December 2020 – January 2021 Newsletter

DECEMBER 2020 / JANUARY 2021

Dear Friends 

December is upon us.  The season of Advent is here – a time when we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, though our Christmas activity this year may well be somewhat different than usual. 

At the end of a year savaged by the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic, with severe restrictions placed on our movements, separation from our friends and for many, the tragic loss of love ones and exclusion at the most crucial times. 

The restrictions that will be in force this Christmas are still not finalised but will probably mean that Christmas 2020 for many will be far from normal.  Nevertheless, as Christians we can look forward to celebrating the birth of the baby in Bethlehem, bringing light and hope into our world.  As John’s Gospel records “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Today, we have heard on the news that approval has been given to the use of one the coronavirus vaccines in this country and that immunization will be able to start in a matter of days, bringing hope that control of the pandemic is in sight.  We gives thanks for skill of the many scientist who have produced a vaccine in a remarkably short time, those who have volunteered to tested and those who have laboured intensively to be satisfied  approval can be given; as we also give thanks for the dedicated doctors and nurses of the NHS  who have risked their own lives in service of their patients.

Although we have not yet resumed worship in our Church, the Elders have decided that, subject to the regulations at the time, we will hold a short service on the afternoon of the last Sunday before Christmas (details elsewhere)

Wishing all our readers a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year

Stay hopeful     Stay safe      

Mac Dunsmore, Church Secretary

 o o O O O o o

 

GOD OF TENDERNESS AND COMFORT                                       

God of tenderness and comfort,
you speak words of peace
that calm the storms of life.
ease our troubles and heal our wounds.
Help us to proclaim your good news;
make straight your ways,
and feed your people,
that your glory will be revealed, even in us.

Rev Andy Braunston   URC Prayer Handbook 2020)

 o o O O O o o

Many years ago…

Over twenty years ago we used to have a Brownie Pack and a Guide Company at our church and they would join with the Sunday School to lead our Christmas Tree Service, sometimes putting on a nativity play, looking at Christmas customs around the world or Christmas legends.  These were first produced by Kathleen Munro and when she and Patrick moved to Scotland I took over.  After our original Brownie Leaders retired (which included Elizabeth Croll), the new Brown Owl was Jean Reid. 

Jean & I found that our singing voices went well together so we sometimes included a duet in the Christmas Tree service and sometimes asked to sing for Carols by Candlelight service.  After a few years we ran out of suitable carols and thought we might have a rest but Mac challenged me to write one instead!  I’m no Fred Kaan or Graham Kendrick, but after a few tries I came up with the words below which we sang to a tune from a Guide songbook.  We won’t be having our usual Christmas Tree Service or Carols by Candlelight this year but I thought I’d share the words with you and wish you a peaceful Christmas.

 

Many years ago in far of Beth’lem town
the Saviour of the world, from heav’n to earth came down,
      And angels came to tell the earth the news of Baby Jesu’s birth
      Glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace.

Shepherds on the hillside watching flocks by night
when suddenly above them there shone a wondrous light,
      And angels came to tell the earth the news of Baby Jesu’s birth
      Glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace.

Wise men on a journey from eastern lands afar
were guided to the baby by a bright new star,
      And angels came to tell the earth the news of Baby Jesu’s birth
      Glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace.

We should all remember that Christ our Saviour came
to show that kings and shepherds, to God are just the same.
      And angels came to tell the earth the news of Baby Jesu’s birth
      Glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace.

© Margery Pitcher

 o o O O O o o

 

LECTIONARY READINGS

DECEMBER & JANUARY 2020-21

December

6th  Second Sunday of Advent  Isaiah 40: 1 – 11; Psalm 85: 1 – 2, 8 – 13; 2 Peter 3: 8 – 15a; St Mark 1: 1 – 8

Prayer  Lord, my God, just as a single flame can light a whole room, may this single prayer bring light into the dark places of the world, hope in the despairing places, comfort in the suffering places, and beauty in the wild places.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

 

13th  Third Sunday of Advent  Isaiah 61: 1 – 4, 8 – 11; Psalm 126 or St Luke 1: 47 – 55; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 24; St John 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28

Prayer  Jesus, son of God and son of Mary, you came among us, baptizing with fire and light, to reflect the glory of our creator.  We thank you for your work among us, how you gathered, how you spoke, how you left us your Spirit to lift us up and hold us in the light.  We praise you, because you came to us, and keep coming to us, because of your great love.  Amen.

 

20th  Fourth Sunday of Advent  2 Samuel 7: 1 – 11, 16; Psalm 89: 1 – 4, 19 – 26 or St Luke 1: 47 – 55; Romans 16: 25 – 27; St Luke 1: 26 – 38

Prayer  God of surprises, you chose Mary as the ark of your covenant with us, and with her ‘Yes’.  You entered the world of body and blood.  Nurtured by your body and blood, we look for surprise and wonder all around us. Amen.

 

25th  Christmas Day – Nativity of the Lord  Isaiah 9: 2 – 7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11 – 14; St Luke 2: 1 – 14, (15 – 20)

Prayer  Bringing all that I bring to you today, my thoughts, my feelings, my hopes, the things that have worked out, and the things that haven’t, the joys and sadnesses: I offer them to you, knowing that you will accept everything I bring, because I bring it and offer it to you.  Amen.

