St Hugh Eyres Monsell

Parish Newsletter

December 2017

Countdown to Christmas

Carols, food, lights, food, cards, food, decorations, food, pantomimes, food, family, food, food, food!

For many of us during the ‘festive season’ this is the mental list that plays on a loop in our minds. The trimmings and trappings of Christmas, the expectations of the season with its gifts and decorations, and all the special food required can dominate the cultural mind set. Of course, much of this is great fun. Finding the perfect present for a loved one can be exhilarating. The vision we have of their face as they unwrap the gift, when we hand over the cash at the till, might make us laugh in anticipation. Many of us look forward to particular foods that appear in December, love the relentless carols played on the radio, and relish the moment when the Christmas box comes out of the attic.

The month of December is now defined by the countdown to Christmas, and the season of Advent is often overlooked. Advent marks the start of the church year and is characterised by expectant waiting for the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. In the sacred calendar, Advent is quite separate from Christmas: one follows the other. Indeed Christmas doesn’t start until 24 December – not an idea that would be welcomed by the retail industry! There is a sense that our secular Christmas activities have submerged Advent, meaning the rhythm of expectant waiting is lost beneath an extended period of spending and excess.

The question for Christians is: How much of Advent can be seen and felt in our Christmas planning and activities? As the people of God and his kingdom here on earth, we are privileged to understand the gospel story that stands in the centre of the busy festive fun. Can we turn our secular activities into something sacred, using the rituals and events as vehicles for reflection and action that turn us back to waiting expectantly for the incarnation of Christ?

Our Journey through the Church Year with Archdeacon Tim Stratford

Advent  marks the beginning of the Church Year.  It is a time when we can take stock and look forward to the coming year.  To help us do this Archdeacon Tim Stratford has written these words for us to reflect on:

“On a recent visit to the Holy Land I discovered Gospel stories, not just written on pages in ink, but embedded into the landscape and architecture.  The churches and sacred sites of Jerusalem and Galilee, in particular, each tell the visitor something about Jesus’ life and teaching.  This contested and troubled place is a geographical Bible.

Of course, Christian discipleship is not something that belongs in archaeology or bibliography.  It is to be carried in our hearts and made visible in our lives.  The tradition of using a calendar to mark out our time is a way of doing this.  In marking out time, the Christian Church has helped its children to shape their lives by the Gospel, and the unfolding truth of salvation found in Scripture.  So, by celebrating Christmas we identify ourselves with Jesus as God made flesh; in Lent we identify ourselves with Jesus’ struggle; in Holy Week we do so in Jesus’ suffering; and at Easter we see ourselves afresh as a resurrection community.  And we can think about Ascensiontide, and Pentecost, and Trinity, and All Saints, and many other commemoration days in this light too.  Somehow, in rich celebration of these seasons, we can place ourselves much more vividly into the story, and see ourselves alongside Mary and Joseph and Peter and others.  Worship on a Sunday also is a way Christians identify themselves with the resurrection every week.  Sunday is the day of resurrection – the old ‘Sabbath’ was Saturday.

But for many in our society the moorings between the Gospel and the festivals have been lost, even when the festival is still remembered.  Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny make more powerful connections than the Son of God.  Still, secularity does not drown out the desire of people to mark out time, and in it to find meaning.  These times remain vital ways for people of faith to cement their walk with Jesus, much like regular prayer or weekly communion identifies us with his way.

Of course, marking out time is not limited to holy days.  What about New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day?  Or those days that may have an ecclesiastical root but are laced with the heavyweight national meanings: patron saints’ days (celebrated often for more patriotic than religious reasons), VE and VJ Day, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday?  The deep meanings associated with these days are often just as confused, for many people, as they are with Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter.

Christian teachers open the eyes of faith in people by making sense of the religious calendar.  They can also do so by making sense of what here we may call the secular calendar.  We are well used to doing the former, and perhaps also with the days of the secular calendar whose roots are ecclesiastical; but what about the others?  For human beings, created in the image of God, it would be surprising if there were not some correspondence between the themes that belong to the secular realm and those that belong to the sacred.

