Steve writes …. Ready for Christmas

I came across some helpful advice for Christians which beats the ‘101 Things to Do Before Christmas’ check-list that’s doing the rounds on social media. It began by asking if God really does care about every area of our lives, how does that shape what we think and do and feel over Christmas? How can we show those around us, who don’t know Jesus, that our preparations and celebrations are transformed by him?

First, we can remember what matters: many events of the past year have reminded us that we live in a broken, confused and hurting world. The coming of Jesus really is a bright beam of hope for a messy and lost planet. God loves us too much to give us anything less than himself. So perhaps during Advent this year we could make time for a book of daily readings and reflections – amongst many available examples are Tom Chester’s One True Light and Mark Greene’s Adventure.

Second, we can enjoy God’s gifts: as well as the greatest gift of Jesus, God has also poured out many other blessings on us which it’s good to recall at Christmas: family, both the church and biological varieties, the chance to rest and take a slower pace and be refreshed, the music of this season and the crisp star-filled winter nights, the chance to express appreciation to others or meet a need.

Third, we can share our story: we could pray that our thankfulness for God’s generosity to us will spill over into opportunities to share Jesus and something of how he is working in our lives. As family and friends enjoy time off at the end of a busy year, it can be the chance for them to reflect on what’s important and search for meaning. We can make sure we’re ready to answer someone’s questions, to say the right thing in a Christmas card or to invite someone to Carols by Candlelight, Messy Nativity, or the All Age Celebration on Christmas morning.

Fourth, we can ask what’s next: the opportunities mentioned above are just part of the big picture of what God is doing in us and the lives of those we know. As we head into 2017, are there ways we could commit afresh to seeking how God wants to work in and through us?

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas filled with the peace and joy of Jesus

Steve

Home Group Meetings in December

New members are always most welcome at all Home Groups – please phone for further details

Day and Dates Time Place Contact Subject
Monday 9th & 23rd 7.45pm 28 The Pines 240 532 TBA
Tuesday 10th & 24th 2.30pm 2 Leamington Gate 615 009 Beatitudes
Wednesday 11th & 25th 7.45pm 2 Leamington Gate 615 009 I John
Every Thursday 7.30pm 2 Ferndale Street 241 161 John’s Gospel
Thursday 12th & 26th 8.00pm 10B Coxwell Street 242 753 TBA

Prayer Calendar for December

Please continue to pray for the life and work of our parishes

Thurs 1st ‘Open the Book’ team today at the Infant and Junior Schools.
Fri 2nd Mission of the Month – The Children’s Society.
Sat 3rd Steve, Graham, Helen, Barbara, Dick, John, Max & Paul.
Sun 4th All Age Service and collection of toys for NSPCC.
Mon 5th Work of Churches Together and the Family Centre.
Tues 6th Home Groups and Prayer Groups in our Churches.
Wed 7th The work of the Mustard Seed and Seekers Light.
Thurs 8th Choir practice this evening.
Fri 9th All who are ill, recently bereaved or in any other kind of need.
Sat 10th Lynn Treneary in South Sudan.
Sun 11th Vergers and Welcomers, Intercessors and Readers.
Mon 12th Bell ringers practicing this evening.
Tues 13th All Churches in the Vale of White Horse Deanery.
Wed 14th For all who help run our Churches.
Thurs 15th ‘Open the Book’ team today at the Infant and Junior Schools.
Fri 16th Allsorts meeting this morning.
Sat 17th Men’s Breakfast; St Mary’s Carol Service this evening.
Sun 18th  All Saints’ Carol Service this evening.
Mon19th Messy Nativity this afternoon.
Tues 20th For Faringdon Food Bank and all involved, especially at this time.
Wed 21st The Music Group practice this evening.
Thurs 22nd Carol singing in Little Coxwell this evening.
Fri 23rd The Flower Guild as they decorate the Church.
Sat 24th For families and friends as they meet together for Christmas.
Sun 25th Christmas Day: for all who attend our services this Christmas time.
Mon 26th For families and friends who are apart this Christmas.
Tues 27th Community activities in Faringdon and Little Coxwell.
Wed 28th For all Christians in Nepal.
Thurs 29th For all refugees and homeless people this Christmastime.
Fri 30th Wardens in both our Churches.
Sat 31st Thank God for all his goodness and blessings in the past year.

