The December Pastoral Letter from the Rector
St. Francis of Assisi was reputed to have constructed the first Christmas Crib as a way of celebrating the reality of God being born as one with us. As he knelt before the crib, his biographer records that, he was caught up in the mystery and reality of God’s love. A love so great that God was prepared to enter into the vulnerability and fragility of human life. Such was this vision of God’s love which Francis perceived, and such was the depth of his prayer, that as he adored the infant Jesus, we are told that he became real before him and Francis was allowed to take Him into his arms and adore him.
The Christmas Crib is something that is always a joy to see in church and in Christian’s homes. The Crib is the place that focuses our prayer as we explore the mystery which is the incarnation, God becoming a tiny baby, becoming a human being. The mystery that God is with us in the very depths of our experiences as human beings.
But I wonder if you ever get annoyed with folk like I have sometimes? When I have tried praying before the crib sometimes people have come and stood in the way so that the crib itself becomes completely obscured. ‘Well, really!’ one exclaims in self righteous indignation, ‘I’m trying to pray here!’ But you know – we are humbled again and again, for surely that is the real truth that we celebrate - these onlookers don’t get in the way of our contemplation of the incarnate Lord – they personify it – become one with it, are caught up in the mystery that God is present in human life! To look at a crib and to look at the onlookers is to look at the same thing, is to know the same incarnate truth - that God became flesh and shares in all human life. The crib and the onlookers and you and I are one.
And this is not simply the Christmas truth – this is the truth that changes everything – our experience of being human and the way we treat and respect other human beings.
Life is sacred, for it is created by God.
Life is an opportunity, for loving him in other people and other people in him.
Life is an occasion for praise and hope, for God himself shared all its joys and sorrows and thus changed life forever into an experience of drawing closer to him.
I offer these thoughts to you as we begin our preparations to celebrate afresh the reality of that first Christmas morning and as we prepare our selves for a New Year. I pray that we may all be renewed in our enthusiasm about being alive and of drawing closer to God who came to share in our life that we might share his. May we all be open to new ways of experiencing and expressing God’s Love for us and may 2014 be a time of great blessing for all of us.
Do have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
From the Rector’s Desk
See the separate details on our front page for information about Christmas Services.
We look forwarc to seeing you at our Services.
The Crib Service is at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Before we start we shall be looking in the congregation for all the characters from the story, we will dress them up and then they will become part of our retelling of the first Christmas night as we sing our carols and find out what happens to the Grumpy Shepherd..
Midnight Mass and Christmas Day Christmas is a time when people generally seem more at ease about coming to church, so why not use the opportunity to invite a friend or neighbour to come along with you! After all Christianity is a religion of relationship, the relationship with God through his son Jesus and the relationship we share with other Christians. Pray therefore that our worship will be able to reach out the hand of friendship to all who come in search of the Christ -child. Take courage!
Toy Sunday 15th December: On Behalf of Chichester Diocesan Association for Family Support work I invite you to bring with you to church on Sunday 15th Decembre a gift. They need gifts for children of all ages and for mother’s. These are distributed by the support workers to families who need support at this time. Please bring gifts unwrapped, but if you want to put wrapping paper with them that would be appreciated.
Family Support work (FSW) works with families to reduce isolation and promote engagement with others be they family or local Community. They encourage families to come together, often through play, as it’s less threatening. Playing together and sharing experiences means families have shared memories and joint conversations drawing them closer together. FSW helps families unite making them stronger and giving them a chance to rebuild their lives.Family Support Work helps Family change:
Just one story of what they do: A socially isolated, chronically depressed Mum of 3 children has, with the encouragement of her Family Support Worker, found employment. It is the first time in her life that she has a job. Her 13 year old son who had a history of non attendance at school and was on the edge of exclusion is now doing well at school. FSW enlisted the help of his football coach, who is now his mentor. He helped motivate him through sporting activities and he is now a member of the local football association
Requests to FSW’s 7 support workers for help with families facing financial hardship resulting in raised tension and anxious children have significantly increased. Being able to provide a mix of advice and guidance with practical support enables our families to cope. Promoting joint working with all organisations involved with our clients enhances understanding of situations and gets results. We do not judge our families; we aim to find out about their problems, help and support them to find solutions, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives. Budgeting helped by long term discreet food parcels. Donated Winter Fuel Payments kept families fed and warm over Christmas. Donated toys and gifts keep birthdays and Christmas special for children. £25.00 provides a family with an hour of FSW worker time. £60.00 gives a parent and child a weekend break £30-40.00 provides a food hamper.
We supply long term food parcels for families across Sussex which aid stretched budgets. Toys and gifts supplied at Christmas and for birthdays enables ‘normal’ life to continue for children reducing anxiety, at home, school and with friends.
‘ It is difficult to put into words the exceptional changes my visits from FSW have
created. I regards myself as good with words and very articulate, yet it can go in no way to explain the difference between not being able to manage, for so long, to being able to manage and cope again.’ From N. G. (a Mum) Jan 2013.
Christingle Services are great fun for all the family, young and old a like. Please come and join the fun on either Sunday 1st December at St. Margaret’s Isfield at 10.00 a.m. or at Holy Cross Uckfield on 15th December at 11.00 a.m. Both these services will be raising money for the work of the Children’s Society.
Lights of Love 11th December 7.00 p.m. Holy Cross
St Wilfrid’s Hospice has provided a Lights of Love service every year since we first opened our doors to patients thirty years ago. Over the years the nature and location of the event have changed, but there has always been one singular aim: to provide people in our community an opportunity to gather together and to remember and celebrate the lives of those no longer with us. Lights of Love is free to attend and is open to everyone – whether or not you have a direct link to St Wilfrid’s. Our services are always well attended and offer local people a safe place to remember, supported by the sharing of thoughts and emotions with others, who have also experienced the pain and grief of loss. Our services are short, uplifting and emotional occasions and we know from many years experience that people find great comfort and benefit in being able to participate. So why not come and join us at Holy Cross on Wednesday 11th December at 7.00 p.m.
READER MINISTRY Is this something God may be calling you to?
Readers are those who have recognised that God has called them to a more specific role within the life and witness of his church. They are often involved with leading worship and preaching as well as developing skills of teaching and pastoral care. There is no pattern to which all must confirm, but each, with their individual God given skills, offer an authorised ministry of walking with priest and people in the journey of faith. Often they will be involved with visiting the sick, working in Sunday School, helping with baptism preparation, working with young people or adults in the discovering of faith, or in a whole variety of other ways, building up the body of Christ.
Many in this church feel themselves blessed by the ministry of the Readers over the years but maybe God is asking something more of you!?
IF you feel that that is so, then why not have a word with Gill Comber or Sheila Fordham who, from the horses mouth, can answer some of the questions you may have or you can speak to Fr. Martin.