Advent Sunday 2016

Ann Coomes

Isaiah 2: 1-5 ; Romans 13: 11 – end;  Matthew 24: 36 – 44

You’ll never guess who I ran into last night. Michael Fox, our former curate, and his wife Ginny. I was up at the Royal Northern College of Music, where Ginny, who is a member of the St George’s Singers, was singing the wonderful Brahms Requiem.

brahmsrequiemBrahms’ requiem is a magnificent affirmation of faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and of an eternal future in the comfort of his presence,  and so it reminded me of our readings this morning – the longing which St Paul had for the second coming of Jesus, and his joy and utter confidence in Christ’s eventual return.

There is a line in the requiem which quotes Jesus from the gospel of John. It runs:

‘You now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.’
I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. 

What a wonderful promise!  And of course, that is what Advent is all about – the coming of Jesus. Or the ‘adventus’ of Jesus, if you want the Latin.

So it is little wonder, then, that Advent is the season of Christian anticipation and hope.

For as we look back to that First Coming of Jesus, born so humbly in a manger in Bethlehem, so we look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus, when He will come in power and authority.

Our readings this morning look forward to that Second Coming of Jesus, at the end of time. Together, the readings spell out several things the Bible urges us to remember.

Firstly, we are reminded that as Christians, we are citizens of two countries. We belong both to this present age on earth, with its pain and evil, and also to the age that is to come, when Christ shall reign in power. We live our lives at the intersection of these two ages.   Hence the ambiguity of Christian experience. We are not what we were, but equally, we are not yet what we shall become.

So, if you like, the two ‘ages’ of history overlap. With the birth of Jesus, the kingdom of God has come, but not in completeness.  Paul likens a Christian to a child who one day will come into a great inheritance. We Christians are waiting for that – for the Second Coming of Jesus, when the present age will finally disappear, and the new age of God’s kingdom will be consummated.

So Advent is a time to remember that world history is not just a tale of on-going gloom and doom. It has a story line. In a sense, world history is His story. God’s story. He made this world. He came and lived in it. He calls us to follow him. At the end – the second Advent – He will return and wind up history. That is the great Christian hope which we remember this morning. That history is moving steadily towards that amazing day of Jesus’ return.

And this time it won’t be in an obscure manger in Bethlehem. When Jesus comes back, this Second Coming will be the most public event in all history. It will come like a bolt from the blue, and be like sheet lightning, from one side of the sky to the other.

The return of Christ will be the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
It will be a time of judgement, a time of restoration

As our reading in Isaiah put it:

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

It will be a time of new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, where God will once more live among his people.

Of course, just as in the time of Noah, most people do not believe that anything big is coming. They think that the present age will go on forever. Many people say that Paul got it wrong, because he tells his readers that they are living in the last days, and of course 2000 years has gone by, and Jesus has still not returned.

But when Paul uses the term ‘last days’, he is not referring to the length of time between when he was writing and when he expected Jesus to return. Rather, he was saying that there is now nothing more on God’s calendar when it comes to his dealings with mankind. The Messiah has come, has died for his people, he has risen again, and now reigns in heaven with a name that is above every name. There only remains now for his return – when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is indeed Lord.

In that regard, these last two thousand years are indeed the ‘last days’. There is no other age of human history after this age. Everything between God and man has been accomplished, the stage is set. And at just the right moment, known only to God the Father, Jesus Christ will return.

Meanwhile, our Christian calling is to behave in the continuing night as if the day had dawned. We are to live lives of self-control and goodness,  showing that we are citizens of a different kingdom. In that regard, we are the light of the world.

This Advent can for each one of us become a spiritual journey. We begin by remembering birth of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. We look then to the Scriptures that reaffirm that He is present, through his spirit, in the world today. We then remember the scriptures which tell us that he will come again in glory. Finally, we look forward to our final destination, which is to be in his presence forever!

Which, of course, brings me right back to the Royal Northern College of Music last night, and that magnificent line which runs:

‘You now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.

As it says in Revelation, even so, Come Lord Jesus.

Amen!

Christingle 2016

Another brilliant Christingle Service yesterday – thanks to Dean Valley School Orchestra and Bollington Cross School Carol Singers – and to Beverley Nixon and the team for preparing the Christingles beforehand and launching the Messy Nativity Sheep Trail around Bollington!

Looking forward to the flock being gathered in again on Christmas Eve at our Crib Service at 4.00pm!

