Dear friends

As I write this I am sat at the back of St John’s while 116 children from Key Stage 2 at Tatworth Primary School rehearse for their Christmas services on Friday.  It is a wonderful vibrant organized chaos as the kids familiarize themselves with the space; we work out where parents are going to sit; how to use the mics effectively for different voice levels etc etc.  It is also not discreet!  The church is alive with life, light and laughter – and this is just the practice!
So many of us are preparing for Christmas in our own way – be it rehearsals like the children; Christmas lights going up on houses and in gardens; cooking; cards; the list goes on.  It is easy to think it is all about Christmas Day, and of course that it is the focal point.  But it is also about the preparing – not half heartedly but enthusiastically!  Whatever we are doing to ready ourselves for Christmas, it is about actively waiting, embracing the present to be ready for the future.
On Monday we were very proud parents when we went to watch Andrew in his school nativity.  It had been postponed from the week before when the school had to close due to the floods.  Monday being my day off I had spent the afternoon putting up our Christmas lights on the trees in the garden.  Andrew did not know I was doing this as I wanted it to be a surprise.
As we came out of school and started the walk home in the pitch dark, Andrew was chatting away about all the lights on houses and in gardens and asked when ours would go up.  As we neared home he suddenly stopped and shouted ‘Wow! – whose house is that!  Is that the church?’  Michelle and I smiled and asked him to look again.  ‘Wait!  Is that our house!?’  Cue much joy!  It was the best reaction we could ever have hoped for.  It was a total joyous surprise of someone noticing something for the first time not somewhere new…  but right in their own place.
That is what is happening right now in church – it is a place of light, laughter and joy as those children prepare.  And it is what happened in the Christmas lights.  The lights are symbolic of the journey to, and through, Christmas.  But the joy is right now.  As you wait, as you prepare, take note of those moments of joy in the present and be reminded of what it is we wait for – Jesus born to us not in a distant land, but right here in our homes.
Please find below details of various services and events in the Benefice this Advent and Christmas – everyone is most welcome to everything!
Sunday Worship:
17th December @ 10:30am:  Holy Communion in St John’s, Tatworth
24th December – see services below.  There are no morning services on Christmas Eve.
Carol Services in church:
17th December @ 6:30pm: St Stephen’s, Winsham19th December @ 6:30pm: St Michael & All Angels, Chaffcombe24th December @ 6pm: Forde Abbey Chapel
Christingle & Nativity Services:
17th December @ 11:30am: St Mary’s, Thorncombe24th December @ 4pm: St John’s, Tatworth
Christmas Eve Communion Services:
7pm: Holy Communion & Carols – St Mary Magdalene, Cricket Malherbie11:30pm: Midnight Mass – St Stephen’s, Winsham11:30pm: Midnight Mass – St Michael & All Angels, Chaffcombe
8am: Christmas Day Holy Communion (BCP) – Forde Abbey10am: Christmas Day All Age Worship – St Mary’s, Thorncombe10:30am: Christmas Day Family Communion – St John’s, Tatworth
ADVENT COURSE – 2pm on 14th and 21st of December.
I am running a short Advent Course here in the vicarage on Thursdays in Advent at 2pm.  The theme is ‘The meaning is in the waiting’.  Each session is bible focused and will last about an hour.  All Welcome!  Hopeful that we will not have to postpone this one like last week!
We pray for all those who have been affected by the floods last week and having to cope with damaged property and belongings.
We pray in thanksgiving for all the school children across the Benefice who have worked so hard on Nativity plays and Christmas performances, retelling the Nativity story in so many different and creative ways and bringing it alive for all who have taken part and enjoyed watching.
Please also hold in your prayers all you know who are struggling in any way, in body, mind or spirit.  We are asked to pray by name for:
Dave Boyland; Terri Boyland; Wendy Cotton; Mary Marsh; Tony Taylor; Margaret Bandy; Di Nicholls; Hester Down; Stella Hutchison; Andrew de Pury; Cyril Larcombe; Lynn Ranson; Keith Legge; Ron Bone
We remember all those who love but see no longer.  Particularly we remember David Rodford, whose funeral is in St John’s at 1130am tomorrow (Thursday 14th).
A Collect for Advent:
O Lord our God,make us watchful and keep us faithfulas we await the coming of your Son our Lord;that, when he shall appear,he may not find us sleeping in sinbut active in his serviceand joyful in his praise;through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
The Vicarage
3 Home Farm
TA20 2SH
01460 221286
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