This year many of our church activities, not to mention all sorts of other things, have been limited or restricted. But now, just as we enter the season of Advent with its themes of waiting and watching, all sorts of things are happening! You will see elsewhere in the newsletter and in Signpost that alongside our Christmas services and ‘Let There Be Light’, we are also holding a Christmas Afternoon Tea (place your order by this Sunday at 12noon to avoid disappointment!) and engaging in two community initiatives: shoeboxes filled with presents for local children and gifts for the residents of the care homes in the village.
I encourage you to take part in both schemes if you are able to – a shoebox with some gifts in might make a real difference to a family who have had a tough year, and a thoughtful gift for a care home resident might add some cheer to a difficult and potentially lonely and confusing Christmas season. Please check out the details in the newsletter and in Signpost.
It is something of a paradox that all this activity is going on in Advent. And if you are looking for some prayer and reflection during this time then I commend Advent Online to you: click here. There are lots of excellent resources to help you pause and reflect through the season. For those of you who are offline (and those online perhaps!), don’t forget that there is lots to engage with on the radio: The Daily Service every day at 9.45am on Radio 4, Choral Evensong, Wednesdays at 3.30pm and repeated at 3pm on Sundays on BBC Radio 3, and Songs of Praise Sundays at 1.15pm on BBC One. And there is also the Daily Prayer booklet which you will have received back in March (online version here).
Our faith is no stranger to paradox. Life comes out of death. In darkness light shines. A lowly girl is the one who says yes to the plan of the Almighty. The ‘unsuitable’ and the outcasts, the meek and the poor, the powerless and the unloved are put at the centre of the Kingdom. Hope abounds in despair. And the unprepared and the imperfect (that’s you and me!) are asked to share a message of perfect peace and joy. It’s a paradoxical faith in which we hold in tension what has been with what will be, and the contemplative with the active. We look back for guidance from our traditions and history even as we seek to move forward with a vision from God for the future. We seek to hold the past and the future together creatively as we explore a reordering of the church building. God can speak through paradox.
After all, the heart of our faith is a paradoxical mystery, that God was born as a human baby: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2.5-7). To follow that baby is to live with paradox, to hold things in tension. And to feel God’s creative and renewing presence through that. May you feel God’s presence close at hand as you find time both to be and to do this Advent.
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage,
Thursday 3rd December 2020
* For Gilbert and Sullivan fans!