Pastoral Letter - 23rd December
My dear Friends, For the past 30 years, Christmas Eve has been one of the busiest of days for me. As well as getting my own household chores done, there has been getting the church ready, Crib services, singing around the nursing homes and hotels when I was at Eastbourne, then Midnight Mass. Latterly we have seen over 1,000 people attending the services on Christmas Eve at St Mary’s Twickenham and more people coming to church on Christmas Day itself. But this year, as with so many other aspects of 2020, things are very different. As many of you, like myself, may miss our Crib Service, we have recorded a short Christmas Eve video, which you can view by clicking here: https://youtu.be/jcZehMktNKs
Although it’s not the same, I hope it will convey something of the spirit of our Christmas celebrations to you. My thanks to Katherine, Sarah, Gus, Mark, Gill, Hugo, Pippa, Amelia, Hannah, Felix and Brett for being part of that with me, as well as Mahler and Timmy too of course. And apologies for the "bonus track" at the end of the video clip, which I didn’t realise was going to be added!! As we will not be able to have our usual Mass at Midnight, may I also invite you to join me in spirit at around the midnight hour, or indeed earlier if that suits your routine better, as together we mark the moment when Christ came to share in the life and need and darkness of the world. Below I have set out a sequence of readings and prayers which you may wish to follow, to allow Christ to be at the very heart of your Christmas celebrations.
With blessings and best wishes for the coming holy days and for 2021.
PRAYERS AT MIDNIGHT. Christmas 2020.
You might like to light a candle and read Luke Chapter 2 verses 8-20, and then to read the following, or pray in your own words...
Lord Jesus, tonight we celebrate your coming into the world as Saviour. May we pause from our busy-ness, distraction, anxiety and think of this moment in our history: Your leaving the safety of Heaven, to come into the dangers of the world, Your leaving the brightness of Heaven, to come into the darkness of the world, Your setting aside of eternal life, to share in our fragility and mortality, Your leaving the wholeness of Heaven, to share in the brokenness of humanity. As we read the sacred texts tonight, may our awareness of your generosity and commitment to the human family spread from our souls to those areas of your world where the need for your presence is so raw. May you make your home in our hearts anew this Christmas and use us to help build your kingdom of listening, acceptance, forgiveness, justice, equality, compassion and generous love. Lord, Light of the World: be with all those who live in political, emotional, psychological, physical or relational darkness this night. Fill them with the warmth of knowing you are there with them, in their darkness and fear, understanding them, accepting them, loving them into being more fully the people you long for them to be. Lord of all love: be with those who are lonely tonight, those fearful of the future, those separated from loved ones and help them to feel closer to others through their closeness to you. Lord of peace: be with those who are troubled in spirit tonight, those who are still smarting with the wounds of the past year, those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost livelihoods, those who have lost a sense of purpose, identity or self-respect and help them to know who they are, as people created, valued and loved by you. Lord of hope: be with those so consumed by grief or emotional pain tonight that they cannot find the strength to celebrate Christmas in any way. Be especially close to them Lord and bring them the comfort of your love. Lord of new life: be with all our children tonight, those who, as you did, live in areas of political instability and exploitation, those who live in daily fear for their lives, those in families of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, those who have not heard of the Divine Love which is yours, those who will have no presents to show them how loved and valued they are this Christmas, those left orphaned or abandoned, all who are abused, exploited, malnourished, unnoticed, unloved. Lord Jesus: you once came into our world as a child and grew into a man, may we have eyes to see you in all lives which surround us. May we heed what you said in your Gospel, that in loving or serving others, we also love and serve you. May our ongoing Christmas gift to you be to recognise and reverence your presence in every human life we encounter, that bonds of friendship may grow across the different facets and faces of the human family, that all may live in harmony with you and with each other. These things we ask and pray in the power of your holy name. AMEN. You may wish to say the Lord’s Prayer and then read John 1 verses 1-14. And may God bless you and all those for whom you pray: May the joy of the angels, The eagerness of the shepherds, The perseverance of the wise men, The trust of Mary and Joseph and the Peace of the Christ child, be with you this Christmas. And the Blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Rest upon you and those you love, Now and always. AMEN.
Please join us on CHRISTMAS DAY for our extra ZOOM SERVICE at 9.30am, by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742
Reading: John Chapter 1 verses 1-14
The Collect for Christmas Day:
Almighty God, you have given your only begotten Son To take our nature upon Him and to be born of Mary, our Patron, Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children, By adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit.
This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
And do join us again this coming Sunday, 27th December at 9.30am, by clicking here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742
Readings: 1st Epistle of S. John Chapter 1 and Gospel of S. John Chapter 21 verses 19b-end.
The Collect for St John, Apostle and Evangelist. Merciful Lord, Cast your bright beams of light upon your Church, That, being enlightened by the teaching of Your blessed apostle and evangelist, St John, We may so walk in the light of your truth That we may at last attain to the light of eternal life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE AND BLESSINGS ON YOUR NEW YEAR! Jeff, Mahler and Timothy.
And thanks to Anna and Max Wilkinson for their fabulous art work, which decorates this email!