Newsletter 19th December 2021

Message from our Minister

I know that this has been a very challenging year for many of you. Some of you have been able to physically join us for worship and it’s been so good to see you. Others have not been able to, for all kinds of reasons. I want to assure you that you have all been very much in our thoughts and prayers. You are all valued members of our fellowship. 

You might be approaching Christmas with some uncertainty about how you will be celebrating this year. The challenges of the current Covid crisis are very real and concerning for us all. Our plans may have to change or adapt in some way; we may have to do things differently for yet another year.  Perhaps the darkness and gloom that we might be experiencing right now offers us a parallel to the darkness of this Advent season as we wait and long for the light of Christ to come into the world.

As we prepare for Christmas, however that will be for us this year, it is good to remind ourselves of the essential truth of what we are celebrating. That truth is that God loves and cares for us. He sent his Son Jesus Christ, who is the true light, to live amongst us and to show us the way back to God.

Jesus came, not to escape the realities of life but to engage with people at the point of their need. He came that we might have real and lasting hope. In Jesus, we have certainty in a time of uncertainty, hope in a time of despair and confusion.

Hope, therefore, is given to us all. At Christmas, hope is revealed by the coming of a baby born in a manger, Jesus the Saviour of the world, Immanuel, God with us!

Marian and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year.

God’s richest blessings to you all,
Rev John Izzard

 Today

Martin is our preacher for the fourth Sunday in Advent. His message is entitled “Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas”. We look forward to hearing him.

Next Week  – THERE IS NO SERVICE ON SUNDAY 26th DECEMBER.

Of course, we have the carol service at 4p.m on Friday 24th and the combined service at Newport Methodist at 10.30 a.m  Christmas Day. Rev John will be participating at both. 

Carol Service – an important request from the  Covid Committee

The Carol Service will be at 4 p.m Christmas Eve. Rev John will be speaking and others sharing. It will be great to have as many possible attending but just in case we get too many, the Covid Committee are asking for volunteers from the church to be ready to move to the hall, (where the service should hopefully be relayed – only sound I’m afraid), should it be necessary. This is so that our guests are comfortable to be in church in light of the present situation with Covid.  Of course, some of the Covid Committee will themselves be volunteering!

Our next Sunday meeting will be January 2nd  when we will start 2022 with a time of praise, worship, prayer and sharing.

Christmas Card and Action for Children  

There is a big Christmas Card at the back of the Church which we can sign rather than sending cards individually to church members. At the same time, you are invited to make a donation to Action for Children.  Thank you, Carol         

Alpha UK presents Is God Dead? with Guvna B

Airing on TBN this December. The show explores topics such as healing, prayer, social action, forgiveness and there’s even a Christmas special! It’s the perfect thing for us or our friends who are thinking about faith, to tune into. 

You can catch this every Thursday and Friday in December at 8pm (apart from Christmas Eve!) on TBN finishing with the Christmas special on Thurs 23rd December.  You can also watch the series on our global Alpha YouTube from Friday. 

Watch the 40 second trailer on https://youtu.be/ZSaUMSyb45k to find out more!

A Multilingual Christmas

Here are some words and phrases from the Christmas story, as told in Luke 2 and Matthew 2, but they are in 3 foreign languages.  All you have to do is work out what the word or phrase is in English, and write it in the space.  And what are the 3 foreign languages?

Frohe Weihnachten!    Joyeux Noël!    Buon Natale!

More Jokes from Simon

An employment agency sent me for an interview at a poultry farm as a stock taker.  I’m optimistic but I’m not counting my chickens.

My friend’s fruit and veg business went into liquidation….  They now sell smoothies.

My girlfriend Rose said she’s breaking up with me because of my fixation with supermarkets.  I said, “Hey, wait Rose.”    