Midweek Opportunites for Prayer and Worship

Did you know about these services of prayer and worship?

Would you like to start your day by offering it to God once a week with others? Each Thursday at 9.00am a fairly informal service of Common Worship Morning Prayer is held in the Lower Asset Rooms in All Saints’ Church. At present a handful of people gather when they can but we would be delighted if others would like to join us for half an hour at the beginning of the day to worship God and pray about the issues and concerns, large and small, local and general, that are on our hearts. (If the main door is not open come round to the side door). You will be very welcome. For more details contact Steve Bellamy, Barbara Mapley or Graham Scott-Brown.

Also, on the first Wednesday of each month at 10.00am is the only midweek service of Holy Communion in All Saints’ Church according to the Book of Common Prayer, at present. It is a simple, said service with a short talk in the Pye Chapel and takes about 35 – 40 minutes followed by refreshments in the Barber Rooms. Support for this is very varied from just a couple of people to a dozen but the reality is that, like most things, if it is not supported it may be discontinued or changed, which would be a shame. It is a lovely peaceful oasis at the beginning of the month to draw near to God with the beautiful traditional words of worship. Consider making it a New Year’s Resolution to come along and see what a special service it is, and bring your friends too. For more details contact Barbara Mapley.

Meetings for Prayer in December

All Saints’ seeks to have an active and regular prayer ministry with a number of informal meetings during the month to which all are very welcome.

Thursday 1st 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 2nd 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Tuesday 6th 2.00-3.00pm Julian Meeting (18 Eastfield Court)
Tuesday 6th 7.15-8.15pm Mission for Faringdon (Barber Rooms)
Tuesday 6th 8.00-9.00pm Julian Meeting (Call 244 905 for venue)
Thursday 8th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 9th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Thursday 15th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 16th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Friday 16th 8.00pm Prayer for the World (Call 240 509 for venue)
Wednesday 21st 10.30-11.30am Prayer for CMS (8 Coach Lane)
Thursday 22nd 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 23rd 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Thursday 29th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 30th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)

For further details contact:
Mission for Faringdon (1st Tuesday evening): 241 975
Julian Meeting (Tuesday afternoon): 01865 820 511
Julian Meeting (Tuesday evening): 244 905
CMS Prayer Group (3rd Wednesday morning): 243 388
Parish Prayers (Friday am) and Prayers for the World (Friday pm): 240 509

Mission of the Month for December – The Children’s Society

The Children’s Society has helped change children’s stories for well over a century. Since 1881 the Society has been working on the streets in communities in this country, day and night, helping children and young people who face abuse, poverty and neglect. That is how, formerly known as Church of England Waifs and Strays, the Society began and continues to the present day.

The Church of England Children’s Society provides specialist support directly to children and their families in local communities. Many children the Society works with are experiencing some of the most complex problems seen in society today. Children and young people receive support from one of the Society’s Project Workers and this is the first time that they have someone to listen to them and ensure their voice is heard.

Your support helps protect the most vulnerable children and young people who are at great risk and have no one else to whom they can turn. The Society exposes injustice and addresses hard truths, tackling child poverty and neglect. It fights for change based on the experiences of every child it works with and the solid evidence it gathers. Through its campaigning, commitment and care the Society is determined to make children free from disadvantage and to give every child in this country the greatest possible chance in life.

We are constantly pressured with many demands from worthwhile charities but hopefully you will consider having a House Collection Box in which you would be able to place your loose change throughout the year thus supporting this leading UK Charity to assist it in continuing to help vulnerable children and young people in this country. Your Box would be emptied each November and the contents forwarded to the Society. Please take a Box from the Children’s Society display table OR let me know if you wish to have a Children’s Society House Collection Box and I will get one to you.

