Well, the Christmas maelstrom is almost upon us! I did a tot up, in an idle few minutes, of what we’re doing this December.
Counting Carol Services, Children’s & Schools events, Community services, Memorial Services as well as three Midnights & three Christmas Days, we’ve got some twenty five Christmas events on the runway: and that doesn’t count Christmas parties, dinners, School Assemblies or the glorious Festival of Christmas Trees! All in all, a busy time for our Plurality. As one friend said to me, this is more than most Cathedrals do…. And in the middle of all this we have a General Election, as if we didn’t have enough going on. So: as well as all the Christmas advertising, (those siren voices telling us to spend, spend, spend to make our Christmases perfect) there’ll be Politicians hawking their wares too on our televisions and in our papers and magazines!
Mind you, I‘ve been aware Christmas has been bubbling away for at least four months: I saw the first advert for Christmas parties in a Hotel in early August. (To be fair, though, we did choose the music for the Advent & Nine Lessons Carol Services in early August too, over a glass of chilled wine in the Rectory Garden, so who am I to get huffy about getting Christmas sorted early?!) But in all this frantic (& to be honest, hugely exciting, enjoyable and rewarding) activity, it becomes even more important to remember why were doing all this.
Yes, for the children; Yes, to celebrate family life; Yes, to build up Community;
– but at the heart of all this is the commemoration of the birth of a child whose life is the pivotal point for all human history, a child who was God Incarnate, who crashed into this world two thousand years ago & who comes knocking on our hearts in the here and the now, today.
The Child of Bethlehem, Jesus the Nazarene, is as transformative of our lives now as he was for those Wise Men and shepherds wondering at that obscure manger in Bethlehem.
This Christmastime, in all the rushing and activity, let us give ourselves space just to “Be still and know”. Kneel and Adore Him, the Lord is His Name!
When we get there, Have a Happy Christmas,
One and All, Love, Fr. John
Leaf fall is well underway as I write in early November. This is triggered in deciduous plants by the reduction of daylight as the days get shorter. The process is called abscission which is an active and deliberate process. Abscission is caused by the cells of the stem, from which the leaf is growing, pushing the leaf stem (petiole) off when it is no longer needed. Nutrients from the breakdown of green chlorophyll will have already been reabsorbed by this time to feed the tree or other plant; this is why the leaves change colour before they are shed revealing the showering yellows and reds of autumn.
Have you noticed how the different species of tree lose their leaves at different rates? Currently, the black poplar trees in Hempstead Meadows Nature Reserve have lost almost 100% of their leaves. Similarly, ash trees have lost about 70% of theirs, but some of this may be due to ash die-back disease, which is spreading rapidly through the trees of Sussex. There will be individuals that are resistant to the disease and survive to repopulate in due course. This is called natural selection. However, the oaks have only defoliated about 8% of their leaves. Indeed, some species of oak are actually (semi-) evergreen, such as the holm oak, which is not native to Britain, but lives naturally in Southern Europe. Holm oaks only renew about 30% of their leaves each year. Mean-while, back to the current state of the deciduous trees in Uckfield, sycamore trees have lost about 50% of their leaves, horse chestnut about 30%, beech about 20%, the limes of Lime Tree Avenue about 30%, birch about 40%, but this tree is very variable. Finally, the sweet chestnut trees of Hempstead Lane have only lost about 30% of their leaves.
Another thing I have noticed about the trees is that they shed their seeds before they let their leaves go. This is probably a deliberate strategy to maximise the generation of nutrients from the leaves to bulk out the seeds, which can be quite large, such as the horse and sweet chestnuts, acorns and beech nuts. Other seeds such as the tiny birch seeds are light and more plentiful and can be carried long distances by the wind.
Church of the Holy Cross Uckfield
Sunday 1st December 5.30 pm Advent Carol Service
Sunday 8th December 4.30 pm Festival of Christmas Trees Service
Sunday 15th December 10.00 am Open Doors All Age Christingle Service
Sunday 22nd December 5.30 pm Nine Lessons and Carols
Christmas Eve 4.00 pm Crib Service 11.30 pm Midnight Mass
Christmas Day 8.00 am Eucharist for Christmas Day 10.00 am Parish Eucharist for Christmas
St.Michael & All Angels Little Horsted
Christmas Eve 10.00 pm Midnight Mass
Christmas Day 10.00 am Family Christmas Eucharist
St.Margaret of Antioch Isfield
Sunday 15th December 6.00 pm Carol Service
Christmas Eve 11.30 pm Midnight Mass
Christmas Day 10.00 am Family Christmas Eucharist
Open Doors Services November and December
Changes to the day and date of Services
Sunday 3rd November at 10.00am
Sunday 15th December at 10.00am
|Click here for Introduction to Festival, Click here for Application Form, Click here for further information.
Contact for more information: Sarah Widdowson
The Church Times Diary July 2019
I recently heard a talk by the Historian and Television Presenter Bettany Hughes, and very good it was too. At one point she was talking about myths and history: and off the cuff she remarked that in the opinion of some neuroscientists, we can’t as individuals have a future thought without accessing a memory. In other words, in our minds the past not only roots the present but in a concrete way embodies the possibilities of the future. This resonated with me, especially in terms of prayer life.
Prayers – particularly repetitive, formal things like Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and the psalms – accrete layers of meaning when we recite them, which spark off associations and memories, which in turn can speak to where we are in the present. They are like a palimpsest - a thing of lost strata and accretions.
A palimpsest is primarily a medieval or older manuscript with writing and illustrations which are later scrapped off for re-use for other layers of writing: so layers are built up, with older text sometimes showing through like lost memories. But my favourite palimpsest is actually an ancient fresco, in Santa Maria Antica in Rome which I saw when I was on sabbatical three years ago. Originally part of a guard room and temple complex built and decorated by the Emperor Hadrian at the foot of the Palatine Hill, it was in the 5th century turned into a church, and over the next three centuries another five or so layers of paint were built up before the church was lost in an earthquake in 847 A.D. The Palimpsest Wall, as it is called, is a beautiful but uncanny thing, an image of the Virgin Mary shown as Queen of Heaven (the oldest example of this image in existence ) looming out of the painted strata like a spectral Byzantine Empress, lost in time. In a similar way fragments of texts, scripture and liturgy float in and out of focus as we pray, the past making its claim on, and giving form to, the present.