The Second Rocky Road Epistle Chapter 4

The first Advent Sunday has arrived, the start of the countdown for Christmas.  Last Sunday was the traditional day for making Christmas puddings in which a sixpence (2½p in new money) used to be placed.  On Christmas day puddings would have been eaten with the hope of finding the coin or the hope of not breaking a tooth! 

Some of you have already been buying presents and writing cards. 

It is going to be harder to do cards at church this year.  We will not be having a board for putting up cards to everyone nor will it be possible to leave cards for others on a table. 

What about this cartoon as a way of doing your cards?  
Alternatively if you don’t fancy this - what about ringing people up instead of sending a card, and giving them a cheery greeting over the phone? 

You could still donate the money saved to Spurgeon’s Child Care, just put something in an envelope, labelled as a Christmas gift for Spurgeon’s and John will sort these out. 

The Staves household is ahead of our usual timings, spurred on by not knowing how Christmas celebrations will happen this year.  We hope to start services in the building again on Sunday 6th December and by the time you receive this chapter we may have more of an idea what is permissible.  But we will still celebrate, Christmas will still happen.  No restrictions can remove the hope given by Jesus, the light of the world, coming as a baby in the margins of society, all those years ago.

At church we have a light which illuminates the large cross on the front of the chapel.  When it shines it lights up the whole church.  When it doesn’t work the church is very dark.  Jesus came bringing light in the darkness, if we accept what he accomplished for us on the cross - His light shines in our lives.  Whatever Christmas holds let us be people of the light sharing the true hope of Christmas with our world.


Listening to a recording of an audio service

If you have the internet, then go to our website ( 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 ring 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. 

Thinking about Christmas … Presuming we are back holding services in our building over Christmas, our carol service (possibly outside so we can sing – still to be decided) is on 20th December, then a short Christmas Day service (25th!).  Shall we have a service on Sunday 27th December – will you come?


From Phillip.  “Hope in the Margins”  Elizabeth & Zechariah

Luke 1 v. 5-20 & 57-64

Elizabeth and Zechariah were what you might describe as a “right nice couple”, the sort of people you would quite like to have as neighbours.  I have met lots of Mr and Mrs Zechariah’s over the years, ordinary, respectable, pleasant people, who don’t make a fuss and therefore live on the margins of society.  Yet below the surface, they had given up hope and were stuck in a rut.  For although Elizabeth and Zechariah loved God and worshipped him personally and, in the case of Zechariah publicly in his priestly duties, they did not believe that God could cause something extraordinary to happen.  After all it was about 400 years since God had last spoken through any prophet.  Things had been quiet for a long time and although I don't doubt that Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed, I wonder if they really believed that their prayers, general prayers about the national hope of Israel, the coming of the messiah, and personal prayers about having a child, would ever come true. 

God though has a habit of breaking into our world at times when we least expect it.  Yet when the angel appeared to Zechariah at the altar and told him fantastic news about Elizabeth being pregnant and the birth of a son, Zechariah was so filled with hopelessness that he asked for a sign.  There he was listening to an angel and he still wanted another sign. 

I like the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah because I think they are like so many of us today.  They were stuck in a rut with an extremely limited view.  Zechariah was bogged down if you like and his attitude was, “Yes, Lord, I'll believe, just show me a sign”.  The American film star Woody Allen once said "I'd believe in God if only he would make a large deposit in my Swiss bank account"  As far as I know, he’s still waiting, for that isn't how God works.  As the angel said to Zechariah, I've given you a sign, the hope is there, just trust it and believe. 

I think it is also an appropriate story for Advent as we start to think about the meaning of Christmas and particularly so as we think about Christmas this year.  The message of Zechariah and Elizabeth is to believe in God because he is in charge and even if we are limited by our own horizon, and let’s face it, in our present world the horizon is very near, God sees the bigger picture.  With God’s view we look around at the wonderful world he made, the plants, the trees the flowers each one of them different, each colour a different shade, each scent a different fragrance.  Consider the seasons, the weather, no two days the same, each moment unique.  Who but a God of creation could have made such a wonderful world and who but God would show his love for the world by coming and living among us.  This is what Christmas is all about. 

