Christmas isn’t coming! Matthew 24:36-44 – Advent 1

This week’s sermon task was a tricky one: I was leading an preaching at our formal, said, 8am Morning Prayer, which requires a short talk because the service needs to be completed in half an hour AND I was preaching at our 10am charismatic service in our ‘plant’ in the local comprehensive school hall, where sermons can be the long or the short of it!

I ended up writing a sermon for the 10am service, and then doing a bit of a hatchet job on it for the 8am. I also ended up preaching both in a rather husky voice having gone down with a streaming cold. Not the best way to start the busy season…. but then Christmas isn’t coming so perhaps it doesn’t matter?!

The reason I suggest that Christmas isn’t coming, is because it only really came once, and at the beginning of Advent we need to focus on God’s coming, both continual and finally in glory, and I believe this needs to be reflected in how we approach our Christmas activities.

And it all starts, with the story from the New Year as I turned 21…

Just before my 21st birthday, I spent New Year on my way back to Uni, staying at a friends house near Pershore. It was a old farmhouse – like about 17th Century – just beginning to be done up, and it was in a very small, rural hamlet. I like old houses, I’m a country girl, the local pub was just the right sort of place for a rustic New Year, so this was a good place to be…

Until I woke up in the middle of the night…

If you want to read the whole thing, then it’s here Sermon Matthew 24v36-44

Free blog facilities to help Mothers’ Union develop and debate

I’m chuffed today to find Mothers’ Union Diocese of Winchester featured as the first ‘Website of the Month’ by Corbin Featherstone of Mothers’ Union enterprises.

When I started www.muwinchester.org.uk nearly two years ago, I had become convinced by friends that WordPress, or other blog formats, was the most sensible way for Mothers’ Union diocese and other charitable groups to create an internet presence that was both professional and cheap/free. I spoke about this to colleagues at the Mothers’ Union conference in 2009 using a brief summary of how I did it and what other options there were Blog Based Content Management 4 MU (most of which is still accurate). This was despite having been told by staff at the time that  a blog wasn’t a website.

However, we live in a fast moving world and that view has changed, which is why I’m particularly thrilled to see that Corbin (the central Mothers’ Union ‘webmaster’) is now not only encouraging Mothers’ Union individuals and groups to use WordPress, but making it very, very easy to do so…

By completing the simple on-line application here, Mothers’ Union diocese that don’t yet have a website, or wish to update what they have, can make that possible using WordPress, which has an incredibly straightforward ‘backend’ or ‘user interface’ that the complete novice can use easily (that’s why I’ve been using it for nearly two years!).

To provide even more help and encouragement, to the Mothers’ Union diocese who think that they don’t have the expertise to create anything on the web, Corbin has also started to produce a series of website tutorials. Reviewing them, I think they are particularly good, and yes, I’ve learnt a couple of tricks I’d not spotted.

Corbin said to me today that he’d “really like to see all the disparate sites collated into one great big web presence” which would be great. To make that useful we need Mothers’ Union supporters to be using the ‘comment’ facilities on these sites (which WordPress provides automatically). This will enable feedback as to how different ideas and activities have worked at local level, and start a wider debate about some of the more difficult issues that Mothers’ Union leaders are grappling with. I’ve been particularly impressed by what Trevor Jordon is doing for MU Scarborough Deanery. This includes a debate about their proposed Diocesan re-organisation here and here.

All this means that we need a generation of computer using, web aware Mothers’ Union supporters willing to make good use of the technology available, and publicly debate the issues. That’s the rub – from the fear of both I encountered at our conference this year, I’m still not convinced that there are enough of us here to make this work. But I’d love to be proved wrong!

What’s so special?

Today I found myself needing to write what would normally be the “vicar’s letter” for a local magazine, except that we don’t currently have a vicar, and I’m not even ordained! However, it has felt important to maintain these slots in the printed material that falls through people’s doors and sits on pub counters, despite our state of ‘vacancy’, and December seemed to be my turn. It’s not like we’ve stopped our mission and ministry as a church just because we haven’t got a priest – far from it!

If any of you have read Bishop Nick’s post on the coverage this week of the forthcoming royal wedding (should that be capitalised?), you may have spotted in the comments that though I am all in favour of marriage, weddings and our monarchy, and wish Prince William and Kate all the very best for their future together, I really can’t face the endless news coverage, and am glad that I don’t read a daily newspaper (and haven’t yet opened this weeks Church Times where I bet it get’s at least one column!)

