Thoughts for the Week: 1st Sunday of Advent

By the time you receive these THOUGHTS we will have started Advent. In my thoughts last week, I suggested we might light a large candle in our homes as we will not be able to have our Advent ring in the Chapel. I thought afterwards that many Christmas lights would be safer. I noticed that one of my neighbours had put beautiful lights on the outside of her house and thought it can never be too early to welcome Jesus into our lives again. When we light a candle, we read the following:

WE LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE RECALLING THE EXPECTATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE OF THE PAST AND WE LOOK INTO THE FUTURE TO ALL THAT HE WILL ONE DAY DO. IN THE WORD’S OF ISAIAH, ‘WAKE UP AND SHINE, FOR THE LIGHT HAS DAWNED; THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAS RISEN AMONG YOU! YOUR LIGHT WILL ATTRACT NATIONS AND KINGS WILL COME TO SEE THE NEW DAY BREAKING AMONG YOU.’ (ISAIAH 60 v1-3)
LONG ITCHINGTON: It has been disappointing that we have to be in the third tier after keeping to the lockdown rules but the good news is that Rav has a builder friend who will repair the chapel’s ceiling at a very reasonable cost. The other good news is that we managed to fill 76 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. The Church Support Worker congratulated us saying that it must have been difficult bringing together 76 shoe boxes during lockdown. But the Lord is good and now 76 children will be blessed. Well done!
LONG COMPTON: What a great idea to build an advent card using people. Lisa and I are pleased to take part by sending a Christmas object for your tree with our personal reason why Christmas is special to us. We hope to be able to see it and share some of how it went with Long Itchington after Christmas.

ADVENT HYMN

(can be sung to the tune O Word of God – no.527 in Mission Praise)
Advent, a time of waiting
For Christ to reappear.
A time of preparation
With hope and fervent prayer
Each year we’re contemplating
The unknown hour or day,
When ev’ry knee will bow down
Before the Lord and pray.

The world is in a turmoil
As Jesus prophesied,
Nations fight each other
And faith in Christ’s denied.
He said, ‘stand against falseness
And do not be afraid,
For those who do not waver
He’s promised will be saved.

We join the heavenly angels
To praise God as they wait.
The father holds the secret
Of year and time and date.
Our lamps are full and ready,
Our hearts with joy expand
With love for the most needy
It was the Lord’s command.

And when He comes in glory,
When Advent is no more,
And all his angels with Him
From heaven’s open door;
For all who’ved followed closely
His life, his truth, His way,
He’ll say, ‘Come to the Kingdom,
You’ll be with me for aye.

PRAYER

A prayer for difficult times by Susan Durbur, URC Prayer Handbook

God of all love and understanding
you know that there will be many times this day
when I will, without much thought
ask to be spared something difficult.
You know the things I fear and dread
all that I recoil from or avoid.
But in this prayer now,
I ask for strength and courage
to bear the small trials of life
with cheerfulness and grace.
And, now before you,
I ask for all I might need
to face whatever life may bring me this day.
And, if one day I am tried beyond endurance,
I ask that I may know then
that you are with me.
May the Christ,
who in Gethsemane asked to be spared,
bless me with holy courage
that I may follow Him even to a cross.

Thoughts for the Week: Advent

ADVENT for me is the beginning of an adventure leading to the birth of Jesus. Just as it was a change of life for many of the people who found themselves part of the coming of the Messiah into the world, it has also been the change throughout the years of people like us hearing about the Son of God and experiencing the love of God that Jesus brought into the world.
When we read Luke 1 v5-15 we become part of that adventure. We become part of the praying and the yearning of two good people, Zechariah the Priest and his wife Elizabeth, who had prayed and prayed for a special gift most of their lives.
Years of longing, hoping, waiting
Vacuousness aching to be filled
Destructive hopelessness, envy
Rising dangerously, heart stilled
By force of will.
That’s just part of a poem and I pause deliberately at the word ‘will’ because it seemed that the couple had continued to serve God by accepting His will that there would be no child in their elderly age; and yet we know that God had listened to their prayers and it was His will to eventually fill the years that had been saddened with what they possibly saw as emptiness, to joy and delight and even more with a special kind of service. As the account from Luke’s Gospel tells us, what that service was to be we have lessons to learn. Zechariah, in spite of his praying and praying, fell short of his weak faith by his unbelief of the message brought to him by the Angel Gabriel from God. It’s interesting to read how God dealt with his show of fear and unbelief. We’ve all probably heard the saying, ‘Be careful what you pray for’.
I recently read a prayer which said this, “God, we wish that you would break through the darkness and evil of this world, that you would show yourself.”
It then went on to list those things that the writer thought bad and suggested how God should deal with them.
Taking us all back to ADVENT once more, the wonder of the story of Advent and the birth of Jesus the Messiah, we know that God has broken through by sending His Son into the world to bring us out of the darkness, to come as the light of the world. Not only did he show himself through His Son, He told us what we must do to be part of the light. Jesus the Son showed the great love that His Father had for the world by sacrificing Him. Christ has brought us out of darkness to live in his marvellous light.
We cannot gather to celebrate inside our Chapels at present, but we can have more lights this year in our homes with Nativities on show or some pictures of the Nativity.
LIGHT A LARGE CANDLE where it is safe and take time to think about Christingle and the people around the world who are thinking about the coming of Jesus.
HE IS OUR LIGHT. JESUS IS OUR WAY AND WITH JESUS EVEN IN THE DARKEST PLACES HE IS WITH US. IN JESUS WE WILL LIVE FOR EVER.
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to you that we may bring your light to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Thoughts for the Week: God the Builder