OPINION

God hasn’t promised to save you from Omicron. There’s something far better on offer instead                         By Tim Farron MP

Opinions on the new Covid variant may leave us feeling anxious, angry or just plain weary. But the best way to deal with the uncertainty of Omicron is to focus on our security in Christ, and to turn outwards in love towards our neighbours, says Tim Farron

As advent begins, the excitement is building already towards Christmas Day. We don’t know the exact date that Jesus was born, but we do know that the first Christmas was a historical event that happened at a specific time. We also know that Jesus will come again. Only the Father knows when – but there can be no doubt that this, too, is a fixed event in time.

We look forward to many things in life that are far less secure. The new Covid variant, Omicron, highlights once again that all our earthly plans are at the mercy of God. James 4: 13-14 reminds us: “Now listen you who say, ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money’. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while but then vanishes.”

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH THE UNCERTAINTY OF OMICRON IS TO REST ON OUR SECURITY IN CHRIST
I feel like James 4 hovers all over the Covid pandemic. This week, once again, it feels like a timely rebuke to me personally. I am looking forward to Christmas, to time with family, time off from work and a festive visit to watch Blackburn Rovers… each to their own I hear you say. With the emergence of this new variant, many will feel despair. Is Omicron more infectious? More likely to get round vaccine protection? We don’t know yet but the newspaper headlines are already shouting about the need to “save Christmas”.

How should Christians respond? Perhaps we avidly follow what scientists say. Perhaps we feel out of control. Maybe we have even already thrown our face masks away. Probably we are simply weary of the whole thing.

TRUTH AND TROUBLE                    When we hold God to promises he never made, it can cause us to feel disillusioned. We feel disappointed or crushed when those promises aren’t fulfilled. But God didn’t promise us a cosy Christmas. He didn’t promise us a summer holiday. He didn’t promise us that we could make plans and that all would go swimmingly. In fact, God promised trouble. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us that “in this world you will have trouble.”

But wait for what he says next “…but take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a claim! You can’t let that pass you by!

We are waiting to see if Omicron will disrupt our plans again. But in Advent we are waiting for the incarnation of God in human form and for his return. Jesus has been born, he has died for our sins, he will come again and he will redeem all who trust in him. These are the promises that God has made. You can have complete certainty in that. When we are in the boat in a storm, remember that he is in the boat with us. At Christmas we remember Emmanuel, God with us:

But trusting God doesn’t mean ignoring the virus. If we are going to take God at his word, then we must love our neighbour. That means being responsible towards others. Wearing a mask, getting the vaccine, following basic hygiene rules. A friend of mine, younger than me, has only just come off a ventilator having spent two weeks in hospital with Covid-19. This thing hasn’t gone away and we need to show love for our neighbours by protecting them from it.

GRACE AND ACTION                        We also need to pray for grace to respond to those who disagree with us. After nearly two years of Covid, there seem to be an alarming number of people holding covid-sceptic or anti-vaccine views who say that they are Christians. But we must remember that we should love the truth and not propagate untruths and half-truths that could cost people their lives.

GOD DIDN’T PROMISE US THAT ALL WOULD GO SWIMMINGLY. IN FACT, GOD PROMISED TROUBLE
Recently, Lord Paul Boateng was my guest on the A Mucky Business podcast. He spoke passionately about the health needs of people in developing countries, and the very great risk to us all when only a small minority of people in these countries have been vaccinated. Without global vaccination, he warned, the virus stands a far greater chance of mutating into new strains. Paul has been proved right. Omicron seems to have evolved because of that very situation

The Bible tells us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Perhaps the best way to deal with the fear and uncertainty of Omicron is to rest on our security in Christ, and to turn outwards in love towards our neighbours; keeping them safe by mask wearing and getting vaccinated; meeting their needs and pressing for our government to share vaccine with those countries much poorer than our own.     
(FROM PREMIER CHRISTIANITY)

Our Next News Sheet will be for Sunday January 2nd.  Have a good Christmas break everyone! 

There is no newsletter next week but please send any contributions that might be published (for Sunday 2nd January) by Wednesday 29th to:   andy