The Longest Night

From late October, the shops have been full of Christmas decorations, fairy lights and Father Christmas. Children are getting more and more excited and the advertising and media is encouraging everyone to spend, spend, spend and buy a happy Christmas.
With the whole world around you caught up in a whirl of excess, for some people it simply highlights their own feelings of loss, pain, hurt or grief. Perhaps a family bereavement, a broken relationship, loss of a job, loss of health – there may be any number of reasons why people find it hard to join in with the festivities all around them.
At St John’s on December 22nd at 7:30pm we are holding a service entitled, ‘The Longest Night’. It is for people who want to reconnect with the love of God from the depths of their own pain. It is a simple service, recognising that Jesus came into our broken world as a helpless baby. Through prayers, music, readings and lighting candles, we pray that you will find hope and comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Even in the darkest, longest night, God is always ready to meet us wherever we may be.

Memorising Scripture

Scripture contains beautiful promises and words of encouragement. They are great prayers for when we are walking along or queuing in the supermarket or stuck in traffic. But it helps if we have memorised them…

Here are some of my favourites:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. – Philippians 4:8.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

During times of hardship:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Or perhaps just this Desmond Tutu quote:

Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

Or this Julian of Norwich on:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Reading contemplative writing

Some people just seem to have a gift – they can write prayerfully and contemplatively, one of those authors is Richard Rohr. Recently, the group in the parish called “Spiritual but not Religious” have been reading a book called ‘Falling Upwards’ by Richard Rohr. I have been hearing how transformative this has been. I receive an email each morning with a short extract from one of Richard Rohr’s books. This morning’s email is here. You can sign up to receiving them if you want to – the link is at the bottom of the page. Here is a little taster – the beginning of this morning’s contemplation:

First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God. —Julian of Norwich [1]

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space.

The role of the prophet is to lead us into sacred space by deconstructing the old space; the role of the priest is to teach us how to live fruitfully in sacred space. The prophet disconnects us from the false, and the priest reconnects us to the real at ever larger levels. If “priests” have been largely unsuccessful, it is because there are so few prophets. And to be honest, most ministers confuse the maintaining of order with re-order! This is a huge issue. Such “priests” might talk of new realms but never lead us out of the old realm where we are still largely trapped and addicted; they have little personal knowledge of the further journey. Thus our Western spirituality is so lopsided.

Gratitude

Our theme for Advent is prayer and this morning I’d like to think about gratitude. Paul says in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

This is great advice – it has been shown by psychologists that if we do this we will change our lives. Like all spiritual practices it is extremely hard work. Our brains are wired to register and store all the negative things – perhaps to keep us safe – the positive things just drop away as if they never happened. So we need to work at remembering them and savouring them. Even in the darkest days there are good things that happen.

Alan and I have found that the best way is to try to recall fifteen good things at the end of the day. To find fifteen is difficult – it requires us to drill down through the day and find all that was good – to miss nothing and enjoy everything. Only then do we have a true perspective on what the day was really like.

 

My Confirmation

So the day had finally arrived and my nerves were all over the place.

All I kept thinking was, what if I say or do the wrong thing, I’m about to do one of the biggest  and scariest things of my life and all in front of a bishop !

Once I arrived in church I thankfully found I wasn’t the only one who had sweating palms.

I looked around and thought how beautiful the church looked and it reminded me of my wedding day which put me at ease .

Finally bishop Andrew arrived and was so friendly . He asked me to have a chat to him about why I felt I wanted to be confirmed .

I told him that I had attended various churches on and off over the years but that now felt like the right time to make my commitment to the church and go on one of the biggest journeys of my life .

Everyone started arriving and I started feeling the excitement for what was about to happen.

The service was lovely and so great to have all my family there to join me on such a special day.

I don’t have any regrets about my choice and both Alan, Lesley and Lesley Shatwell and everyone who attended have helped me to make my day a very special one .

Natalie Fairweather

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An exercise in God’s Love

Prayer is our theme for Advent. Here is an exercise. Take time to savour every point that speaks to you – believe it – it is true.

God the Father is the author of ‘planned parenthood.’ He planned and chose me before time began.

He is my FATHER because he chose me, not because I was born as a result of his love for my mother.

He never withholds his love or approval

He is always available.

He is always welcoming and pleased to see me.

He is STRONG and able to cope with whatever problems I bring.

He is always on my side.

He is JUST and will always show me where I am wrong and where I have failed to love.

He only says ‘No’ when it is in my best interest.

He understands why I fail.He does not stand in judgement on me.

He never brings up my past mistakes. He FORGIVES and FORGETS.

He doesn’t have favourites. I am his ADOPTED child. I am not an accident.

He waits to be asked for advice

He is the Creator of all the wonders of this world.

He always hears me out without interrupting and putting me right.

He knows what I need but expects me to trust him enough to ask for it.

He is a great King and I am his child.

I am branded on the palms of his hands.

He wants my LOVE and TRUST.

He never forgets me – If he did, I would cease to exist.

When I am ready he will help me put things right.