his very being. OMG! you could say.
But let us not forget the wonder and seriousness of it all amid the cards and the carols the cake and the turkey, the presents and His Presence among us at this time, in church, at home, in our lives and throughout the world.
Christina Rosetti wrote the lovely carol ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, it has the verse; ’What can I give him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I would do my part. Yet what I can I give him, give my heart’.
St Augustine once said ‘he who sings prays twice’ so just think how many prayers you will be praying over the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, as you sing those carols. May those prayers with God’s help go some way to saving the world so other generations can have their cake and eat it too!
Happy Christmas and New Year to you all
With my love Revd Ann
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
I don’t think the poet, Thomas Hood, liked November, what a shame. I like this month, possibly because within it is the day I became your Vicar, two years ago now – doesn’t time fly!
What’s not to like in November, lighting a fire, cosying up on the sofa at home in the evenings, cooking wonderful soups and casseroles to warm the body and cheer us up and putting on those favourite winter jumpers that don’t come out that often now with global warming and central heating.
I would disagree with Thomas, the sun does shine in November, and remembering from my school days we are actually nearer to the sun in November than we are in mid-summer! And just occasionally we will still see butterflies fluttering by, sometimes in church too, on the floral displays.
November in the church and the world is the month of remembering, All Saints, All Souls, Guy Fawkes, All the men and women who died in wars of the twentieth century and since, and finally on the last day of the month St Andrew who was one of the first people to be called to follow Jesus.
Andrew like Simon Peter, his brother, left his employment as a fisherman and took the risk to follow this inspirational leader and preacher, this man Jesus, and fish for people! Yet at that time of his calling, Andrew and the other disciples who followed Jesus had no idea of what the following years would bring, for they lived at first in the time before the first Easter, that wonderful moment when God showed us that death is not the end, and there is more life to come. Jesus in some way that we still find hard to put into words had risen and was amongst his friends preaching and teaching, loving them and shepherding them into the moment when they and God were ready for the Holy Spirit, the empowering person of God to come upon them.
If you ever find yourself being called by God to follow Jesus, even to give up your present employment and enter into training for the Ordained life or to join a religious community, just remember Andrew, and his calling, he didn’t know all there was to know, but something about this man Jesus attracted him.
It’s good to remember, especially the significant moments in one’s life, of calling, of loving and of dying, we don’t need to be like Thomas Hood, depressed about the absence of so many things, rather we should rejoice when we remember November, for sparklers may sparkle and rockets may soar, and Christmas is not far away! A time of presence rather than absence but more on that next month.
For now, enjoy those cosy moments on the sofa and remember, remember, remember.
Wishing our time away?????????????????????
September has come around so quickly, I do hope you have all enjoyed the summer and have had some time to rest and refresh yourself for all that will be going on this autumn.
The mornings are already fresher, with cobwebs glistening in the lawns and the robins starting to mark out their territory, sing their autumn song. Apples weighing heavy on my two old trees here in the vicarage garden and the nights are drawing in!
Have you purchased your first Christmas card yet? I have already received some catalogues, it seems we all have an urge to wish our time away and yet … let’s just savour the moment shall we, and be thankful.
On my window sill in my study I have some nick-nacks that make me call to mind moments I have savoured and I am thankful for each one of them.
From left to right, a dish containing some polished stones, a wooden carving spelling ‘rejoice in the Lord’ a model of a child being held in the palm of a hand, the icon of the trinity, a scallop shell a picture of my brother and I and a bottle of bubble bath! Quite a collection of meaningless objects, it might seem, but all tell stories of moments I have savoured. Let me explain.
The polished stones – an Ash Wednesday idea of mine one year to carry a stone in my pocket each day in Lent, remembering my sins have been forgiven.
Rejoice in the Lord – a wooden carving I purchased in Singapore Cathedral while travelling to sing at my friend’s ordination in Dunedin Cathedral in 2003.
The baby in the hand, given to me as I began my journey to ordination, a special moment, some 17 years ago now.
The icon of the trinity – always in my sight as I sit at my desk, constant moments with God to savour, even if deadlines of sermons and articles for magazines draw close!
The scallop shell – the symbol of baptism and pilgrimage, and I have done a few.
The photo of my brother and me – on graduation day, proud brother and his ‘sis’
And the bubble bath? Well, it was used one day at a service as a visual aid – maybe again sometime soon?
Bubbles are fragile, momentary, and show the colours of the rainbow if the light is right. You just have to savour the moment yet how we love to pop them, be honest we have all done it, for we are all children at heart.
This autumn as we see children go off to new schools let us not wish their time away, for they have years ahead of them to grow up into responsible adults - like their Vicar perhaps? (who has just spent several moments savouring stones, shells and bubble bath!) All in good time as they say, for time is a gift from God so let’s not wish it away.
With Love and Bubbles
What a lot has happened since I last wrote ‘page two’ for St Dunstan's parish magazine; two terrorist attacks in this country, a general election and a tragic fire of a high-rise block in London.
Within the life of St Dunstan’s church, your Vicar has returned to work after an absence of nine weeks recovering from an operation, (I am much better thank-you but still not quite 100% fit – or as fit as I was!), we enjoyed Bishop Trevor’s visit for the Deanery confirmation service, where we witnessed 11 people be confirmed. Three youngsters have been baptised, Messy Church has happened as normal with 20 children and 28 adults enjoying a service exploring the call of God to Samuel and lots of people climbed to the top of the tower during the bank holiday fun in May.
And so, we remember good times and bad times, locally and nationally, things that managed to reach the front pages of the newspapers and occasions that didn’t make the news at all.
How are we to deal with all this? What we mustn’t do is over-burden ourselves with other people’s problems, that’s God’s job. Yes, we need to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, but as a wise Archdeacon once told us clergy as we looked at the parable of the lost sheep, and wondering, with the declining number of congregations in church, if we were the one sheep who was lost and the 99 were those outside the church, the archdeacon said, ‘always remember you can only carry one sheep at a time!’ therefore - take it steady.
July and August are months when many people have holidays. Schools breakup, factories shut down for a fortnight and sometimes we all enjoy lovely weather! These months then become time to rest and relax, to barbecue and bathe, to visit new places and perhaps even attend a different church on a Sunday. If you are having a holiday away from Cranbrook please do take one of St Dunstan’s parish magazines with you and send our best wishes to the congregation there. Bring back one of their magazines, it’s a way of learning and sharing new ideas and realising that we are one big family.
That for me has been the striking thing that has occurred as a result of the terrible occurrences in Manchester and London, and as a result of seeing young and old come forward for baptism and confirmation, we are one big family and when one hurts, we hurt and when one rejoices, we rejoice.
There has been a noticeable outpouring of love across the nation and might that just be the Grace of God in action? that will help us deal with all this?
Whether we stay at home or go away, let’s enjoy these Holy Days given to us when we are on holidays, and thank God for bearing the burdens of our big family.
With love from your sister and mother in Christ