This year Advent and Christmas are going to be very different – but different doesn’t have to mean worse! To bring Good News and joy to our communities, we are going to be decorating our windows.
You might like to choose one of the days, or you might like to choose a part of the story.
You might want to change your window once a week throughout Advent, or you might like to organise with some local friends to do a different part each so that the story is added to in your neighbourhood. You might feel really ambitious and divide your window up into 24 squares and do one a day! Or you might have several windows you would like to decorate. However, you want to go about it, bring some joy and the Good News of Jesus to your friends and neighbours this Christmas.
Let’s shine as lights in the darkness to the Glory of God!
‘God sent the angel Gabriel to a girl named Mary’ Luke 1:26
Thank you God that you reach out to us
‘The angel said to her, ‘don’t be afraid because God is very pleased with you’ Luke 1:30
Please God take my fear away
‘Listen! You will become pregnant and have a baby boy. You will name him Jesus’ Luke 1:31
Help me to listen out for you
Son of God
‘He will be great. People will call him ‘the son of the most high God’ Luke 1:32
Thank you for your amazing gift!
She said yes!
‘Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let this thing you have said happen to me’ Luke 1:38
Help me to say yes like Mary
‘Caesar sent out an order that everyone’s name must be put on a list’ Luke 2:1
Give me strength when I have to obey
‘Everyone traveled to their own town to have their names put on the list’ Luke 2:3
Protect all those on journeys today
Mary and Joseph
‘So Joseph went to the town of David because he was from the family of David. Joseph registered with Mary’ Luke 2:4-5
Bless my family
The baby arrives
‘While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have the baby. She gave birth to her first son’ Luke 2:6-7
Be with those giving birth today
A strange crib
‘There were no rooms left in the inn. So she wrapped the baby with cloths and laid him in a box where the animals are fed’ Luke 2:7
Help those who do not have a home
Shepherds in the fields
‘That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep’ Luke 2:8
Bless those working night shifts
‘An angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them’ Luke 2:9
Please shine on us today
Don’t be afraid
‘The angel said to them, ‘don’t be afraid, because I am bringing you some good news!’ Luke 2:10
Comfort us when we are afraid
Christ the Lord!
‘Today your saviour was born in David’s town. He is Christ the Lord’ Luke 2:11
Open my heart to you
‘This is how you will know him: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding box’ Luke 2:12
Open our eyes to notice you in surprising places
Glory all around
‘All the angels were praising God, saying, ‘give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace to the people who please God’ Luke 2:13-14
Please let there be peace in the world
‘So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary, Joseph and the baby’ Luke 2:16-17
Help us to be eager to see you
‘Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything that they had seen and heard’ Luke 2:20
Give us thankful hearts
Visitors from far away
‘After Jesus was born, some wise men came from the East’ Matthew 2:1
Thank you for wise people in my life
‘When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy’ Matthew 2:10
Fill us with joy this day
‘They went to the house...and they bowed down and they worshipped the child’ Matthew 2:11
Bless our home
Treasures for a tiny King
‘They gave him treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh’ Matthew 2:11
Help me be generous
Prince of peace
‘A child will be born to us. God will give a son to us. His name will be... prince of peace’ Isaiah 9:6
Thank you that Jesus came to bring peace
God loves you!
‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only son. God gave his son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life’ John 3:16
In partnership with The Long Table, we will be distributing [frozen] Christmas lunches, cooked from scratch using ethically sourced, local produce in a pretty bag with lovely Christmassy items to families who are struggling at this time. We are partnering with our local schools, who have been overwhelmed by this act of kindness. Before the meals have even been made, blessings have been received!
The wonderful Mary, who is part of St Laurence community, is coordinating the project; Holy Trinity, Stroud and St Matthew’s, Cainscross have both identified funds that can be used for just this sort of project; the meals will need to be put together in bags and we hope lots of people will join in by baking some mince pies, or hand making some cards, or decorating jam jars for tea lights, or anything else you would like to do to add blessings to the bags!
If you would like to get involved in any way, please contact Mary.
This year, the national Christmas campaign will be ‘Comfort and Joy’, and my goodness, those are two things we need in spades this year. And they are two things our Good News delivers, beyond our wildest dreams!
