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Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’ When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’Matthew 2.13-end
Most of us know the story of Christmas off by heart – of Mary and Joseph, the little town of Bethlehem, the stable, the shepherds and the kings – but in actual fact what we really know is a conflation (the posh word for a mixture) of two stories; one from St Luke’s gospel and a different story as told by St Matthew. The first written gospel (St Mark’s) doesn’t include anything about Christmas, neither does the last written gospel (St John’s).
So we are left with St Luke’s account of angels in chorus, Mary and the Infant in the manger, the sheep farmers down from the hills, the innkeeper and the stable – all told (we think) by a source close to Mary. And the totally different story told by St Matthew of the star and the wise men, of the wicked King Herod forcing the Holy Family to become refugees – this seems to be from a source close to Joseph, the down-to-earth carpenter and yet a dreamer of dreams, with three angelic messages mentioned in our gospel for today; two warning of danger to the young Jesus.
When you consider these separate stories of Christmas told by Matthew and Luke, you might say that the story of the birth of Jesus is a story of light coming into our world, with the bright star pointing to the light of god’s love as reinforced by the opening verses of the gospel of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
But clearly the story of Joseph and his dreams are filled with the gathering darkness (ironically called forth by the radiance of the light). So Herod massacres the Holy Innocents and Joseph and Mary become Displaced Persons – until they find their home in Nazareth.
I think that this contrast between light and darkness echoes the lived experience of us all; of illness and health, good and bad, night and day. The powers of the dark hate the powers of the light of the day, and the good and lovely light of the life of Jesus ends on the Cross – well, seemingly ends: for we believe that actually the darkness disappears with the dawn of Easter Day. And if we hold fast to our apparently counter-intuitive, counter-cultural belif in God, and if we follow Jesus – the Light of the world- we may find ourselves on the winning side in this battle between good and evil. And may even find ourselves waking up to the new dawn alongside the angels in heaven and know ourselves at last “wonderfully restored” to light and life, just as Jesus that first Christmas we are told came to share our human nature.
So may we, by following His path, share His holiness and be welcomed home, out of darkness into His marvellous light. Let’s all try to keep that dream alive as we enter the gate of another new year, going into the darkness and putting our hands into the hand of God, that shall be to us better than any human-made light and safer than any known way.
A Prayer for Advent
In this Advent of expectation draw us together in unity, that our praise and worship might echo in these walls and also through our lives.
In this Advent of expectation draw us together in mission, that the hope within might be the song we sing, and the melody of our lives.
In this Advent of expectation draw us together in service, that the path we follow might lead us from a stable to a glimpse of eternity. John Birch
Saturday 7th December – 9.30am
Woodlands Volunteer Day & Carols around the Campfire
Many hands make light work! This day will continue to focus on The Anniversary Garden, preparing it for the planting of 50 fruit trees in the new year. Following on from the success of the last volunteer day in November, our gardener James said:
“The planting up of our new fruit trees has come a step closer thanks to some much appreciated volunteer efforts on Saturday! In mercifully dry-ish weather, we tackled the old terraces near the orchard, starting a gargantuan task of restoring the yew hedge at the top of the bank and then removing great quantities of gorse and brambles that inhabited the terrace below. This has the effect of allowing foot passage along the terrace for the fist time in a while and letting much needed light flood the area meaning people can now sit on the benches below without being snagged by thorns! Once the terrace is clear, we can then start planting the fruit trees in the new year. This exciting task, however, must be first preceded with a second go at the clearing, so please do join us for another round of hearty work and even heartier company on December 7th!”
The day will begin at 9.30am and finish with us gathering around a campfire at around 4pm for some carols and mulled wine (weather permitting). Lunch and refreshments will be provided to keep energy levels up! If you would like to join us for some or all of the day, please contact the Foxhill team for catering purposes. If you would like to donate a tree to The Anniversary Garden, a limited number are still available – more information can be found here.
Monday 9th – Friday 13th December
Each evening: Room at the Inn
A Series of short services offering space to reflect and reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas, and find joy in Emmanuel – God with us.
6.30pm – House open for quiet time in the Chapel or a chat in the Sitting Room
7.30pm – 8pm – Gather in the Chapel
Refreshments to follow.
Although booking is not essential, it is helpful for catering purposes – please call or email the Foxhill team if you would like to attend.