So I feel a little ill-at-ease with myself because when writing my “not the vicar’s” slot today, I found myself mentioning… yep, the royal wedding! It was simply that it sprang to mind as something special that people would know about, whether they react positively to it, or negatively. However, I’m still not convinced as to whether it helps or hinders the point I’m making – so I’ll let you decide, and perhaps I’ll even see you at Christmas!

What’s so special?

If something is ‘special’ it has some distinguishing qualities that makes it unusual or important, or it is held in high regard. A royal wedding for example could be described as a ‘special occasion’ because it doesn’t happen that often and involves people who we admire or find interesting or inspiring. This is what encourages people to focus their attention on it.

When an event happens annually, like a birthday or anniversary, which perhaps we celebrate in roughly similar ways each year, the ‘specialness’ of the occasion can start to fade, especially when tight budgets or a lack of imagination means the occasion can almost slip by, un-noticed.

The lights, tinsel and music in our shops and streets make it hard not to notice it will soon be Christmas. But possibly we can’t afford as many presents this year, and the electricity may be too expensive to run the outdoor lights, so how are we going to make the annual event of Christmas special in 2010?

I’d like to suggest you make Christmas special this year by finding out about the people involved. Find out why Christians are inspired by Jesus’ birth to celebrate it every year. Discover the distinguishing qualities of the baby in the manger that brings shepherds, wise men and millions of Christians together each year to worship him.

If you want to make Christmas 2010 special by encountering the real story of Jesus, please join us for one of these popular services!

Outdoor Nativity – Saturday 18th December 5.00pm Meet between the “White Lion” and the “Dog and Partridge” to encounter our “live” nativity

Christmas Eve Crib Services at 3:00 pm, 4:15pm, and 5:30 pm in St. Peter’s Church

Midnight Communion Service 11.30pm Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Church with the Bishop of Basingstoke

Christmas Day Family Celebration with Communion 10.00am in St. Peter’s Church

A place of honour at the King’s table – 2 Samuel 9:1-11

I know my Bible knowledge isn’t as good as it should be, but this week I got to preach about a chap I really knew nothing about: Mephibosheth as he appears in 2 Samuel 9:1-11 I particularly liked the phrase “the kindness of God” as a way of explaining the idea of grace.

It was really fun finding out about this chap, but preparing to preach I had to be really careful not to deviate from
a) telling the story and it’s background as I guessed (rightly) that I wouldn’t be the only one who didn’t remember Mephibosheth, and
b) the theme that had come to me whilst praying with the colleague who was going to lead the service.

I only covered half Mephibosheth’s Biblical ‘life’ with this passage that I was given to preach on as part of our “David – Shepherd to King” series. There’s more about him and the duplicity of the servant Ziba in 2 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 19, but unfortunately I won’t be exploring those passages in the near future as far as I’m aware.

If you want to find out what I said, feel free to download it from here: Sermon 2 Samuel 9 v1-11

Which TV adverts cause the most problems in your home?

As part of the Mothers’ Union Bye Buy Childhood Campaign, I’m starting to prepare an evening discussion meeting about the effect of (among other things) adverts on our children.

The impact report prepared by Mothers’ Union at the launch of this campaign, notes that £350 million is spent in the UK on advertising to children each year. Product placement, pester power and peer to peer sales all encourage children to spend, or make their parents and relatives spend. What I want to find out is which adverts are causing parents (and grandparents) the most trouble and why. Then I can select some examples to use as discussion points during our evening. So can you help me please?

  • What is it that your children see on TV, but you don’t think is appropriate, or you can’t afford? What about Grand Theft Auto… or is there something you think is worse?
  • What TV adverts for goods only adults can buy and use, inappropriately target children as the means of advertising them? The Vauxhall Zafira ‘Daddy Cool’ advert is the one that springs to my mind
  • Are then any adverts you think specifically sexualise children?

If you live in NE Hants, NW Surrey or the south of Berkshire, and you fancy coming along, you’d be most welcome. All the details are here: http://www.muwinchester.org.uk/2010/11/04/who’s-buying-our-children’s-childhood/