Welcome to this weekly letter! This will be the last letter of 2020. The next ‘update’ will be during the week beginning 4th January.
During Advent we have been focusing our prayer and worship on the theme of ‘Comfort and Joy’. In this final week of Advent we are thinking about the role music plays in helping us experience comfort and joy at Christmas.
This year it perhaps seems that comfort and joy are a long way off. But actually they are not that far away at all. One of the many wonders of the birth of Jesus is that God did not choose to give us His son in a way that was comfortable and safe and where Jesus would grow up and live out His life without a care in the world. No – Jesus was born into the gritty reality of life as lived by the ordinary, with all the worries and risks that come with that. God held nothing back – because Jesus came to be with us, not as an observer, but AS us. It is an act of love like no other.
Christmas will be a difficult time for many, and a different time for all. But we can take great comfort in knowing that whatever it means for us practically this year, it remains a season of great joy in our hearts and souls because in the incarnation Jesus is right there with us.
In the opening two chapters of the Gospel of Luke we read of the birth of Jesus and the circumstances around it. It was not easy. Life was difficult. But into that reality God speaks through His angels to all of Zechariah (John’s father), Mary (mother of Jesus), and the shepherds outside Bethlehem. Every time the messages from the angels start with ‘Do not be afraid’. Words of comfort. And then comes the news of great joy. The two are inextricable.
Indeed, interspersed in those opening two chapters we have 4 major songs that remain part of our regular worship today, and are songs rooted in the theme of comfort and joy.
Mary sings her song of joy when she meets her cousin Elizabeth. We now know this as the Magnificat. Zechariah responds to the birth of his son, John, with the song we know as the Benedictus. The angels’ message to the shepherds on the hillside forms our Gloria. And when Jesus is presented at the Temple in Jerusalem when he is 40 days old, the priest Simeon provides the song we know as the Nunc Dimittis.
Whatever you are doing, or not doing, this Christmas, reflect on the comfort and joy of the birth of Jesus, and the love of God shown in that gift to us.
God of comfort and joy, may we know your presence with us today and bring your gentle, joyful love to others, this Christmas and always. Amen.
Do visit https://twoshires.wordpress.com/christmas-2020 for up-to-date Christmas events, services and video information.
Outdoor Nativity Scenes
All five of our churches have got nativity displays that you can visit in your time. Thank you so much to everyone who has been involved in putting them together. They are all very different and very wonderful – and very creative! If you haven’t seen them yet, do go and have a look.
In Tatworth, Thorncombe and Winsham there is a trail that you can follow around the villages that finishes at the nativity scenes at those churches. If you go to the web address above you will find a poem written by Rev Michelle which describes the route for each one and what you are looking for! Follow the stars to the manger!
Christingle, Crib and Carol Services
These three services are video services this year. The Christingle service is already available. The Carol Service will be available from Sunday 20th and the Crib Service from Christmas Eve. You will find the videos on the above web address or on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkgAPth84w8vMfDgFeO6DIA
Christmas from the Den
A big thank you to Rev Michelle for her wonderful three-episode series for children this Christmas coming from the ‘den’ and aided by her sidekick Dylan! If you haven’t seen them, you can find them at the above addresses. They are a lot of fun and take children through the Christmas story with songs, crafts, challenges and much laughter!
Outdoor Carol Singing
Weather permitting there is outdoor carol singing as follows:
4pm 19th December – St John’s, Tatworth
4pm 20th December – St Stephen’s, Winsham
6:30pm 23rd December – Chaffcombe Village Hall car park.
If you are attending these it is imperative that you observe social distancing at all times. And wrap up warm!
The following are the services in church for Christmas:
Christmas Eve – 10am Said Holy Communion – Chaffcombe and Winsham
Christmas Day – 10am Said Holy Communion – Tatworth, Thorncombe and Cricket Malherbie. 8am Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion at Forde Abbey.
Sunday 20th December
8am Winsham – Holy Communion (Rev Philip)
10am Tatworth – Holy Communion (Rev Judith)
4pm Cricket Malherbie – Holy Communion (Rev Philip) – Please note earlier time.
Sunday 27th December
10am Patronal Holy Communion – Winsham (Rev Judith)
Sunday 3rd January
8am BCP Holy Communion – Forde Abbey
10am Holy Communion – Winsham
4pm Afternoon Worship – Tatworth
Wednesday 23rd December: 11am at Thorncombe (Rev Philip)
Wednesday 6th January: 11am at Cricket Malherbie
The next Thursday Evening Zoom worship at 7:30pm will be on Thursday 7th January.
Meeting ID: 761 0841 9112
The next live online Sunday worship will be Sunday 10th January – link to come in due course.
All churches continue to be open during the week for an hour for private individual prayer.
Wednesdays – Tatworth, Cricket Malherbie & Thorncombe at 11am
Thursdays – Chaffcombe & Winsham at 11am
· That this Christmas the Good News of God’s love will be heard by all who need it.
· That those in need of rest will find it.
· That we may all see comfort and joy in Christmas around us, whatever our circumstances this year.
We also pray for those we know who are sick, and those we don’t know, including those we are asked to pray by name for:
Bishop Peter Hancock; Hannah Knott; Rob Allen; Lynne and Bruce Applegarth; Phyllis Baker; Margaret Bandy; Sue Bennett; Sue Cheese; Terry Conway; Nick Frankau; David Goodwill; Mike Heywood; Joy Howard; Ann Jarvis; Frank Long; Peter McHugh; Diana Rowlands; Ann Ricketts; Jim Tucker; Rosemary Walley; Rosemary Walton; Vivien Wheaton; Alan Wills, Anna Woodward; Pamala Young; Milly granddaughter of Jane & Alan Rudkin; Gillian Muggeridge; Chris Gould; Brian Griffiths; Peter Hathway; Dorothy Down; Brian Turner; Diana Kershaw; Max Woehrle.
We remember in our prayers Nick Besley and all those who we love and see no longer, and the families and friends of those bereaved.
SCRIPTURE FOR THE WEEKS AHEAD
We are focusing on a specific bible passage each week for Advent.
This week it is Luke 1:46-55 (Magnificat):
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Turning to the crib – Isaiah 9:2,6:
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Looking to Epiphany – Matthew 2:9b-12:
…they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
A PRAYER FOR THE SEASON:
What does the world around us ask of us?
What great joy can we bring to it?
Give us understanding of where we are, of how to respond to the darkness and light of what is around us.
Give us your peace that is born of, and inextricable from, your justice.
Help us to tie it into our lives and work, even if it means upsetting and unsettling everything and everyone around us.
I wish you all a very blessed Christmas and New Year. I will be on post-Christmas leave from 26th December to 5th January, and look forward to catching up with you in 2021. I think we all hope and pray that 2021 is an improvement on 2020!
The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
3 Home Farm
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