We will have to think about Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in a very different way, but we are confident that different will not be worse. We are determined to focus on what can be, and let go of what can’tbe, in order to be comfort and joy.
The Everyday Faith Festival was so welcome after months of lockdown. It refocussed my journey as a Christian and what my faith is without Sunday in a church building. Being able to connect with other Christians across the county, talking openly about faith, sharing ideas and opinions on things that matter and feeling heard and supported was an inspiring and uplifting experience. I particularly found the session on ‘Praying with your eyes open’ thought-provoking and something that would help me live out my faith throughout the day rather than just in those set moments of prayer. I am now constantly on the ‘look out’ for God in my day and praying openly for the ows, wows and nows! I am truly thankful for all those who must have put so much time into providing this experience.
Our church leaders are deeply aware that this current lockdown will impact people in many different ways; through the sense of loss and trauma, being faced with sickness and even death of loved ones and threats to physical and economic, mental and spiritual wellbeing, being separated when we are created to live in community.
So, for 28 days, starting on Thursday 5th November the Archbishops have called on people from churches across the country to be committed to pray every evening at 6 pm. Cathedrals will ring their bells at 6 pm as a call to prayer and you might just hear a local bell. Phone alarms can be effective! Some people will light candles; children and adults might like to switch on a torch as we pray together – a reminder of the light of Jesus shining in the darkness.
There are prayer resources to enable participation but not to limit prayer and there is a theme for each day. To access them look here. In addition, there is a simple printable Prayer Booklet.
I’m looking forward to being ordained on Sunday 20th even though it won’t be what we’d imagined a year ago. It feels it will be like a wedding without guests and without the party but poignantly reduced to the essence – my commitment to God and his commitment to me. I am overawed by the responsibilities of this calling, the promises I will be making but believe that everything we each do in serving Jesus is only accomplished through the enabling of the Holy Spirit – what a relief! It’s also a huge assurance to know that we always live in the love and grace of Jesus and God the Father and brilliant to have the love and gracious support of so many church friends, old and new friends and my family. What an honour! Thank you to all who have prayed and will pray for me.
A wonderful outcome of unfailing pastoral care is the story of our friend Rezgar who, just before lock down, was granted right to remain in the UK, and has gone on to get a job, a travel permit, part way towards a driving licence, and, wonderfully, is seeing his Mum for the first time in more than 10 years! These joyous photos will make you smile. Rezgar simply wrote; Be encouraged – prayer and love transform lives!
We are looking forward to coming together in this new space. Whether you are a big reader or not, if you just want to explore and discuss together some provocative books on our journeys of grace – this could be for you. The idea of a Christian book club was brought to life by hearing Kate enthusiastically referring to a book called “The ruthless elimination of hurry”. There seemed a rich opportunity to carry on the discussion well after the Sunday sermon slot & chat, so the outline of a book club to explore faith further together was born.
There are some other surprisingly good Christian books out there to enjoy, stimulate us and discuss together.
If you are interested in being part of this, then the launch meeting is on October 7th 7:30 to 9:00 online. Please email Helen if you are interested.
A safe place to discuss Christian books honestly, get provoked and explore journeys of grace
Fellowship and fun
Encourage sharing of good book experiences in each of the parishes
Who’s it for?
People willing to commit to meeting regularly monthly for a year – come and give it a trial first if you want
Theological experts or seekers after the truth
Those who are suffering or rejoicing
Launch session with an outline proposal to be refined by members
October 7th 7:30 to 9:00 online gathering with eCoffee & eBiscuits and then
the first Wednesday of each month following
“How to pray” by Pete Greig will be the launch book.
Buy a copy if possible and read the first chapter
Say hello and help us shape this club
Share some insights or questions – we would like to hear everyone if possible.
Looking forward to hearing from you, Peter Hill [Helen the curate’s husband!]
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Communion during this time
In these unprecedented times, we are working hard to find imaginative solutions in a landscape that has been rapidly changing. Sometimes we get things right, and sometimes we miss the mark. I apologise that this has been the case regarding communion.
For those of you who have received wafers in a parcel, we would ask that you either consume them, or put them somewhere safe to bring back once we are able to be together again.
We are going to be sending out a new order of service for use during this time as either a simple service of the word or, on occasion, to help us to share an Agape meal together.
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