As I write this on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister is addressing Parliament with his hopes for Christmas.  But for the Christian, Christmas hope has already come, it is there in Jesus coming down to this world for us.  How can we ever dare to say that everything is hopeless, that God doesn't care, that he isn't interested and has no compassion.  How can we ever say that, when God in Jesus came to this world and showed his love by dying for us on the cross.

Zechariah dared to ask for a sign and in a sense he got what he asked for, for from that moment he was struck dumb.  He endured months of silence until his voice returned when he named the child “John”, which means “the Lord is gracious”.  Zechariah knew that now, for even though he had not believed, that had not stopped God from working.  The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a story of hope, the true hope of Christmas.  We may, understandably be sad that this year’s festivities will be somewhat limited.  Yet if we open our eyes to the true message of the season - Emmanuel, God with us, then that message of hope will encourage us not just at Christmas, but in all the days that lie ahead.

Next week we continue Advent with the theme “Love in the Margins” Mary


A prayer of confession

Forgive us,
when we follow the crowd
because we are afraid to stand out
and follow our conscience...

Forgive us,
when we hide behind the crowd
because we are afraid to show our face
and speak up for what is right...

Forgive us,
when we avoid the crowd
because we are afraid to join in their protest
and the cost that might involve...

Forgive us,
when we swim in the crowd
because we are afraid to show our hand
and share what we have with those in need...

Be no more afraid;
and rest assured of the forgiveness
of the one who gave of himself
and taught us how to share our bread.

We pray in trust especially for

  • those often in constant fear and knowing little hope;
  • asylum seekers and refugees, uncertain of their future, personal safety and economic security;
  • those simply doing for their families what we might hope to do for our own;
  • the women and girls caught up in human trafficking for sexual exploitation;
  • all those involved in the exploitation of others, that they may be confronted with the damage they inflict;
  • those engaged in warfare and violence, both in situations we hear about and in those places where the horrible happenings are not reported to the world at large;
  • those fearful of ill health and its consequences;
  • the leaders of church and state, and our own leadership roles, however small they may be.
  • our church here, its minister and those who worship in this place.
  • our friends and families, especially those who are finding it hard to trust in you at this time.

Please pray for Tove Valley Baptist Church who write

“Our desire is to follow the leading of God and to grow closer to him. We are strong in our support of one another, and active in loving the community around us.  Tove Valley Centre will be completed early in 2021, please pray for us as we step into a new season of service.”

Please remember our “Mission of the month” - Tearfund.  

Also please pray for Vera in her new care home.

Songs for Sunday

1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in Thee.

2. Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear Desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

3. Born thy people to deliver;
born a child and yet a King;
born to reign in us for ever,
now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

4. By thy own eternal Spirit,
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thy all-sufficient merit,
raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)
CCLI #5638

1. Jesus is King and I will extol Him,
Give Him the glory, and honour His name.
He reigns on high, enthroned in the heavens,
Word of the Father, exalted for us. 

2. We have a hope that is steadfast and certain,
Gone through the curtain and
touching the throne.
We have a Priest who is there interceding,
Pouring His grace on our lives day by day. 

3. We come to Him, our Priest and Apostle,
Clothed in His glory and bearing His name,
Laying our lives with gladness before Him;
Filled with His Spirit we worship the King. 

4. O Holy One, our hearts do adore You;
Thrilled with Your goodness
we give You our praise.
Angels in light with worship surround Him,
Jesus, our Saviour, forever the same.

Wendy Churchill
© 1981 Word’s Spirit of Praise Music CCLI #5638

Zoom Bible Study

Mark 1:1-8, Wednesday 2nd December at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start,

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.

Questions (from a study produced by the Scottish Bible Society)

  1. What jumps off the page at you?
  2. What do you think
    1. are the characteristics of John the Baptist’s ministry?
    2. the role of the prophet is in Scripture?
  3. What does this particular passage tell us about Jesus?
  4. How might you recognise a modern-day John the Baptist and where might you recognise a prophetic word being spoken today?
  5. Where or how would you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking today?
  6. How might our reflection help us to prepare for a more meaningful and more hopeful celebration of Christ's coming this year?