The Second Rocky Road Epistle Chapter 7

If this were a newspaper, we would be advertising it as a bumper edition covering Christmas and New Year.  Not sure how many bumper editions of things there will be this year with our slimmed down Christmas, but I offer you this as our bumper bundle chapter, which is slightly different to normal, but should still give you food for thought.  The next chapter will be out in time for 10th January by which time we will know what the Christmas arrangements were and if there was any agreement on Brexit.

This year we have been reminded of the fragility of life and how interconnected things are on this planet.  Whether in the connections between people, the importance of relationships and the global reach of the virus, or of our connection with nature and the devastating impact of climate change.  Let us pray that we have all learnt from the enforced stop and that people do not close their minds to things of God.  Christmas will be different with less of the trimmings and hopefully less of the materialism.  However, we will still celebrate the most important good news of Jesus coming as a baby into this wonderful but damaged world.   A world where life has become even more risky for all of creation. 


Carol service on Sunday 20th

As I write this, on Tuesday, the weather forecast for Sunday 20th looks promising, so at the moment, the plan is to have a 15-minute service outside on the carpark which gives us the chance to sing.  We can park our cars at the back of the athletics club (off Pollard street, be careful when driving in through what is technically the “exit”).  Please wrap up warm, there will be chairs available for those that need to sit and we will take up an offering for Spurgeon’s Child Care.  Depending on the weather and how cold people are we will sing 2, 3 or 4 carols, if it is wet or stormy (or similar) we will be inside the church.  You will find the words with this chapter, please bring them with you for your own use.  In these restrictive times we must ensure that we take care so please avoid coming if you feel ill, allow at least 2 metres between you and others (unless in your bubble) and please note that there will be no facilities available in the church.  Masks do not have to be worn but would be sensible before and after - when arriving or exiting the area.  Lastly please avoid mingling and refrain from broadcasting what we are doing since we do not want to turn people away through lack of space.  No room may be part of the Christmas story but ...


Other dates to note

Wednesday 23rd December          no Bible Study

Thursday 24th December   7.15 for 7.30pm Communion service on Zoom
followed by Coffee and mince pies, please supply your own bread & wine, and coffee & mince pies (or equivalents
usual Zoom details, (please contact Laura if you want to join and cannot find the numbers).

Friday 25th December        10.00am  a short Christmas Day service  (note the earlier time)

Sunday 27th December     10:45am morning service

Wednesday 30th December          no Bible Study

Sunday 3rd January           10:45am morning service

Wednesday 6th January    7.15 for 7.30pm Bible Study on Zoom

Listening to a recording of our audio service

If you have the internet, then go to our website  (www.RRBC.org.uk) where you will find a recording under the audio files.

If you are not on internet, we have now paid to have a “Dial-a-Service” facility.  If you phone 01536 909787 you will be able to listen to a recording of the service on your telephone. 
The cost, around 30p a call, is covered by the church.

Don’t forget our face book page always has some interesting things on as well.  See Roy for details if you cannot find it!

Nativity plays have always shown some of the vulnerability of life as well as often containing a few differences to the Biblical version.


Reflections on the passages we will look at over Christmas

Some brief thoughts to keep you going!

20th December - “Joy from the Margins” Luke 2 v.8-20

Luke tells us that the shepherds were the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus.  Shepherds in Biblical times here were smelly and uneducated, so.forget any image of Amanda and Clive on “Our Yorkshire Farm”.  When Jesus was born Shepherds had a reputation, they were on the margins of society, outsiders, nomads, not at all respectable, and therefore people to be avoided or ignored. 

Their involvement reminds us that Jesus in his ministry sought out those who were looked down on by society, those considered to be sinners, women, the poor, the marginalised, and, ultimately, the real outsiders, the Gentiles - which includes us.

The shepherds knew that God has seen them; that God had let them in on his good news for the world and they joyfully shared the message.  The change in them was noticed, the townspeople did not ignore them but instead were amazed at the shepherds’ words.

The first Christmas showed the shepherds that they were not outsiders to God, that they were loved and they responded with joy and faith.  It is up to us whether we respond with joy and faith or try and ignore the truth by stuffing it back in the box with all the decorations for next year.

25th December - “Unwelcoming inn or welcoming in?” Luke 2 v.1-7

“No room” was the answer at the inn for Mary and Joseph, “no room” when they knocked on the door.  But they were welcomed into the stable - area for the animals.