Saturday 14th December – 4pm
Journey to Bethlehem
An all age carol service bringing the Christmas story to life as we follow Mary and Joseph through the grounds of Foxhill on a candle-lit journey to Bethlehem. Although this is a free event, booking is essential as places are limited. Please email the Foxhill team here.
Sunday 15th December
Christmas Lunch & Carol Service
Join the Friends of Foxhill for a day of fellowship and celebration.
1pm Christmas lunch – £15pp 2.30pmCarol Service in the Chapel
All are welcome – please book in advance with the Foxhill team here.
Richard Raymond writes…
A Million Pound Milestone
On 13 January 2001 a van swung out of the drive of the old vicarage in Prestbury and went to make a collection of a Christmas tree. Tied onto the tree was an envelope containing a few pound coins. Building on a fundraising initiative based on the Parable of the Talents proposed by Men’s Choir member Mike Thompson and his wife Lis when the church required a new organ, those coins were the first donation to the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection.
Some 19 years later (to the day!) on 13 January 2019 over 40 vans all manned by volunteers of the same Christmas Tree Collection will be out hoping that they will pick up the one tree whose donation will raise the cumulative net amount of monies raised for the hospice to over one million pounds.
Since 2001 over 70,000 trees have been collected. Countless volunteers have helped over the last 19 years; many meals have been served to keep the van crews going; endless roads have been visited; bundle-loads of leaflets have been delivered; and a whole community has helped in so many ways to do this. We could reflect on our award-winning status or that we are the largest volunteer-led Christmas tree collection in the country, or that another 50 hospices have followed our lead to run such a fundraising initiative.
But now is not the time for all of this! We have a six-figure target to smash! And to do so we shall mobilize our teams of volunteers who will have to collect another 75 tonnes of trees. Once again we will organize an enormous industrial operation to turn these into recycled mulch.
However all of this will not achieve our target. It is the generous support of all our customers which will push this year’s total to over £120,000, and that will see us through £1million! Please help us!
By doing so we can all support our local hospice and help them to provide care for those with life-limiting conditions, and their families and friends, through the in-patient unit, the daycare centre and the Hospice at Home service.
Please go to www.echtrees.org.uk. Here you will find how to book your tree in and how to make a donation.
The Collection will be on 12/13 January 2019.
Winter Hope Assistance in Macclesfield (WHAM)
Last year, during the period from 16–19 December 2016 to 17–20 March 2017, 21 different male guests were given at least one night’s shelter with 104 nights’ accommodation provided in total. Guests, on average, stayed for 2¼ nights over a weekend; an increase on last year. Volunteers from over 15 churches have helped staff the Shelter. There have also been volunteers from individuals without known church connections.
This year it is intended to operate the Shelter from 15 December 2017 to 19 March 2018.
There will be two training sessions for volunteers for this coming winter:
Saturday 25 November from 1000 to 1230 – Volunteer Training
Obligatory session for all new volunteers and optional for previous volunteers. This will comprise an update on procedures followed by a Q&A session
Saturday 2 December from 1000 to 1230 – Shift Leader Training
Obligatory session for all shift leaders. Will generally be an interactive session
Both sessions will take place in the Bollington Room, United Reformed Church, Park Green, Macclesfield. Please make every effort to attend these sessions and it would be helpful to have an idea of numbers. If you would like to help in this work please talk to Veronica who will provide contact details. If you would like training but cannot attend the above dates, alternative sessions can be arranged.
This year, HOPE is looking for an Equipment Manager as an additional member of the core WHAM team. The main responsibilities are:
- Maintain the inventory of equipment
- Arrange replacement of any damaged or worn out equipment
- Supervise a review of equipment at the start of the WHAM season
- Organise (with Cre8) the transfer of equipment from church to church each week
- Check that the WHAM food stock is maintained
If anyone is interested in taking responsibility for all or part of this please contact Veronica.
The Wise Travellers have arrived!
These figures, only a little smaller than life-size, were created from beaten copper and bronze by sculptor Tony Evans from Kingsley, near Frodsham. The original nativity scene was created in 2013 and the travellers (with their camel) were completed in December 2015. The sculptures stand in a prime position in the Nave of the Cathedral during the Christmas and Epiphany season.