Canon Roy Arnold
Now let me see; is it to be socks or handkerchiefs for Uncle Tom this Christmas, like last Christmas (and the one before). Obviously, biscuits and talcum powder for Granny. Christmas is a time for list-making isn’t it? A list of presents to buy; a list for shopping; when to get the turkey; and the running order for cooking the dinner (don’t forget to make the trifle). Even fitting in Church at Christmas. Yes I know – they have even started getting get religion into Christmas now, whatever next?
Actually (as we know) it’s the reason for this season; mixing in some pagan midwinter celebration with the joyous story of the Birth of Jesus – of which birth we heard in our Gospel for today. But did you hear in the Gospel that other title (from the prophet Isaiah), that other sort of name for Jesus?
The name Emmanuel. “Jesus our Emmanuel.”
It means GOD WITH US, or GOD IS WITH US. That’s a particular reason for saying “Happy Christmas”; that God (in Jesus, or the Spirit of Jesus) is with us. Not WAS with us, “long time ago in Bethlehem” – but God is with us NOW.
Which thought set me off making another Christmas list – a list of how Jesus IS with us now. First on the list is that we can hear – in the here and now – Jesus speaking to us. We have his recorded words, telling us what to do and how we are to behave. And then I suppose another obvious one is that we can actually talk to Jesus – and to God through Jesus – which we do whenever we say our prayers. Then he is us with us in this very service, the Holy Communion. When we actually receive him. Going up to the altar for Holy Communion, we are going up to meet Jesus – God with us.
All of these are sort of churchy things, but I believe we can experience Jesus in our everyday lives outside church. So Jesus can be with when we are sad, when someone has died, or when we (or someone else) is ill. And Jesus is certainly with us when we are happy and full of the Joys of Easter. He can be there – if we let him – when we are depressed, or lonely, or tempted to go down the wrong road.
And do remember this: he doesn’t drop down to us from heaven. He comes to us mainly through our loved ones, or friends, our neighbours, other people. Or in something we hear on the radio, or read in a book, or a sudden memory of some good thing long ago… or even in a sermon.
And here is a really important thought: that other people might just find Jesus (Jesus with us NOW – OUR EMMANUEL) in you or in me; in our friendly words or actions. Yes, yours or mine. A smile, or a kind word (but not always easy and be real about it).
Talking of being real about this business of GOD BEING WITH US, there do seem to be lots of Gods around. The men who murdered the soldier in Woolwich thought that God was with them. And history is full of people following the wrong God – two World Wars are examples where Christian nations fought with one another.
So that when we say that GOD IS WITH US, we must be as sure as we can be that it is Jesus we are truly following. It is Jesus who is our EMMANUEL; Jesus who is truly GOD WITH US. Maybe then – another item for our Christmas List – remember to welcome Jesus into our lives.
GOD WITH US through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. JESUS OUR EMMANUEL – God’s Son as our friend and our brother.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
“But God knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside.” (Job 23 vv 10,11)
This happy family photograph taken on 6 July 1963 at the Church of St John the Baptist marks the beginning of 50 years of married life for two native Bollingtonians, Hylda Brogden and Roy Arnold! This Michaelmas Roy will also be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of his ordination as deacon in the Church of England. We give thanks for his years of faithful service to the Church, ably supported by his wife Hylda, in many and varied settings. A glance at his entry in Crockford’s, the Clerical Directory, tells us only a fraction of their life story. Roy served as Assistant Curate in two parishes, St Luke, Brislington in Bristol Diocese and St Mary, Chester, then as Vicar in the parishes of St Luke, Brinnington with Portwood; St Paul,Sale; St Mary, Dodleston with All Saints, Higher Kinnerton; and finally St Oswald, Sheffield, during which time he also worked as Diocesan Communications Officer. He was then appointed Chaplain with the Deaf and was made an Honorary Canon of Sheffield Cathedral in 1995, particularly pleased to have been given the stall there which was dedicated to St Barnabas.
Since his retirement in 1997, Roy and Hylda have returned to Bollington to delight us with their presence, and many people of our Deanery (including the present Vicar and her husband) have been greatly blessed by both Roy and Hylda’s continuing ministry of encouragement and support, their historical knowledge and wisdom, their sense of humour and fun, not to mention Hylda’s delicious cakes and Roy’s thoroughly engaging and expertly crafted sermons.