Two such days fall during January and February: New Year and Valentine’s Day.  These are not immediately and completely children’s themes, but here there is a real resonance with the experience of life that all households will share something of.  And the light of faith offers hope to what otherwise might seem unreachable or unreal.  The principle is one of stepping away from a religious comfort zone, bringing a Christian voice to the festivals, celebrations and commemorations that take place outside of our churches, and helping to make sense of our human condition, our joys and fears, by the connectedness of heaven and earth.”

Are you Ready for Jesus?

Advent is about preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our lives at Christmas.  At Christmas we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world in the form of the baby Jesus, the word made flesh.  Advent is also a time of preparation for Jesus’ promised Second Coming when he will come in clouds of glory and be revealed to us as our Lord and King.  One day we will all see Jesus face to face so it is a good thing to prepare ourselves for that day now.  Advent is a time which helps us to prepare.

We are often told to think of others before ourselves, but occasionally it is good to take stock, reflect and check yourself. Forget about everybody else for a minute and take some time to think about yourself.  Listen to these questions.  They might help you to think. They might help you to pray.  They will give you time to reflect on how ready you are for Jesus.

 If Jesus was going to check out your lifestyle today, would you be worried?

 Are you proud of what you do or do you sometimes let yourself down?

 If you had to write an end of term report about yourself, what would it say?

 What areas of attainment would there be?

 Would you get any As or A*s?

 Would you get any As for effort?

 Can you set yourself a target for improvement?

 Think it through and set yourself a goal to achieve.

Advent Candle Prayer

Lord Jesus
Thank for coming to us at Christmas.
Thank you that one day you will come again.
We are lighting this candle,
To remind us always to be ready for you.

Forthcoming Services and Events.

Sunday 3rd December Family service for Advent 1 with Christening of Callan James Jesse Smith.

Saturday 9th December 10.00am Christingle making.

Sunday 10th December at 2.30pm.  Crib Service Rehearsal.  All are welcome to bring children and play a part in the Christmas story  as a shepherd, angel or king.

Saturday 10th December 3pm Christingle.  A fun way for all the family to prepare for Christmas and support the work of The Children’s Society.

Wednesday  13th December Messy Church 4-6pm.  The theme is Messy Christmas.

Thursday 14th December at 1.30ish Eyres Monsell Primary School KS1 Christmas Carol Concert.

Wednesday 20th December Healing and Wholeness Service.  All are welcome to come for healing and prayers for themselves or someone else.

Wednesday 20th December  10.30am Willowbank School KS3 & KS4 Christmas Carol Concert.

Thursday 21st December 10-12pm Crafts, games and Carols followed by lunch.  Festive fun for everyone. 

Thursday 21st December 7pm St Hugh Christmas Carol Service with Southfields Brass Band.  Followed by refreshments including mulled wine and mince pies.

Sunday 24th December 3pm Crib Service.  Children can dress as angels, shepherds, kings etc and take part in the nativity play.

Sunday 24th December 11.30pm Midnight Mass.

Monday 25th December 10.30am Christmas Day Service followed by refreshments.


Christingle is a celebratory event that takes place in thousands of churches and schools across the country, raising funds that help The Children’s Society continue their work supporting young people.  Christingle celebrations are named after the Christingles that are lit during the service. Christingles are made from an orange decorated with red tape, sweets and a candle.

· The orange represents the world

· The fruits or sweets represent God’s creation and the blessings of the seasons

· The candle represents Jesus, the light of the world bringing hope to those in darkness.

· The red ribbon round the orange represents the love of God and the blood of Jesus.

Christingle services use a special symbol, a decorated orange, to explore the story of God’s love for the world at Christmas.  Because Christingle was specifically created with children in mind, the celebrations are the perfect event to take children along to, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages – even if they don’t regularly attend church.  









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