The words I begin with are from the Book of Lamentations, which is the second book of Jeremiah, who grieved deeply because the fall of Jerusalem had happened and the people would not listen when he told them that all God wanted them to do was repent. Jeremiah was so sad to an extent that it was said that his heart was broken.
During the Pandemic there has been much grieving and tears and many of us have had the same thoughts, that if we knew the future, we might have something to look forward to. In Jeremiah’s situation as a prophet, God had shown him what the future would be. Recently, we have been told that a vaccine has been successful which makes a light in the tunnel for us.
There has, however, been many tears shed to make us feel enough is enough, but life goes on and if we love one another as Jesus said the light in the tunnel will get brighter and brighter and there will still be hiccups on the way. This was what I felt when Lisa and I had just been driving around the district to hand out free books to people who were unable to go shopping or others who hadn’t money to buy books. On the way home, we stopped at Long Itchington Chapel and were faced with a part of the ceiling on the floor, broken and covered with dirt. Our light dimmed, one member cried, ‘Is this the end of the Chapel?’ ‘Who knows,’ was the answer, except to say it’s only a building – a well-loved building – a special building to be used for people.
Paragraph 1 was for all readers and paragraph 2 was mainly for Long Itchington, so now I turn to the people of Long Compton who might at times in the past have cried saying, ‘Is this the end of our Chapel?’ They too had broken parts and needed help from God the Builder and it also meant hard work and determination. There is another name, another person who comes into the story. Long Compton’s full name is Long Compton Ebenezer Chapel. The story of Ebenezer is for both churches, because at a difficult time it meant ‘the Lord has been with you thus and will be with you at all times.’
Now I take you back to Lamentations and Jeremiah and to well-known words which will come from those books of the Bible and will brighten the path that lays before you. First from Jeremiah 31 v.3 & 4. “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you will be rebuilt.” And from Lamentations 3 v.22 & 23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

PRAYERS

Ever Faithful Lord, if only we were able to worship with singing, we would lift the hearts and souls of everyone within the area of our Chapels. We don’t lose hope even though we have been unable to have our meetings or our times of worship. We pray Lord that the people who make the rules and have not understood what it means for us to be refused that short time gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have tried different ways to come close to you knowing as we pray you have been at our sides.
Lord Jesus Christ, in recent times we have heard more and more about children who are living in poverty, for children born with various difficulties for them and their parents to manage and children throughout the world who need medical help. Lord Jesus, we remember the day when You reprimanded your disciples for turning the little ones away saying, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
During last week Lord Jesus, we have had the yearly request for donations to help all children in need, we have prepared boxes for children in other countries and we have been made aware of children in our own country suffering with cancer. Lord Jesus, we ask your blessing on all the money that has been raised at this time and that it will be used so that every child who needs help will receive it. Lord Jesus, as we come to the end of our prayer might each one of us pause to offer a prayer for a child of any age that we have been made aware of, not forgetting our two sponsored children Acam Mercy in Uganda and Shibam in India. We pray in Your name, in the will of the Father and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thoughts for the Week: Remembering

My thoughts for this week, on Remembrance Sunday and four days from Remembrance Day, can only be of those who died in the 1st and 2nd World Wars and other wars since. I have before me a Paul Cummins’ Ceramic Poppy which was one of those made to go round The Tower of London to commemorate the men and women who died in the first World War. On the other side, I have the book of The Overlord Embroidery, which shows the story of the Normandy Landings D-DAY 6th of June 1944. These two treasures commemorate the lives of those who died and the bravery of those who came home damaged physically and mentally after serving in the Armed Services. I, like many others, will be thankful for those like my Uncle Harry and my brother Michael who served in the Royal Navy and returned home safely to their families.
On the 11th November 1918, Private Arthur Wrench of the Seaforth Highlanders wrote in his diary, “I think it is quite hopeless to describe what today means to us. We, who will return to tell people what war really is, surely hope that 11am this day will be of great significance to generations to come. Surely this is the last war that will ever be between nations.” We know that sadly it wasn’t to be.
John McCrae wrote…
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are dead, short days ago
we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