We wish them both well on their Golden Wedding Anniversary and we join with their family in praying that they may be blessed with many more years of companionship here within our congregation and in the wider community of Bollington.
Canon Roy Arnold
When we have been ill or sad, worried or depressed, but start to hope again, or recover…these are times of God-given New Life – our little personal Easters – like a new day dawning… and in the Springtime of the Year. Which is when it happened that Jesus was RAISED from the dead and greeting the women in the garden. Later on he met many more people in those Great 40 Days after Easter – and (unless they were all deluded) we have no reason to doubt that this DID actually happen. We have witnesses and written evidence for OUR BELIEF. This then is Easter Past.
And from this quiet starting point in that Springtime garden, Christians began to look forward to another Easter yet to come, believing that – as Jesus is risen from the dead – so shall we all AS WE SHARE HIS RESURRECTION. And as Jesus met his friends again, WE shall hope to meet again our departed loved ones and friends – and TRUE love will prove to be (as Paul said) THE GREATEST AND THE BEST THING IN OUR HUMAN EXPERIENCE. And, if we have loved enough, we may hope for heaven thereby.
But all this lies in the future – our Easter Future – which we believe depends on how we live today, our Easter in this present time, in which we gather up our belief in Resurrection New Life (past and future) into the experiment of living out Easter every day.
- Trying to be loving and kind (as we have been loved by God).
- Trying to be forgiving (as we have been forgiven by God).
- Trying to be generous (as we have been given so much by God).
- Trying to be brave when things go wrong; remembering that Jesus is with us to answer our prayers (perhaps in his way, not always ours) – Jesus with us through all our days.
And when we need a word from him we may find it in the Bible; but more importantly meeting him (not in a book, or in history or in heaven) but in person; that is, meeting Jesus in other people. And maybe most of all when meet together as the Church – and especially meeting him TOGETHER in Holy Communion, the gift Jesus gave to us to remember him by. His love for us on the cross, and his gift for us of this New Resurrection Life.
THIS Easter Morning we remember that Jesus truly is THE SAME YESTERDAY…AND TODAY… AND FOREVER.
AND HIS PROMISE TO US IS: PEACE I LEAVE YOU; MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU. SO LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID, FOR I AM WITH YOU TO THE END OF TIME.
An ongoing appeal!
As part of our Harvest Thanksgiving, we have always chosen from a wide range of charity appeals and our Harvest focus has recently included collecting money for Christian Aid, or Send-A-Cow, or Water Aid, or Farm Africa, or the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy. For the 2012 Harvest Appeal we started working in co-operation with our companion churches in Bollington to gather together non-perishable food items under the umbrella of “Hampers of Hope”. This is part of the North-East Cheshire Food-bank, a voluntary organisation which provides emergency food parcels for local families who find themselves in critical need of provisions, often not knowing where their family’s next meal is coming from. You may be thinking that such a situation surely doesn’t arise here on our doorstep in Bollington and Kerridge! But sadly our present economic climate has indeed brought what we often think of as solely “Third World” desperation much closer to home.
The volunteers at Hampers of Hope work in partnership with frontline care professionals to identify people in need. The recipients of the emergency hampers (which aim to include a minimum of three days’ worth of non-perishable foodstuffs) may well be adept at keeping their plight hidden from their neighbours, often feeling shocked that this unexpected crisis situation could somehow have happened to them, when in normal circumstances they have been able to cope alright in the past. Hampers of Hope works with all the recipients in confidence, respecting their privacy, but providing a vital lifeline at a time of particular need.
Bollington Life Church acts as a Collection and Distribution Point for Hampers of Hope in our immediate locality. On Sunday 7 October 2012, members of all the Christian Churches in Bollington came together for a joint Harvest Service at 3.00pm in the Church at Hawthorn Road. We brought along to this service a variety of non-perishable foodstuffs to add to the Hampers of Hope store cupboards.
But this help is needed as an ongoing support throughout the years. We are still collecting for Hampers of Hope at the back of church (look out for the big red bin). Why not go shopping tomorrow at your favourite supermarket and take advantage of any BOGOF offers on some of the following products? These include:
milk (UHT or powdered); sugar (500g); long-life fruit juice; fruit squash; soup; pasta sauces; tinned sponge pudding; tinned tomatoes; cereals; tinned rice pudding; tea bags; instant coffee; rice; pasta; instant mashed potato; tinned meat or fish; tinned fruit; jam; biscuits; snack bars.
