St John the Baptist Parish Church

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News from the clergy

Vicar's column - January 2018

Tensions are running high again in the Land that is called “Holy”, thanks to President Trump and his ill conceived declaration that America is to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Protests have been triggered throughout the Palestinian territories and the Arab world. It is not a good time for riots. Palestinians need tourists at Christmas to support the local economy.

At the time of Christ’s birth, the nation of Israel had suffered a long Roman occupation, now the tables have turned and Israel is the occupying force, aided by Zionist settlers from abroad. Whatever the failings on either side, at the end of the day, the situation in Israel and Palestine is characterised by a huge power imbalance. Many Palestinians are denied a normal existence in the land of their birth.

Other ventures into Palestinian territory make more hopeful and heart warming viewing. BBC 2’s The Alternativity, televised on 17th December, has Danny Boyle travelling to Bethlehem, on the direction of Banksy, to stage a nativity in the car park of his The Walled Off Hotel. Channel 4 has also commissioned a documentary, Scousers in a Manger, to be broadcast over the Christmas period. It follows a group of Liverpudlians, who journey back to where Christmas began. For the last five years they have set out to decorate Manger Square in Bethlehem, in time for Christmas.

Once more, into the mix of conflict and suffering in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and throughout the world comes the Christ child. We long for peace in the turmoil of today, clinging onto hope, and reflecting on the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, the Great Comforter, the Prince of Peace; a helpless baby who brings light into the darkness, and comfort and peace to a broken world and broken hearts.

Rev Lisa Cornwell

Vicar's column - December 2017

Stir up we beseech thee O Lord the wills of thy faithful people

Collect for Sunday next before Advent BCP*

By the time you get to read this letter the countdown to Christmas will already be well under way, and in the Church we will have begun another Christian year.  ‘Stir up’ Sunday as it’s known - 26th November in 2017 and the final Sunday in the Church’s year - will be past and we will have started the cycle all over again with the season of Advent.  In the past, it was the time of year when the Christmas pudding was given a stir from East to West, to symbolise the journey of the wise men to Bethlehem. At my first school we all queued up and struggled to rotate a wooden spoon in a rather glutinous mixture. But there was no intentional irony in the title ‘Stir up’ – it simply comes from the words of the Collect (the special prayer for that day) in the Book of Common Prayer*, ‘Stir up we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people…’.

If you should ask why the Book of Common Prayer thought that the wills of folk should be stirred up, it was because Advent (meaning ‘preparation’), like Lent, was a season of penitence, when people were encouraged to prepare, not just for the coming of Jesus as a baby at Bethlehem, but also for His return at the end of time. The Advent Collect says it all

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.

Advent then in the Christian calendar is a time to mark endings and beginnings – a time for renewal, for change, in order to be ready for the miracle of the birth of the baby Jesus. It is also a time of darkness and light. As we move towards the shortest day of the year, we are called to ponder how we might throw off that darkness to embrace the light of Christ which is coming into the world. That’s one reason why candles play such a large part in the church’s preparation for Christmas. In churches up and down the land Advent wreaths with four purple candles lit on the successive Sundays in December will be used to prepare parishioners for the coming of Jesus the light of the world, the white candle in the centre, which we light on Christmas morning. When we respond to the love of Jesus our lives begin to shine with His light. 

May you then ‘put on the armour of light’ this Advent, so that when we celebrate on Christmas morning, you will truly know the joy and the hope that the Christ-child brings to the world, and to each one of us who turns to Him, and who tries to shine with His light.

With my very best wishes for Advent and Christmastide,

Rev David Ramsbottom -  Associate Minister