William Holman Hunt painted a picture called “The Light of the World” which showed Jesus holding a light and knocking on a door (based on the verse in Revelation 3 v.20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come and eat with them and they with me.”).  Homan Hunt wrote “The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind".  The door needs someone to open it to welcome Jesus in.  What is your reaction, no room or welcome in? 

Welcoming Jesus into our lives involves sharing with others in words and actions the love that we find in God. 

The Christian publishing organisation have produced a “Share the light” video, they write “People are asking what Christmas will be like this year.  The answer is that it will be what we choose to make it.  We cannot, and should not, forget the loneliness, despair, suffering and loss that so many people have endured, and just try to do ‘Christmas as normal’.  That would be insensitive.  Rather we should seek to come alongside those who are suffering; and to come together as a nation to celebrate the good news that darkness has not overcome the light, and never will.  This Christmas, in word and deed, in love and care, hope and help; this communications campaign asks that we all seek to ‘Share the Light’

27th December - “God’s timing in waiting or a coincidence” Luke 2 v.21-38

God had made a promise to Simeon that before he died he would see the Messiah.  All Simeon could do was wait but he was willing to let God be in charge.  He trusted in God’s choice of timing if meeting the Messiah was at the end of it.  Anna happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Surely God’s timing was in her meeting with the Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. 

God’s timing is perfect because he knows what is best.  The Japanese theologian, Kosuke Koyama, wrote a book “Three Mile an Hour God”.  He wrote “God walks ‘slowly’ because he is love.  If he is not love he would have gone much faster.  Love has its speed.  It is an inner speed.  It is a spiritual speed.  It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks”.  Perhaps we need to slow down at times to go at God’s pace and not rush ahead.

3rd January - “Everyone is included” Matthew 2 v.1-18

As you read the passage you will notice foreigners and stargazers, a tyrant, priests, scholars, soldiers, the massacre of children, migrants and refugees.  This is in addition to shepherds, inhabitants of Bethlehem, an innkeeper and family, angels, a childless couple and a pregnancy causing alarm and gossip that we have already been reminded of in the story of Jesus coming as Emmanuel.  The Christmas story includes everyone and is for everyone. 

What do you look forward to in 2021?

When Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled for their lives, I wonder what they hoped for in a country not their own, far from friends and family and with the threat of death hanging over their son.  It was surely not what they expected when they planned their marriage and dreamt of a family.  But they knew they were in the centre of God’s will and with a precious child to care for.  Let us go forward into the new year knowing that we are included in God’s love and that he has work for us to do.

Let us seek to remind each other to “Look up with amazement, look back with gratitude, look in with honesty, look around with love and look forward with expectancy.”


Prayers

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you good news that is for everyone.”
Christmas doesn’t feel much like good news for whose income has fallen this year, because of redundancy, unemployment or benefit reductions.
God, help us to give gifts that cost love instead of money, not to fear the rising costs of Christmas or go into debt to pay for it.
For all who are hard up, may the angel’s message be good news.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you good news that is for everyone.”
Christmas doesn’t feel much like good news for those who are homeless or lonely, if we don’t have a warm place to be or a warm welcome from those we love.  God, help those of us with houses and families to open our homes and hearts to those without them, so that the angel’s message may truly be good news for those who are homeless or lonely.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you good news that is for everyone.”
Christmas doesn’t feel much like good news for those who have left their homes, communities, towns and countries this year, fleeing from violence, war or terror.  Christmas doesn’t feel much like good news if you live in a tent, out in the open air, and it will simply be a day of struggle like any other. God, bring hope into the uncertainty of life as a refugee.  Help those of us who live secure lives to give what we can to those who have left everything behind, so that the angel’s message may be good news for those who are refugees.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you good news that is for everyone.”
Christmas doesn’t feel much like good news for those who are ill or suffering.  Thank you, God, for the dedication and care of medical staff, many of whom will be at work even on Christmas day.  We know that our earthly bodies won’t last forever, but we also know that you are the God of the impossible, and still working miracles today.  Please bring healing, by medicine or miracle, so that the angel’s message may be good news for those who are sick.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you good news that is for everyone.”
If Christmas is to be good news for each of us, we need you, God, to meet us in Jesus Christ. We need you to offer us freedom, new hope, and healing. We need to see our community transformed by this good news. Help us not to do away with the manger this Christmas, but to meet the Christ-child afresh, and discover what the good news of his birth means for our lives.
Amen.

(Angela Bryan/engageworship.org)


It only remains to say

Happy Christmas to all our readers and God bless you with hope for the future. from Laura and Phillip,