Very many thanks, Hazel Catling ( 242 355).

Missions News

News from the Church Mission Society

Lynn Treneary was able to send a little news when she attended a Mission Partners’ gathering in Uganda in October. She used the two weeks there to get solar panels for her house in the hope that they would give her electricity at night. She also stocked up with books for the students and foodstuffs that are not available in Maridi. She sent her thanks and love to All Saints’ while there and she is now back home in Maridi with no internet connection.

We continue to send e-mails to Lynn in the hope that occasionally she will be somewhere where she can read them. We have sent her a copy of Jeff Lucas’ book, which is reviewed here, for Christmas and will send two Christmas cards from our church. Any new messages Lynn is able to send us will be on the notice board; do read this on your way to and from coffee!

Wycliffe Bible Society wrote in mid November, “Several of our members working overseas have written to us requesting prayer for more financial support….Many understand the emotional toll of having to tighten your belt and when you are living in an already stressful situation it can bring you to tipping point”.  This is also true for CMS and other Mission Partners. The fall in the value of the pound compared to other currencies has hit hard. Also, as people are living longer after retiring, keeping up with pensions is proving difficult and donations are going down as churches support more different charities. Lynn Treneary made a point when she visited us, of saying that she would never ask for money. She would accept whatever was sent and she trusted God to provide.

But we are His hands to dispense His Blessings. Can we all think if we should send some extra to Lynn to enable her to buy food for herself and those who work with her, to buy food for the children around who cannot afford to buy sugar, salt, bread and other basic things? Maridi is just now, peaceful, and they are able to grow a few crops, but elsewhere in the South Sudan towns, both sides of Maridi, where there is fighting, families are unable to get to their fields to grow anything, so food is scarce or very, very expensive.

Can we commit ourselves to pray daily for the fighting to stop and the tribes to be reconciled? The churches in South Sudan are working hard to bring peace, let us pray with and for them.  Also, CMS headquarters in Oxford asks for our prayers. They moved all their staff into half of their building to be able to rent the other half out as some churches are unable to keep up their donations. So far they have not been able to find someone to rent the other half. Please pray as they are struggling to pay pensions and provide extra funds for Mission Partners.
For more information about CMS contact: Joan Plumptre (243 388 or bobjoanplumptre@btinternet.com)

Faringdon’s Got Talent

Those of you who went to the WATSAN event on 25th November will know that I have been thinking about talent, and you would have been on the receiving end of culinary, sung and spoken examples from Faringdon’s talent pool.

We also saw other aspects of this pool at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance that was organised (no pun intended) by Joy Blake with Faringdon Brass, the Ferndale Community Choir, Army Cadets, Yvonne Belcher, our town Mayor Councillor Dr Mike Wise and some stunning audio-visual compositions by Gordon Belcher.

But, of course, talk of talent makes me immediately think of Jesus’ parable of the Talents written in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In them Jesus told of the master commending his servants who had made good use of their gifts, saying that , because they’d been faithful, “in a few things” they’d be rewarded by being “put in charge of many things”.

Matthew and Luke’s stories, though basically parallel, do differ in some details but have essentially the same meaning. The phrase ‘faithful in a few things’ reminded me of the one used in Jesus’ parable about the wily steward that was our Gospel in mid September, when Jesus said , Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. (Lk 16:10).

The British Biblical scholar Dr James Moffatt translated this as: “He who is faithful with a trifle is also faithful with a large trust”,

But as I see it, I think he missed the point. Jesus is not saying, “because he is faithful with a little, therefore, in the future, he will be faithful with much”. What Jesus says is that this is a statement of present fact, that to be faithful with a little is to be truly, greatly, wholly faithful; it is to be faithful in much.

If we are faithful in little matters, that is what counts with God – it is the faithfulness that’s important, not the size of the task. Faithfulness is faithfulness, nothing more, nothing less.

“Well, Max”, I can hear someone saying, “this is just semantics, what difference does it make?” To my mind, it makes a very real difference that is relevant to many people today.