PRAYERS

O God of truth and justice, we hold before you those whose memory we cherish, and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future;
For you are the source of life and hope,
now and forever. Amen.
Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God’.
From the URC Prayer Handbook: Peace loving God, we remember all who have fallen in war; those who relive war daily through injury or broken spirit, those left behind, grieving for a loved one. And as we remember, we pray for those who seek peace.
We pray for peace.
We pray for all things that hurt through the thoughtlessness of others.
We pray for justice.
And Lord, help us to be peacemakers so that we might all be called your children. Amen.
The first British Poppy Day appeal was launched in 1921 on the 11th of November. It was the third anniversary of the Armistice to end the Great War. Proceeds from the sale of artificial French-made poppies were given to ex-servicemen in need of welfare and financial support.

Thoughts for the Week: Something Good

My thoughts for this week are taken once more from nature and the way Jesus taught from the world of nature, so that people could understand the message. Jesus said that the mustard seed, although very small, would grow into a tree in the way that His kingdom would. (Matthew 13 v.30)
A few weeks ago, I spoke about the corm as a parable and this week the Gladioli makes another parable. It was August when the corms were mentioned. They stood tall like soldiers in smart green clothes but no flowers. The summer days were dry and hot, so I did my duty of watering without any expectation of blooms. One morning, a white flower appeared followed another morning there was a pale-yellow flower followed by a fierce storm. The soldiers were pulled backwards and forwards and even the stick to hold them was broken. Perhaps I should have sung ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ but in Lockdown that was not allowed! The brilliant plant survived the brilliant sunshine and the constant watering and produced more white blossoms as well as pink and red and orange right until the first day of November.
You might be wondering why I have called this Corm Parable Number Two. In the book of Galatians 6 v.9, Paul says, “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest.”
I imagine that most of us will have watched the musical ‘The Sound of Music’ which often comes on our screens at Christmas and you might remember that after a difficult time followed by everything looking better for Maria she sings, “I must have done something good” as she dances over the mountain with her children.
Taking care of nature has become the project of even the youngest child through teaching at school and home and as we come to the time of prayer my thoughts go to books. The reason for that is that I am surrounded with books of all kinds and because I have to let some go to make space, I glance at each one. Yesterday I looked at two very different books with Love as the subject. Firstly, was a book written in 1873 by Henry Drummond called THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD. His book about love being the greatest thing came from his study of Natural Science.
The other book I picked up was by Nanette Newman called ‘God Bless Love’ and was children’s thoughts about love. Here are a few: ‘If only the world were made of love.” (Louise aged 7) “I don’t think there should be rich churches when there are poor people.” (Fiona aged 11) “I have been praying to God for over a year now to stop the fighting and wars but he hasn’t done anything about it – yet.” (Zarab aged 7)

PRAYERS

Robin, aged 6, said, “I say my prayers with my eyes open so that I can hear what I am saying.” Ever listening Father, these few thoughts of children about love make us think about our own prayers. Children say what they see, quite often after much deeper thought than we give to our prayers, There is a saying about arrow prayers, which are the ones that we say very quickly and may also be ones that we hope will be answered quickly . May this week be a time when we stop and think.
We pray for the state of the world. As I sit here, I am thinking about what I have heard on the news today. We are told to expect a further lockdown. Father we ask, is it the right way to beat the virus, is it your will for the whole world that you have in your hands? Have those who make the decisions spoken to you with their eyes open Lord?
Father hear our prayers as we simply ask that your will be done. Lord Jesus, lover of children and of all people, James aged 5 said, “You must take care of love – if you don’t it goes bad.” And from Henry Drummond, “Love is the greatest thing and where Love is, God is.” Heavenly Spirit, lead us this week in the way of loving all people, let love of all people be our project each day. AMEN

Thoughts for the Week: Sing! Sing! Sing!

The last two Psalms of the Bible are two of my favourites because they are joyful and full of music. During and since Lockdown our opportunity to sing in church or in a choir has been denied to us and perhaps like me you have found it something you have missed greatly, because it is a way of worship that brings us closer to the Lord. I have a book which comments on points about the Bible day by day and because I was looking for inspiration for this week’s ‘Thoughts’, I opened the page for October 28th. To my surprise I read that there are only two verses in the New Testament that mention music. I had never noticed that before and was intrigued, so I looked at the two Bible references given for that date.
The first passage came from Luke 15 v.25. The story of the lost son. Verse 25 begins, “Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house he heard music and dancing.” He discovered to his disgust that his father was celebrating the return of his wayward younger son and showing true forgiveness. The second passage was from Ephesians 5 v.19. The verses before the 19th are about people living the wrong way of life and the quote is, “Instead be filled with the Spirit, speak to one another with Psalms…sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”
Each week on Sunday morning I watch the Lillington Free Church service online and I sing at the top of my voice and am uplifted (and I hope my neighbours are too). Last week, we sang my mother’s favourite hymn which is No. 576 in ‘Rejoice and Sing’ and I have copied it below, because like most hymns there is a message to share. While I was writing these thoughts, something was telling me that the statement about only two verses in the New Testament that mention music was wrong. When I thought again, it was to ask the question, how can we rejoice without singing in Philippians 4 v.4? I’ll leave you all to ponder on that, perhaps you have an answer!

