Christmas Day has finally arrived - Christ is born!
Listen to this beautiful new Christmas song called 'Comfort and Joy' - and may the comfort, joy and peace of Christ be yours.
With Christmas blessings from your ministry team: Dawn, Caroline and David xxx
Today the Western Church celebrates the Feast Day of St Thomas, Jesus’ disciple who expressed disbelief at the story of the resurrection, but who later declared his belief in the words: “My Lord and my God”. His human emotion of disbelief caught up in the Spirit to be changed to one of total faith in the risen Lord. May we allow that Spirit to fill us this Advent as we await the coming of Christ.
The Collect for St Thomas.
Almighty and eternal God,
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith,
allowed your holy apostle Thomas to doubt the resurrection of your Son
till word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Posted by Caroline Harding
The Great ‘O’ antiphon for today is ‘O root of Jesse’. This is another antiphon based on chapter 11 of Isaiah.
‘A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.’ Isaiah 11.1
In the Old Testament, Jesse is the father of King David, who was revered by the Jewish people as the greatest of their kings. David had conquered territory and extended the borders of kingdom. He had been accepted as king by all twelve of the tribes of Israel bringing them together as one country. Above all, in the words of the Old Testament, David was renowned as ‘a man after God’s own heart’.
By the time of Isaiah, the prophet there had been a great decline from the reign of King David. The tribes had become divided and large parts of the country had been lost through conflict. Isaiah would witness the destruction of David’s kingdom by the conquering Babylonian army. David’s successor as king would be forced to witness the execution of his sons by the victors. He was then blinded and with many of the people was taken into exile in Babylon. This is the event recalled in Psalm 137: ‘By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept.
Although times were bleak for the Jews and for King David’s descendants, God’s promise that David’s line would continue was remembered. This promise is the foundation for the prophesy in Isaiah 11.1. The line that runs from Jesse through David will grow again, like a shoot growing from an old stump. When the Angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary he says:
‘The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end’.
Jesus is the promised successor to King David. Like David, he is ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and he will reign for ever. The full text of the antiphon is:
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us and delay no longer.
The Great 'O’s are part of the tradition of Advent. When the Magnificat is sung at the evening service between 16th December and Christmas Eve, it is accompanied by one of the Great O antiphons. (An antiphon is a short sentence that is said or sung immediately before a canticle or psalm).
The Great O antiphons are based on titles for the Messiah found in Isaiah and their connection with the Magnificat in the days leading up to Christmas is that they praise the one whose birth will be celebrated on Christmas Day – Jesus.
The antiphon for today, 16th December is ‘O Sapientia’, translated as ‘O Wisdom’. The antiphon comes from Isaiah 11.2 where, in the context of the promise of ‘a shoot from shoot from the stem of Jesse, the prophet writes:
‘The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding’
According to the Prophet the Messiah to be born will be guided by the wisdom of God and he will bring peace to the earth. The antiphon praises him in these words:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
It seems appropriate that as we draw closer to Christmas, we should pray for prudence for ourselves and for our leaders.
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
—Henri J.M. Nouwen
'Advent Day 13 brings us this beautiful carol in British Sign Language - Revd Dawn Jewson
I heard a statistic today that whilst partywear and mince pie sales have plummeted, the Christmas Lights sales have increased by 238% this year. People are lighting up their homes, inside and out, like never before. Why? Because in this time of uncertainty over health, finances, jobs we cling to light bringing us hope. As Christians we know that hope lies with the birth of the Christ child. Jesus is coming, the light of the world is about to break into the Creation story, our story, bringing peace and hope and love. Let’s celebrate with our own lights.
A colleague recently asked me. “What can I do for you to make your December less busy?”
Usually I write off the month as being filled with Primary School Carol Services, other Carol Services, Village Christmas Tree lighting, Playgroup events, Breakfast with Father Christmas, Christmas Tree Festivals, Nine Lessons and Carols services, PTFA events, Christmas concerts…and all this on top of regular church services, a job, presents to buy, food to order and cards to write. The idea of Advent being a time of rest, reflection and preparation has been a joke.
But not so this year. All the busy-ness that used to fill my December has been cancelled. Churches are working more colaboratively and there is just less to do. For the first time in a long time I am able to have an Advent Season. A time of preparation, preparing my heart and life for the celebration that is the birth of the Christchild; the moment when God breaks into His created World and dwells among us.
So to answer my colleague’s question, “Nothing thanks. I’m enjoying the rest!”
Listen to this beautiful song by Lauren Daigle and let the visuals transport you back to the first Christmas. Revd Dawn Jewson.
I am re-posting the reflection below, courtesy of Revd Canon Geoffrey Connor. Happy St Andrew's Day - Caroline.