The parable of the Talents is used to teach that honest efforts, and hard work, will have their reward. That’s all very right and proper, and I’ve nothing to say against it. But this neat little bit of moral philosophy doesn’t always apply, and I’m sure it wasn’t what Jesus meant.

For example, I don’t think it applies to a large section of the community; what of the wives and mothers amongst us? What reward after years of faithful service? Surely we’re not suggesting they should have two homes to manage instead of one; or five, instead of two children to care for, saying, “You, who have been faithful in a few things shall now be rewarded by being put in charge of many things”, are we? There’s something to be said for a wife and a mother being made Prime Minister, if she’s got the appropriate skills, but what about the millions who will still be faithfully carrying out their daily tasks to the end of their days? Surely their reward is in their faithfulness, and it is of such as these that Jesus said, “Who is faithful in little things is faithful in much”.

It is faithfulness in small things that is so desperately needed today, not in order to get greater opportunities that may come as a reward, but for the love of true and honest work, and for the joy of serving others.

Most people think there’s not much they can do to shape and influence the great world issues of today. But don’t the great issues depend on individuals, and don’t individuals come from homes, schools, Churches, communities, where faithfulness in small things shows character even as it creates it?

Jesus didn’t say, “He who is faithful in matters that are the smallest will be faithful in greater ones” – anyone could have said that – he put the emphasis where it is so often forgotten, that to be faithful with a little is to be truly, greatly, wholly faithful; it is to be faithful in much. I hope this explanation of Jesus’ message will help and encourage those who are filling small places, and doing little things, with great faithfulness, and always will be. So, go to it, faithful talented Faringdonians! Have an expectant Advent, a joyous and happy Christmas and New Year, and an eye-opening Epiphany!

Max Young

Faith For All Seasons: Jeff Lucas

This new book by Jeff Lucas, published this year, is a commentary on the life of Elijah. One of the most important men of the Old Testament: some said that Jesus was Elijah returned from the dead, Elijah was there at the Transfiguration of Jesus, but he was no super hero, always triumphant. He had a period when he hid in a cave, fearful of death from his enemies and wishing he could die. But God was there, always calling him forward, saying, I am here with you, take courage, follow me.

This book is an encouragement to those of us who have periods when we feel disheartened or that God is far from us. The motto of the school in Uganda where I taught for a few years, was “Never give up”. That too was true of Elijah, who learned that, whatever he felt like, God never left him.

Joan Plumptre

JESUS . . . “for us and for our SALVATION” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

We come now to this crucial part of the Creed, the amazing belief that God the Eternal Son of God the Eternal Father “for us and for our SALVATION came down from heaven”. It’s a statement of historic fact. That Jesus, through whom all existence and creation ever came into being, in marvellous love and wonder, actually took the very nature of our human flesh. That he walked this earth and lived amongst us around 2,000 years ago for some thirty three years. It was the fulfilment of a gracious divine plan, made from the beginning and foundation of the world to meet a fundamental and vital need of each and every one of us; in fact of the whole human race. (See 1 Peter 1:18-21). That without God, without his instructions for worthwhile and purposeful lives, without the aid and grace to live such a life; and that without his first aid when we get it wrong, as sadly we frequently do, we are lost! That’s putting it bluntly!

As I said in an earlier article we have to look with utter realism at the tragedy of human sin, evil and wrong doing; the terrible things that we humans actually bring about through selfishness, greed, lust, hatred and so on. It is a fallen world, distorted, damaged, badly hurt; but it can be rectified, can truly be the Kingdom of God, through the power of the everlasting Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ. (Note :Mark 16:19-20 AV)

There has of course always been untold generous love lived and shown in countless human lives. There have always been, and still are many true saints across (and yes outside too) all the World Faiths. But there is another black or dark side to our humanity! The absolute freedom and free will that we all need and must have, if we are to love truly, to love each other, and to mature and grow in such love, can be so easily abused, misused, even almost destroyed. We need Salvation, and this Creed takes up the whole work of our Salvation through Christ.