Vicar’s Letter – December 2016

O holy Child of Bethlehem…Be born in us today!”

vicars letter003Christmas is not just for children! As adults we may tend to get overwhelmed with all the expectations of buying appropriate presents, writing cheery messages in hundreds of well-chosen charity cards, juggling seasonally over-stretched finances, having to entertain crotchety relatives, eating and drinking more than is good for us, listening to yet more carols or tinny festive music whilst out shopping, and eventually losing track of the number of other things we feel we have to do, before we can safely put our feet up and watch HRH the Queen give what is probably her 65th message on Christmas Day!
Contrary to what those tantalising Advent calendars (with or without chocolate) may imply, the main purpose of the Advent season is not simply to count down the days before we finally get to open all those other more satisfying presents on 25 December. It is instead about recognising the constant need to develop a more sustainable and generous attitude in ourselves, essentially the Christian mindset of fostering goodwill towards all people the whole year round. Just as we may take a few extra moments each day to open up the little doors of our Advent calendar this December, so might we also open the windows of our souls and catch a glimpse of the Light of the World dawning slowly onto our frosty hearts, encouraging a fresh habit of mindfulness that will gradually enable us to celebrate the glory and the challenge of Emmanuel, “God with us”, every single day for the rest of our lives.


“The bells of waiting Advent ring…”
Those of you who have mourned the loss of Bollington’s peal of church bells, since the closure of St John’s Church in 2003, may be cheered to know that you will have the opportunity to hear them ringing out again, now refurbished and re-hung in the tower of St Thomas’ Church, Stockton Heath – where by happy coincidence an erst-while Assistant Curate of Bollington, Revd Michael Ridley, is now the Vicar! Here is the open invitation recently sent to us by Dr Peter Banyard, one of the Churchwardens there:

Hello! You may be aware that the extensive tower refurbishment project at St Thomas’ Church is nearing completion. The project, of course, has included the installation of the bells that were generously gifted by St John the Baptist Church, Bollington, as well as two new bells that were funded separately by another generous benefactor. Without the generosity of your church, the installation of this impressive peal of bells would not have been possible. A dedication service will take place at St Thomas’ Church at 3.00pm on Sunday 8 January 2017. Bishop Peter will be officiating. We would like to extend an invitation to any interested members of your church to save the date!

Please do make a note in your new diary to come along to Stockton Heath this Epiphany to share in this special service. Just in case, unlike the Three Wise Men, you do not usually use the stars to guide your journeys, but instead rely on satnav, the postcode of St Thomas’ Church is WA4 6HJ!

Meanwhile it seems appropriate to offer as food for thought during this last month of 2016 the following poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, stirringly set to music more recently by Karl Jenkins in his choral work, The Armed Man:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    the flying cloud, the frosty light:
    the year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    the year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    for those that here we see no more;
    ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    and ancient forms of party strife;
    ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    the faithless coldness of the times;
    ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    the civic slander and the spite;
    ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    the larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Every blessing this Advent, Christmas and always,
Veronica

Beep Beep!

beepbeepdayYou certainly couldn’t miss seeing our toddlers today dressed in bright colours for National Road Safety Week! At Praise & Play we focussed on keeping safe, on the road as well as in the car, at our Beep Beep Event, with Zak the Zebra and his special car seat. The children practised crossing our (pretend) road safely, by always holding their parent’s or carer’s hand and by learning the song: “Use your eyes and your ears before you use your feet!” Then they made big and small handprints with red, orange and green paints on our special poster! Everyone had great fun: playing, snacking on traffic light biscuits and supporting Brake, the road safety charity! Thanks to Bev, Nichola and Alison, for all your good ideas and for making it happen, safely!

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Congratulations Beverley!

Beverley Nixon is awarded her Church Colleges Certificate in Children’s Ministry 19 Nov 2016

Veronica writes…

It was a pleasure to be at Manchester Cathedral yesterday to celebrate Bev Nixon receiving her Church Colleges Certificate in Children’s Ministry! Participants on the year-long course came from both Chester and Manchester Dioceses, alongside several Youth Work Course awards which also included students from Blackburn Diocese. The Right Reverend Mark Davies, Bishop of Middleton and Chair of Manchester Diocesan Board of Education, gave a very moving and engaging address, speaking from his early vocational as well as his current personal experience. The unusual choice of a reading from the Bible was a passage from Job 32 vv 1-10, where a previously reticent young person, prompted by God’s wisdom, finally dares to speak out.

The whole service was very inspiring! It gave fresh impetus to all of us wishing to offer “Christian love and time” to children and young people and their families, and importantly to listen to and hear their voices in our midst as an inclusive Christian community. Thank you Bev for all you do to enable this to happen here!

…and after the service in Manchester Cathedral yesterday, we were delighted to witness the consecration of a new Bishop  … God bless you,  Helen! You’re a star too!

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St. John’s School Christmas Fair: 3rd December

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The PTA would like to thank our families for the amazing amount of tombola prizes received – you are all very generous! The tombola is just one of the many exciting activities on offer at our Christmas Fair, which takes place on 3rd December from 1-4pm. We hope that you can all join us for this fantastic event. As always, thank you for your support.

Community Carols – 7.00pm Wednesday 14th December

mtfc You, your friends and families are invited to join Macclesfield Town Football Club at their Community Carols at 7pm to 8pm on Wednesday 14th December in the McIlroy Stand. The evening will be led by members of the staff and the music will be provided by Macclesfield Youth Brass Band which is being sponsored for this occasion by Hope in NE Cheshire. The Club is very generously providing tea, coffee and mince pies afterwards in the McIlroy Suite. There will be no charge for the evening!!