Just think what you yourself would welcome as a life-saving gift of staple foods if you were to find yourself in a similarly desperate situation. Please take the trouble to put those extras into your own shopping trolley when the opportunity arises and bring them to St Oswald’s on Sundays from now on.
Canon Roy Arnold
This sermon is delivered in absentia (by Veronica) because I have gone to our grand-daughter’s musical debut on the Double Bass at a school carol concert – so I know full well that we have to have school carol concerts in term time, and that they are very popular (sometimes ticket-only events).
And I know we feel that we must catch Christmas by its coat-tails, to keep up with the advertising, and the carols in the supermarkets, and the Salvation Band at Handforth Dean… but it does seem such a terrible shame to the let this marvellous, frightening season of Advent fly out of the window.
Strangely enough the liturgical framework is still there: O Come O Come Emmanuel… with clouds descending… and all the rest…. and the Bible Readings full of such terrible warnings about the end of the world… all decidedly un-Christmassy… these traditional Advent themes of the Four Last Things: Death and Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
And even when John the Baptist comes on the scene in these Advent readings we may mistakenly think that he is foretelling Jesus coming as an infant (Baby Jesus), but not so. John was preparing the Way of Lord… soon to come… as a grown man… of Jesus coming with his message of the Love of God… coming with this message of Love to a world just as unloving and as unlovely as it is now… a world of violence (personal and national), drugs and drunkenness, abuse of children (Jimmy Savile and others including clergy we must admit), lack of integrity (South Yorkshire Police Force and Hillsborough) and greed (the collapse of banking probity)… and we could go on. All of these crimes or misdemeanours happening because (I suppose) people think they can get away with it… keep their dirty deeds under wraps.
But – as we know – more often than not, THE TRUTH WILL OUT. Sometimes this may happen (as with Jimmy Savile) just after his death… or maybe a long time afterwards… Historical Crimes as we call them nowadays (such as landed a clergy friend of mine in prison). And I am going through this all too familiar territory because it seems to be the case (perhaps because of our putting traditional Advent teaching to one side) that everybody has forgotten the Day of Judgement… that one day all will be revealed to the loving and utterly fair Summing Up of our lives by Jesus, who knows all the secrets of our hearts (even yours and mine).
But all this teaching is smothered under a Charles Dickens Version of Christmas, and Ordering Turkeys, and White Christmases, while we leave it to the Jehovah Witnesses to knock on doors with their version of the Four Last Things. But then maybe we have left it too late to rescue Advent. I wonder what you think?
Maybe we ought to designate another time of the year for this season… and this teaching. Maybe early in Lent might be a better time (for us personally and in our teaching the faith) to remember Richard Baxter’s prayer which goes:
Keep us O Lord, while we tarry on this earth,
in a serious seeking after You,
and in an affectionate walking with You,
every day of our lives;
that when You come,
we may not be found hiding our talents,
nor serving the flesh,
nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished,
but waiting for our Lord,
our Glorious God for ever.
Canon Veronica Hydon
Dave and I called in at the Cock & Pheasant last weekend after our Parish Winter Fair and I noticed that the bar staff were all wearing new black T-Shirts with a small snowflake motif on the front and a bold message in striking white lettering on the reverse. I asked the landlady if I could buy one: she said, “Not at all, don’t be silly, please have this one as a gift!” The bold message on the T-Shirt says: “ASK ME ABOUT CHRISTMAS”. Perfect for when I’m doing my school assemblies I thought (and remarkably, although it was a size smaller than I’d normally have picked out for myself, the T-Shirt fits!)…
On this day, when we look forward to the start of the Advent season beginning next Sunday 2 December, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, Lord of all creation and Prince of peace. But today also is traditionally known as “Stir Up Sunday” because of words of the old Collect set for this day in the Book of Common Prayer, the same prayer we have now in modern form as our Post-Communion Prayer: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Interestingly, even this week’s Weight Watchers’ leaflet of encouragement recognises we reached “Stir Up Sunday” in the calendar!) Today was supposed to be the day you stirred up all the good things into your Christmas pudding and everyone in the family took turns to wield the wooden spoon in the mixing bowl and make a wish. Then you’d let the well-mixed ingredients rest quietly in the larder for several weeks to mature, before cooking it on Christmas Day as the crowning glory to the Christmas feast, with its halo of holly and flaming brandy.