PRAYERS

Almighty Lord, In the book of Philippians we are told to rejoice always, followed by our call to be tender with other people. It promises us that the Lord is near, which is the promise we love to hear. Lord, we are aware of many people suffering at the present time with depression and fear, and even more people wondering how they will manage when their businesses are taken from them. Lord God, we believe that you are with us always and that you go through these times with us. Heavenly Father help those of us who do not have mental health problems to be gentle and caring, help us to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, so that when we find ourselves in those situations with other people your healing power will reach out to us and to those who are suffering.
This hymn is a prayer which doesn’t need to be sung until we are able to worship the Lord once more with our voices of song and rejoicing. AMEN.
God’s Spirit is in my heart
He has called me and set me apart
This is what I have to do
What I have to do.
He sent me to give the good news to the poor,
Tell prisoners they are prisoners no more,
Tell blind people that they can see
And set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone the news that the kingdom of God has come.
Just as the Father sent me
So I’m sending you out to be
My witness throughout the world
The whole world.
Don’t worry what you have to say;
Don’t worry because on that day
God’s Spirit will speak in your heart
Will speak in your heart.

Thoughts for the Week: Bits and Pieces

Hello everyone and, yes, the title this week is BITS AND PIECES because my thoughts are muddled. One of my favourite sayings when uncertain is ‘what would Jesus do?’ So yesterday, I did what He did; I walked about the village contacting people with a smile, a chat and a thank you that was in the 21 letters I had to put in letter boxes. Jesus, of course, did more because on His walks He healed people but I can say that there was even a little of that because I felt uplifted and perhaps the people I contacted also felt better for the meeting. That village was Long Itchington and I hope that I might do something similar in Long Compton soon.
One of the thoughts for this week is the Samaritans Purse Charity – Operation Christmas Child – which we have helped for many years in Long Itchington by filling shoe boxes for children of the poorest countries in the world. Gwen is our organiser and she and others have been knitting hats and gloves and toys while she has other people including the Brownies helping by filling boxes. Other people are donating money for the transportation to various countries. On Wednesday, 4th November at 10:30am weather and rules permitting, I will be having a short outdoor Blessing Service next to Long Itchington Chapel and if anyone would like to join me there will be chairs – socially distanced apart – and masks will be worn.
Moving on now to last week’s Thoughts regarding Remembrance Day. On the week beginning 1st November, I will send or email a short Order of Service for you to follow in your own home if you are unable to go to a Remembrance Service.
ANOTHER BIT. You might remember me saying that Lisa and I had completed over 20 Jigsaws during Lockdown. It’s said that pride comes before a fall. The Jigsaw I have been trying to complete for a while is beating me, but another proverb says, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’. I’m sure that the person who thought the proverb up didn’t have a cat that lays herself across the partly done jigsaw to make sure she gets the attention she craves. One day she even jumped from the windowsill right on to the middle of it; she’s one clever cat!!
JESUS PRAYS IN A SOLITARY PLACE. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed, ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages -so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ (MARK 1 v.35-38)

PRAYERS

On another day I went by bus to visit a friend in Coventry. The travelling there and back meant I would have been on six buses. You might think that would be boring but far from it, for on the longest part of the journey I sat at the front of the upstairs of the bus and enjoyed the beauty of the trees turning from green to shades of yellow, orange, bronze, green, brown and red. At home, as I began to write some prayers, I found the following prayer written by Franziska Herring in the Prayer Handbook about the end of the life of King David about the beauty of nature.
LIKE THE LIGHT OF MORNING
Creator God, when David came to the end of his life, he found inspiration in the beauty of nature,
I, too, find your creation inspiring. Praise and thanks to you.
The inspiration for David came from early morning light, Your light, pure-life giving goodness.
Your light, gentle morning light, Your light, interacting with nature, making the wet grass sparkle.
Creator God, I have seen such a sight: a bare tree covered in raindrops,
the morning light creating a rainbow in each drop. There were thousands of jewels on that tree.
Your kingdom of justice has treasure like that – each citizen can shine like a jewel.
David knew that such a beautiful kingdom was to be given to his descendent, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We thank you God for making your promise to David come true. We thank you that in the kingdom of Jesus your light shines gently onto each of us, your love enhances every life, and you make each one sparkle with your goodness. AMEN.