A New Year

I find myself, appropriately enough, writing this on New Year’s Eve. It’s a time for remembering 2018 but also for looking forward to new challenges in 2019. It is thought by many that January is so named after the Roman god of doorways, Janus, who is usually depicted with two faces - one looking backwards and one facing forwards. If that is correct (some think the month is named after Juno) then it is entirely appropriate. We’ve had the celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ, which often involves heroic consumption and for many this needs to be atoned for by a quiet January. Cancer Research is even mounting a fund-raising campaign (Dryathlon) based on drinking no alcohol in January. Steady on is all I can say! Others will diet or take out gym membership as the short days and dank climate seem to make us rather remorseful.

If we look back at 2018 everyone will have different memories - some happy and some very sad. England got to the semi-finals of the football world cup, Alan and Jill Comfort moved on, Brexit probably didn’t, and the sun shone mightily all summer. It was daunting to get cover for the variety of services that our three churches host, but it happened thanks to huge amounts of time and effort from many inside and outside the Church. We are very grateful to all the visiting clergy who have helped us out over the last six months and we will continue to need their help until John arrives, and of course Caroline’s exceptional hard work. There are many others too, far too many to name but you know who they are!

You will probably have heard that we have appointed a new Rector, John Chitham, who with his wife Basma will be moving to the area and taking up the reins towards the end of March. He has a great deal of experience and a very easy manner about him. We are all looking forward to their arrival. One of the biggest challenges any one taking up the post will face, is the wide spectrum of worship provided - from BCP Communion, which is pretty much unchanged since the Reformation, to St Mary’s at the School where the emphasis is on much more charismatic and informal worship; and we have most other things in between as well.

For those who are ambivalent or even just plain agnostic and the gym doesn’t appeal, why not decide to try one of our services at Standon or Little Munden or Sacombe, you might surprise yourselves - and we don’t bite.

Derek, Churchwarden

Advent

Advent can easily be overlooked, but it’s an important season in the Church calendar. It’s a time of looking forward, not just to the holiday season, but beyond.
700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah looked forward to a time when God would send a special King, who would ‘redeem’ God’s people. That’s a very churchy word, and we hear it a lot at Christmas time – Jesus, our Redeemer.
To redeem something or someone means to buy back something held or claimed by someone else, to recover something that has been pledged, to free a captive, by paying the amount due, the ransom price.
Even in Isaiah’s day, people felt pulled to act in ways they knew were wrong. Human nature, peer pressure, the busyness of life got in the way of them living as they knew God would want. They couldn’t seem to help themselves, and things kept going wrong for them. God promised to put that right, one day. God’s great King would come, and he would release us from the things that pull us in the wrong direction; he would pay the price of our freedom from all that separates us from God.
People looked forward to that time. Sometimes it seemed it would never come, but God keeps his promises, and at Christmas we remember the birth of the baby who is that King.
When Christmas comes, our churches will be busy with services. We’ll remember that baby, but that isn’t the end of the story. Jesus did come; he is the King, but still people act in ways that are wrong. The job of the King is not finished yet. And so, in Advent, we look forward to Christmas, but we also look forward to the time when the work will be done, God’s rule will prevail, and God will live with us, in peace and harmony. Many think that’s not going to happen now, after all this time, but God has kept the first part of his promise, and we can be sure that the second part is on its way, one day.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s thank God for the baby who was born King, and let’s look forward to the day when he rules the whole world and God’s perfect kingdom comes.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Caroline Franks, Reader (Licensed Lay Minister)

Lest we forget...

How do you try to remember significant times and events? Perhaps you put photographs into albums, or create scrapbooks of memories to look back on. For some, this offers comfort in times of bereavement or it can remind us of happy times. Recently I’ve been transferring old family videos to DVDs so that future generations of my family will be able to look back to see what their ancestors looked like and how they lived.

In this year of 2018, we will be looking back 100 years to the end of the Great War, as it was then innocently called. Specifically, back to the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and on the eleventh hour, when fifty-two months of bloody conflict came to an end as Allied and German leaders signed the Armistice which brought an end to the fighting on the Western Front.
Thousands of people will keep silence to bring to mind the countless thousands that have lost their lives in many wars, and especially this year, in World War 1, as it was known when it became clear that this wasn’t the war to end all wars.

I believe that it is important to remember the sacrifice made by ordinary men and women to ensure a free future for us all. Remembrance Sunday this year happens to fall on 11th November, making it especially significant. Do join us at one of the Remembrance services in our Benefice.

At this time of remembrance, we often hear the words in the Bible that Jesus spoke: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus also said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

That is how God shows His great love for all of us; He came to us in human form, as Jesus, and gave His life so that those who believe in Him would not die, but would rise to eternal life: a life with Him in heaven, where ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ (From the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4)

Marion Smith, Benefice Administrator

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