This week we’ve had the misfortune to witness the family of the Church of England wearily mixing together long rehearsed and stale arguments as diverse ingredients into a stodgy clerical pudding, and at the end of the day, rather than bringing out a rich and tasty pudding to be proud of (notwithstanding the variety of wishes fervently stirred into the General Synod Mixing bowl), we witnessed the wooden spoon becoming the only prize and are faced with the gloomy prospect of an irrelevant and bitterly disappointing pudding that fails to satisfy anyone’s hunger for justice, equality, grace and new life. Certainly no amount of brandy can now make it light up to produce even the faintest “wow” factor in the world outside the church, which looks on astounded and dismayed.
The current advertising campaign launched by a well-known supermarket starts off in a very promising way: “At Sainsbury’s we know that Christmas is about more than just one day. It’s about a whole season of days. So far so good.. and it goes on: There are so many special days in the run up to Christmas and this year we’d like to celebrate every single one of them.” Oh good, you are tempted to think: at last the commercial world is picking up the real message of Advent! At last, we can celebrate the powerful witness of the prophets and saints who through their feast-days over the next few weeks point us to see afresh the miracle of the Christ-Child. There’s a whole rich variety of them – St Catherine with her fiery wheel, Isaac Watts the great hymn-writer who gave us “When I survey the wondrous cross”, St Andrew the go-between brother of Simon Peter who took seriously the offer of five loaves and two fish from a little child, Charles de Foucauld a 20th Century hermit, missionary and martyr, Francis Xavier a Jesuit missionary to the Far East at the time of the great explorers in the 16th Century, Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the Little Gidding Community (which has influenced my own spiritual journey) and who was neighbour and friend of the Anglican priest George Herbert (who wrote “Let all the world in every corner sing” – the hymn we sang before the gospel today), then of course there’s the great bishop of the 4th Century, St Nicholas, generous and unassuming friend of the poor and patron saint of seafarers and pawnbrokers (and of anyone who takes a punt at something and takes risks in life I guess!)… The list of saints celebrated in the run up from now until Christmas goes on, and I’ve only reached 6th December! But, of course, Sainsbury’s did not intend to point us to any of these hallowed feast days: they have instead produced a list of their own: there is “Putting up the decorations Day”, “Buying the Christmas tree Day”, Ordering the turkey Day”, “We’re going to need a bigger fridge Day”, “Being good for Santa Day”, “Impressing the neighbours Day” (I don’t quite get that one, though the next one I do: “Opening the chocolates early Day”) and one they didn’t think of “Switching on the Bollington Christmas Lights today Day”!!!!
To most of the world, as the Bishop of Leicester said towards the end of the General Synod debate last Tuesday, all our churchy internal discussions seem irrelevant to those being bombed in Gaza and Syria, or those millions suffering from persecution, famine, drought, flood and war. The Archbishop of Canterbury designate also spoke of the real role of the Church being that as Christians we hold as a treasure God’s Peace and Grace for the world. This week we seem to have opened our fingers and dropped that treasure, shattering it like a precious glass Christmas ornament, and the ordinary churchgoer and the secular world can only look on in despair. When we celebrate St Andrew’s Day this coming Friday, we will still dare to say as Andrew did to his own brother and to those Gentile strangers wanting to meet Jesus, “Come and see!” But our invitation may sound hollow, unless we in our turn, even within the flawed institution of the Church, can demonstrably live lives of true inclusiveness, saintliness and graciousness and keep the flame of Advent hope burning in our hearts.
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of our good friend Eileen Williams on 10 November 2012 peacefully in a nursing home in Canterbury at the age of 92. Eileen will be remembered by many readers of Bollington Church News for the entertaining episodes published exclusively here from her colourful autobiography. Her funeral will take place towards the end of November/early December at All Saints’ Church, Poplar, the parish where she was born. The charity closest to her heart was the Delhi Brotherhood Society, so donations in Eileen’s memory may be given for this worthy cause (please make cheques payable to Revd V.W. Hydon with a note on the reverse to indicate that this is for the work of the DBS). Veronica will arrange for the total sum to be forwarded to the Brotherhood in the most economical way possible, as Eileen would have wished. Meanwhile, please raise a glass in her memory! May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.