We must now explore the meaning of that great word. First its meaning in the Old Testament, and then how it is developed and extended in the New. Briefly how the early and later Church came to understand and teach it, and the role such belief played in her Sacraments and Worship.

The basic root meaning of the Hebrew word Yashah, translated salvation in the O.T. is to give space, i.e. the exact opposite of being confined and shut in. It lends itself readily to the notion of being liberated and set free. Interestingly the same root word is found in the names Joshua, Hosea, and Isaiah, and of course the very name Jesus, specially chosen to denote his role as Saviour (Matthew 1: 21). Hence, for the Hebrew people of old salvation generally means deliverance from a specific national or personal danger or catastrophe, or from a real visible enemy (Psalms 17:1-3; 18:3; 22:21). Often it is used in the context of battle (as e.g. in the book of Judges) with a special plea for and emphasis on victory. Psalm 20 strongly suggests this. In the era after the Jewish Babylonian exile c. 500 BC the word is used more as a plea for the reconstruction of Jerusalem and Judea, and for bringing home the dispersed peoples after years of deportation and captivity. (Psalms 69:35 & 106:47).

When the crowds greeted Jesus entering Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were using another Hebrew term for salvation. (Matthew 21:9). Their plea was just as for centuries before, but now it was a cry for freedom from an oppressive Roman rule and power; for national and political victory. But the Salvation that Christ would offer would not be like that; in fact something much wider and deeper, bringing a new kind and degree of human freedom and liberation, with fresh wide space for a brand new life and Gospel living; with full forgiveness and inner healing too, and the assurance of unending glorious life with Christ in heaven.

The New Testament develops this new Salvation-in-Christ, meeting and covering all aspects of human need; our personal interior feelings and relationships, our longings and hopes; and the deepest questions about life and purpose. In a clear brief statement it claims that “he will save his people from their sins” (See Matthew 1:21). But, and I want to stress this strongly, it is not just salvation from…. (Whatever the terrible consequences might be) but salvation for….. I repeat again, it’s about a new kind of lasting victory and freedom. The triumph of a forgiven and transformed new life, lived by faith in Christ within the Church and community of Faith, empowered and enriched by his saving grace alone. It’s a liberated life sustained by God’s holy Word; by worship and prayer also; and specially by Sacrament and fellowship.

The New Testament moves beyond a rescue operation necessary as it is, to an abundant new life! This is the life our Father God had always planned and prepared for us; for every single one of us and forever. Nothing less! Yet it was very costly to bring about, and that we have to look at when we think about the Crucifixion and the Atonement made for us, themes of inexhaustible meaning and relevance.

Please read some or all of these passages: Colossians 1:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5 & 19-20; Hebrews 12:22-24; and Matthew 5:3-10 which is about new life Gospel living.

Over the centuries Churches and individual Christians have often stressed the negative things that we are saved from, to the detriment of taking hold of the great positive gifts and benefits. Fear alone rather than generous Love has often been the driving motivation; at times enforced by political power and expediency.

The danger is that no one is ever truly saved by undue stress on human failure, on condemnation, or fear of separation from God forever. (Certainly not nowadays!) It does not make for a balanced mature loving Christian fellowship, and it can easily damage a person’s mental health and equilibrium. The New Testament is overwhelmingly positive, and though the gravity of human sin and wrong doing should never be underestimated, it is the sheer immensity and wideness of the divine Love and Mercy that matters most, and should be our primary emphasis. All that I have tried to explain so far is dramatically set forth in the Church’s Liturgies, and especially in the Eucharist and Communion.

In this great Sacrament our salvation is made truly real for us, is strengthened and renewed, and is a foretaste of its glorious fullness in heaven.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty
For the love of God is broader than the scope of human mind,
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
F.W.Faber

Loving Saviour, Lord and God, thank you for all that you have done for us and given for our eternal Salvation. Help us to show in our lives the fruits of that great redemption until we see your face in glory. Amen.

George Abell