The Second Rocky Road Epistle Chapter 5

The second Sunday of Advent sees us being able to worship in our building again.  With social distancing and face covering I do hope you will feel able to join us.  If not, then we will be recording and making the service available for you to listen to on the website or to access via the “Dial-a-service” facility (see below).

Although there is the disappointment of things we still cannot do, like singing, mingling, and drinking coffee, we can go back to meeting together.  It is the second Sunday of Advent and thinking of lighting a candle reminds me of the saying

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This may be an old Chinese proverb - but people don’t seem to know where it is from.  Yet in this Advent the idea of light shining out against a background of darkness from sorrow, loneliness or suffering is an immensely powerful image.

We have a choice.  We can complain about the darkness, the restrictions and problems in the world, but do nothing, or we could even pretend that the darkness doesn’t exist, or it is someone else’s problem.  As the writer John Rackley put it “Advent suffers from too much light pollution and churches should try not to contribute to it”.  Rather we can choose to light a candle, to embrace hope and trust in Jesus who loves us and who Christmas is really about.

We may yet manage to sing carols outside, hopefully giving better enjoyment to others than the two children in the cartoon! 


Information

Listening to a recording of an audio service

If you have the internet, then go to our website  (www.RRBC.org.uk) where you will find a recording under the audio files.

If you are not on internet, we have now paid to have a “Dial-a-Service” facility.  If you phone 01536 909787 you will be able to listen to a recording of the service on your telephone. 
The cost, around 30p a call, is covered by the church. 


Reflection

From Laura  “Love in the Margins” - Mary
Luke 1 v. 20-38, 46-55

Were you sporty when you were at school?  Or like me were you usually one of the last to be picked for a team?  Growing up for children often involves being in the popular crowd or not.  But what about life as a “grown-up”?  Do you ever feel on the outside of events or feel forgotten or just not important?  The lockdown has not helped these feelings, it has impacted all of us and the isolation and fear has left people struggling mentally and emotionally.  The restrictions have highlighted the value of relationships, of people working together and of encouraging others.  We have been reminded of the importance of our friends and families, and several of us have found it difficult to not be able to physically see our loved ones.  In a world that seems to breed celebrities, where people rate themselves by the number of followers on social media and where people can become famous overnight, we must never be swayed by popularity.  All people are important to God and so to us, and as lockdown has shown us, we all need each other in this world.

The passage is about an ordinary girl living in Nazareth, an unremarkable Northern town and certainly not one you would want to visit if you came from the Jerusalem area.  The likelihood is that if you came from Nazareth other Israelites would either have felt sorry for you or would have made jokes about you.  In terms of the Roman Empire the whole nation of Israel was not important, tolerated rather than valued, so Nazareth was even more of a backwater town, on the edge of a small country, far from the seat of power and influence.    

In these margins of society, we meet Mary a young and insignificant girl.  A teenager engaged to be married to Joseph, the local carpenter, she had a very ordinary daily life and was certainly not someone who would be a celebrity in today’s terms.  Mary probably didn’t think of herself as anyone special and in a male dominated society would have been aware that had she would have been more valued had she been a man.  Yet God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to speak to Mary.  This unimportant girl living in the edges of society was in the centre of God’s preparations for the salvation of the world.  God had plans for Mary, which were the best for her, and plans for the world through her, which only she could do. 

Gabriel was not sent to the temple.  Instead God’s message was given to Mary where she was, in the middle of normal life, in the privacy of a humble home.  The message started by giving reassurance that God noticed her, that she was important to God.  This would have been enough for her to respond with the words in her song (often known as the Magnificat) v. 47, 48, “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”  But then Gabriel spoke words which turned Mary’s world upside down for she was to become the mother of the promised Messiah.  Becoming pregnant when not married carried the risk of being shunned, being marginalised, by her society and probably by Joseph.  We are not told if Mary thought about any of these issues or worried about the consequences.  She seemed to face the situation full of faith that left the details to God, in trust that He knew what He was doing.  As reflected in her words from her song v.49, “The Mighty One has done great things for me

The idea of the Messiah being born in human weakness as a baby and needing care from others to live and grow was prophesised in the Old Testament.  Isaiah 7 v.14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  Here we see God’s utmost love in the margins, God coming humbly as one of us. 

Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who did not swoop in and fix this broken world, but instead joined us in it.  Jesus came to the margins for everyone to show God’s love.  God has plans for each of us which are the best for us and the best for the world.  We do not always understand the implications of what God asks us to do, but can trust Him to love us and take care of us whatever the circumstances.

Next week we continue Advent with the theme “Peace in the Margins” Joseph


Zoom Bible Study

Wednesday 9th December at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start
Isaiah 9 v.1-7

All are welcome to join - please ask Laura for details.  Or if you prefer to do this Bible Study at home, then read the passages several times and consider the following questions.

    1. What does Advent mean to you?
    2. Is there a danger of losing it altogether this year?
    3. Does that matter?

  1. Read Isaiah 9 v.1-7,      What is the darkness (v.2) that Isaiah is speaking about, do you get any clues from the passage?

  2. Baptist minister and writer John Rackley wrote an article called “Dark Advent Rising”. In it he said “But I lament that our preparation for the songs of Christmas has been become a sort of ‘baby-shower’ time. All excitement, present-wrapping, tinsel stringing and food (SO much food) and a surfeit of jolliness. Where is the darkness?”  What is do you think of his comment?

    Or what is your reaction to the following statement?

    We will not understand the light that shines at Christmas if we remove the dark backdrop. (poet Malcolm Guite writes in his compilation of poems and observations for Advent Waiting on the Word:

  3. A final comment from John Rackley, “Advent has a long reach. It is not a four-week wonder. The time of Advent lament is not a warm-up act for Christmas, it is the soil into which faith can plant deep roots.”….“For Advent is an experience of having faith amidst the darkness of life. It is more than calendar event.”

How is your light shining in the darkness?


Prayers

Dear Lord, in this season of Advent
Help me to hear your voice.
Touch me once again.
Give me the courage to be your beloved.
Give me courage to choose joy.
I need you this Christmas.
Be born in me again. Today.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Lord, in a season when every heart should be happy and light, many of us are struggling with the heaviness of life - burdens that steal the joy right out of our stockings.  Tragedy arrives as innocent victims suffer, and an inner voice whispers, “Be afraid!”

We need your peace, Jesus.  We confess that our hearts are too often filled with wonder of a different kind: wondering when the bills will be paid, when the terror will stop, when rest will come.  Will it ever?  Is the message still true?

In a world where worry, not peace, prevails, stir up that good news again. 

This Advent make it real in our hearts.  Never have we needed Your joy and peace more than now. Thank You for the gift of Jesus, our Immanuel, the Word made flesh.  We not only need Your peace and joy; Lord, we crave it.  You have promised rest for the weary, victory for the battle-scarred, peace for the anxious, and acceptance for the broken hearted - not just at Advent, but every day of every year.  Your name is still called “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” and “The Prince of Peace.”  We know that peace on earth can only come when hearts find peace with You.  You are still our Joy.  You are still our Peace.  You are no longer a babe in the manger.  You are Lord of lords and King of kings.  And we still celebrate You as Lord—this Christmas and always.  Amen

Please pray for Walgrave Baptist Church

Please remember our “Mission of the month” – Spurgeon’s Childcare.


Songs for Sunday

1. Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas-
Star and angels gave the sign.

2. Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

3. Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and others,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-94),
CCLI #5638

1 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of His word;
In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

2. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name!
Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age the same;
His holy name-the Lord, the mighty One.

3. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

4. Tell out, my soul, the glories of His word!
Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure:
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children's children and forever more!

Timothy Dudley-Smith
© 1961 CCLI No. 5638


Christmas Dates …

20th December – Carol Service in some form (possibly outside so we can sing – still to be decided)

24th December – On Zoom - Communion at 7.30pm, followed by Coffee and mince pies
please supply your own consumables!

25th December – a short Christmas Day service at 10 o’clock (note earlier time)

27th December – morning service at 10:45am