Newsletter 20th December 2020 (Fourth Sunday in Advent)

Please note we will NOT be having a service on Sunday December 27th

(There will NOT be a newsletter next week either)

OUR NEXT SUNDAY SERVICE is on 3rd JANUARY when Jane Dronfield will be preaching

Message from our Minister

To say that this has been a challenging year is a huge understatement. The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the very fabric of society and brought devastation to communities around the world. We continue to have to adjust what we can do, where we can go and who we can meet, according to the latest government guidelines. However, there is real hope that things will begin to improve now that a vaccine is available. In this changing and uncertain time it is good to be reminded again of the essential Christmas message of hope and peace, offered to us through Jesus; the baby in the manger and Saviour of the world. He comes to be among us and to be with us.  This message is powerfully portrayed in the hymn by Charles Wesley, ’Let earth and heaven combine’, which states, ’Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man’. 

Marian and I wish you all peace and joy this Christmas and also for the New Year!
Rev John Izzard

DON’T MISS OUT! PLACES LIMITED!

We will be having an exciting Christmas Eve Carol Service where we will celebrate the meaning of Christmas in original and innovative ways (despite limitations caused by covid).  

We start at 4 pm and finish at 4.45 pm

BOOK YOUR PLACE BY RINGING LINDA on 523948. 
(Priority will be given to those who cannot access the internet)

DOXA EN HUPSISTOIS THEO *

In his original Greek writing, Luke reports (2:14) that the angels said “Doxa en hupsistois Theo”.  This wasn’t the shepherds’ language, so, unless there was an advanced Pentecost miracle (Acts 2:8), the angels presumably said it in Aramaic.  (* Greek letters put into our alphabet, in case you or your computer don’t read Greek!)

The thing is, God is familiar with all the ways his children speak.

Can you match up the words with the languages?  You don’t need to be multilingual – a bit of intelligent guesswork should do the trick.

If you’re stuck between Italian and Spanish, try singing “altissimi” (alteessseemee) as if you’re Pavarotti.

Answers at the end of the Newsletter!

THE ANGELS’ SONG, and my favourite Christmas carol/hymn

(Actually, Luke says the angels said “Glory to God in the highest”, etc., but try telling that to all the composers who have set the words to music!)

“It came upon the midnight clear”, my favourite, has been controversial, as it doesn’t mention Jesus or the birth.  It starts off with the angels’ song heard by the shepherds.

Verse 2 says they are still singing over our weary, noisy world.

Verse 3 says that we are too busy warring to hear their love-song:

– “O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.”

The last verse has been the subject of much debate, and is often changed.  People are not sure about the theology of “comes round the age of gold”.  So I don’t mind if we don’t sing that verse.  

But what a great image, of the angels still singing, but our failure to hear them.  God still comes to us; the coming of his Son is not just an event from two millennia ago – it can be our experience now, if only we will listen, and if we are ready to receive him. Martin

The ‘Star of Bethlehem’ will be seen this month for first time in 800 years

Without a doubt, something historical during a year that we want to forget! For the first time in 800 years, the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Wise Men to Jesus, will be visible from the entire northern hemisphere from December 16th to 25th, 

The astronomical phenomenon, last seen during the Middle Ages, in 1226, is produced by the exceptional alignment between Jupiter and Saturn, which will get close enough to visually look like a single star, so it is an optical illusion.

It was the astronomer Johannes Kepler who was among the first to defend the hypothesis that the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ was actually a rare alignment between Jupiter and Saturn, and not an individual star, and astronomers say that it will not be seen again until 2080.

They say that best time to view this optical illusion will be just after sunset, and recommend using a telescope to fully appreciate it. In Spain, Europe and the rest of the northern hemisphere the star will be visible during the week of December 16th to 25th, whereas for the southern hemisphere it will only be visible on December 21st, the day of the winter solstice… a Christmas miracle!  (From the Canarian Weekly, many thanks to Sam Godley for forwarding this article)

OPINION:

The point is, there is no reason for Christians to be ambivalent about Christmas. Yes it’s overindulgent and over-the-top. Yes, it tempts people into spending money they can ill afford. But it is, still, about light in the darkness.

And this year – especially this year – we really need some light. This year, more than ever, we Christians need to celebrate Christmas and share the true meaning. We may not be able to do it in the traditional ways (although don’t worry, the Christmas carol service only started in Victorian times), but that won’t matter. Christmas was, from the start, an invented festival. That doesn’t diminish its power. All traditions have to start somewhere. And whatever it will look like this year, the core meaning remains. It’s about light overcoming the darkness and warmth driving out cold. It’s about life returning to earth and to all who live on it. It’s about faith, friendship, families and even fir trees. Jesus remains at the heart of the festival. Christians were right to place his festival on that day. He is the star in every sense.
(part of an article by Nick Page in Premier Christianity magazine, which itself is adapted from his latest book, ‘ Christmas, Tradition, Truth and Total Baubles’.  He also argues that Christmas was not put on the same day as a pagan festival – the pagan festival came afterwards – to distract people from Christmas. Christmas came first!)

IN THE NEWS      

TV’s Bobby Ball, most famous for his double act ‘Cannon and Ball’ and more recently playing a Grandad in ‘Not Going Out’, died aged 76. Speaking to Premier Christianity, his friend and biographer, Chris Gidney, said “He was just like a stick of Blackpool rock – just break Bobby and the word Jesus runs all the way down the middle”         

A Vision of JesusAs a young woman, my Aunty Cleeve lived a flamboyant life full of music and fashion. She was always fascinated by people, especially artistic people, and when she eventually became a Christian, her faith was vibrant and contagious. In old age, however, knowing that her death was imminent, she became increasingly anxious as her past misdemeanours returned to haunt her. However the last time Sammy and I saw Aunty Cleeve, her countenance was bright. As soon as we stepped into her little room at the care home near Tunbridge Wells, we could sense the peace of God’s presence. Initially she noticed Sammy’s fashionable knee-length boots and began reminiscing about a similar pair she had worn in the 1930s but, before long, the conversation turned to weightier matters. A few days before our visit, something extraordinary had happened that had, she said with an expression of surprised delight, taken away her fear of dying entirely. She spoke quietly and carefully about a visitation she had received from Jesus. One night, she said, He had actually appeared before her right by the bed. My Aunty Cleeve, so wracked with fear at the prospect of death, had seen the Lord. That was all. No words were exchanged. No words were necessary. From that moment , death had lost its sting.

 Whether or not we receive the reassurance of such a vision of Jesus (and few people do), Christians share a wonderful hope. We do not ‘grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope’ writes the apostle Paul ( 1 Thess 4.13) Why not? Because unlike them, ‘ We believe that Jesus died and rose again’ (1 Thess 4.14) (From ‘God on Mute’ by Pete Greig)

Angus comments 

Andy Croft from Soul Survivor Watford encourages us to take heart from the way Mary’s coped in uncertain times.
“I found the introduction to the Soul Survivor Watford online service this week, very encouraging at this time of uncertainty. To have a look please click on the following link.   https://youtu.be/YfYZPI6Nu50   

CHURCH COUNCIL- NOTE THE  PLACE  DATE and TIME

Our next church council is on WEDNESDAY JANUARY 21st at 7 p.m.,  AT CHURCH  (social distancing, masks etc) – Important notices will be discussed and decisions made. Come along and be part of the process!

Languages answers:

1. French                     3. Spanish                   5. Latin                        7. Italian

2. Welsh                      4. Dutch                      6. German                   8. English