December 2023 Parish Letter
My dear friends,
I am typing this letter at the start of November, when the situation in both Gaza and in Ukraine is still unbearably heartbreaking. It is a reminder of just why Our Lord Jesus Christ had to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Bethlehem. Jesus was God’s rescue mission – if I can put it that way – to save mankind from the sour consequences of the Fall and Original Sin. If we offer Jesus Christ our love and trust, he offers in return forgiveness from sin, grace to cope with the difficulties and sufferings of life, the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and he opens the way to eternal life in God’s kingdom.
In all the busyness of the Christmas season, we must try not to forget the true meaning behind the feast: the birth of the Son of God at Bethlehem. Jesus Christ had a special place in his heart for the sick, needy and suffering. Perhaps this year we could each find a little way of helping someone who is not going to have a happy or enjoyable Christmas 2023.
Looking ahead, the coming month is a very busy one, with a range of interesting services to mark this holy season. On Advent Sunday, 3rd December, we have our next Children’s Eucharist on the theme of the Advent wreath at St Laurence’s Church, Catsfield, at 9.15am and at St George’s Church, Crowhurst, at 11.00am. These services last for about 30 minutes and are geared especially for families and children. We hope you will also join us for refreshments afterwards.
On Sunday 10th December there will be a reading of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ at St George’s at 6.00pm.
Crowhurst Church of England Primary School has its Carol service in St George’s Church on Thursday 14th December at 2.00pm. Catsfield Church of England Primary School has its Carol service in St Laurence’s Church the following day, Friday 15th December, at 2.00pm.
There will be a Carol service at St George’s on Sunday 17th December at 4.00pm.
On Saturday 23rd December there will be Crib services with a tableau of the Nativity at St George’s at 2.00pm and at St Laurence’s at 3.30pm.
On Sunday 24th December we have our usual services for the 4th Sunday of Advent at St Laurence’s at 9.15am and at St George’s at 11.00am.
On the evening of 24th December – Christmas Eve – we have our Midnight Mass at St Laurence’s at 11.00pm. On Christmas day there will be a Christmas Eucharist at St George’s at 10.00am.
May I wish you all God’s blessing at Christmas and good health and happiness in 2024.
With kindest regards,
A REFLECTION FOR ADVENT SUNDA
‘Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ (St Mark, chapter 13, verses 24-37)
In this excerpt from St Mark’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to ‘keep awake’. He is anticipating his Second Coming at the end of time. We say in the Creed: ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.’ We none of us know when this Second Coming will happen, nor indeed, the hour of our death, when we shall meet Jesus Christ, our most just judge; but we do know it will happen one day, for Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels.
It is traditional in the season of Advent which begins today for Christians to ponder our own mortality. But I suspect that these words of Jesus with their call to keep awake also have another meaning for us. The best way to prepare for our death and the day of judgement is to live life to the full, consciously sharing it with God, and taking advantage of the many opportunities that God sends us to serve Him and to grow in faith. If our human life on earth has its sad and difficult times, life is nonetheless a most wonderful gift, to be enjoyed, and also a great opportunity to good and be creative. At the end of our lives, we Christians should like it said that we did something with our years on earth and didn’t just fritter away our time. The danger, though, is that we may all overlook and miss the opportunities that God sends us.
We all need routine, for routine is healthy for human beings. Unlike chaos, routine enables us to grow. But there is a danger that our routine may turn into a rut. We can become stale. We can end up doing the same old things, over and over again. Our Christian vision can become limited. What fed our souls once, feeds them no longer, because we have changed. “Keep awake!” Jesus calls out to us, “look where you’re going, or rather where you’re not going.” We may need to do something to blow away the cobwebs: perhaps we need to try praying at a different time of the day; try some new Bible notes or a new devotional book; go to confession; go on a retreat, a quiet day, or a pilgrimage.
God sends us many opportunities to serve Him, many signs of His love for us, many little nudges to guide us in the right direction, each and every day. “Keep awake” says Jesus, “or you may miss them.” It is all too easy for us to think that God speaks to other people, never to us. They do all the glamorous things, not us. We just bumble along. Well, of course, that is not true. We must look out for God in our lives day by day, and have a high and confident expectation. God has high hopes for each of us.
The four weeks before Christmas have become very hectic in recent decades as we all rush around, trying to find the perfect Christmas presents, cook the perfect Christmas dinner, be the perfect family. The advertising people continue to suggest that we shall be made happy by food and presents, and we pretend to believe them; but deep in our inner hearts we realise that this is not true. True happiness comes from recognising the real meaning of Christmas: the birth of a baby who was the Son of God. Let us try to spend a little time over the next four weeks pondering the significance of Christ’s birth for us and our lives.
“Keep awake,” Jesus insistently urges us.