 

27th  First Sunday after Christmas Day  Isaiah 61: 10 – 62: 3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4: 4 – 7; St Luke 2: 22 – 40

Prayer  May God, the Lord of the years, help you to carry this year into the next, to hear the voice of his Son, calling you forward, and to know the power and blessing of his Spirit.  Amen.

 

January

1st  The Naming of Jesus  Numbers 6: 22 – 27; Psalm  8; Galatians 4: 4 – 7 or Philippians 2: 5 – 11; St Luke 2: 15 – 21

New Year’s Day  Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21: 1 – 6a; St Matthew 25: 31 – 46

Prayer  Loving Lord, at the beginning of a new year we look forward with hope – hope that we may deepen our faith in you; hope that we may live our lives more faithfully in your way; hope that others may come to know you as we do; and this year we look forward in hope to the time when we will be able to meet together in Your house to worship You together.  Amen.

 

3rd   Second Sunday after Christmas Day  Jeremiah 31: 7 – 14; Psalm 147: 12 – 20; Ephesians 1: 3 – 14; St John 1: (1 – 9), 10 – 18

Prayer  Lord of our journeys, help us this day to have eyes to see your leading, ears to hear your guidance, and a heart of courage, that we may journey faithfully and find your way – even when the path may seem difficult and dark.
Amen

 

6th  Epiphany of the Lord  Isaiah 60: 1 – 6; Psalm 72: 1 – 7, 10 – 14; Ephesians 3: 1 – 12; St Matthew 2: 1 – 12

Prayer  Loving God, you have blessed us with the eternal gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Like the wise men of old, create within us the joy of giving, as we humbly offer the treasures of our lives so Christ might be truly honored and we might know his delight deep within our souls. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

10th  First Sunday after the Epiphany  Genesis 1: 1 – 5; Psalm 29; Acts 19: 1 – 7; St Mark 1: 4 – 11

Prayer  Lord God, giver of light and life, by your word you bring everything into being – the far-flung galaxies and the tiniest atomic particle.  You have given us a world to enjoy and to care for.  Give us compassion in the use of its resources, wisdom in our stewardship of your gifts, and reverence for all that you have made – for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

17th  Second Sunday after the Epiphany  1 Samuel 3: 1 – 10, (11 – 20); Psalm 139: 1 – 6, 13 – 18; 1 Corinthians 6: 12 – 20; St John 1: 43 – 51

Prayer  We thank you, God, for those times when we have sensed your presence, heard your voice, seen new insights – particularly when we have needed those things. Yet some of us, Lord, can’t remember ever hearing your voice.  Teach us how to make space, how to hear you and to recognise your presence with us, and how not to get in the way of others finding you.  We ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

24th  Third Sunday after the Epiphany  Jonah 3: 1 – 5, 10; Psalm 62: 5 – 12; 1 Corinthians 7: 29 – 31; St Mark 1: 14 – 20

Prayer  Jesus, you came proclaiming the good news of God, and endured the cross through love for us.  Through your sacrifice, we are forgiven.  May we share this good news – so that others will know your loving freedom in their lives. 
Amen.

 

31st  Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany  Deuteronomy 18: 15 – 20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8: 1 – 13; St Mark 1: 21 – 28

Prayer  Almighty God, be with us this week.  Meet with us each morning, and in every situation throughout the day, whoever we are with, help us to draw on your strength and wisdom, that we may be faithful and true in following the example and pattern given to us by Jesus.  Amen.

 

February

7th  Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany  Isaiah 40: 21 – 31; Psalm 147: 1 – 11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9: 16 – 23; St Mark 1: 29 – 39

Prayer  Everlasting God, creator of heaven and earth, your love causes our hearts to soar. You know the number of stars in the universe – just as you know the number of hairs on our head.  You call each star by name – just as you call us each by name.  You supply the earth with rain to make the grass grow; and provide food for the animals and birds – just as you provide all we need to sustain us.  You care about the details, seeing every tiny part of the bigger picture – just as you care about the tiniest detail in our lives; for you know the person you created each of us to be.  Amen.

 

14th   Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord)  2 Kings 2: 1 – 12; Psalm 50: 1 – 6; 2 Corinthians 4: 3 – 6; St Mark 9: 2 – 9

Prayer Jesus’ divine nature was confirmed on the mountain – he is God’s beloved Son.  He went on to suffer; he died and rose again for us, conquering sin and death.  Now he sits at God’s right hand, glorified in heaven – and thanks to him, we are completely forgiven.  Amen. 

 o o O O O o o

LETTER FROM MARGARET EDWARDS

It was lovely to receive the following letter from Margaret Edwards
(There are times when the Editors wonder whether anyone reads the newsletter)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was pleased, as always, to see the recent church newsletter; and sure enough, as always, my birthday was recorded in it.  I had, as always, received a lovely card from you all to mark the occasion; and it meant such a lot to me.  Thank you so much for your thoughts and contact.

My phrase ‘as always’ underlines a link with you and the Fulwood URC Church that goes back a lot of years now, and the regular posting of a card to me has become one of the threads of my life.  I think it is the lack of such threads that has undermined the spirits of a lot of people since restrictions on our movements, and on contacts in person, have been put in place.  Have you yourself had what you might call ‘withdrawal symptoms’ during these restrictions? If so, perhaps you will recognise that so much of your life was closely linked with social contacts which you more or less took for granted. 

Now, no doubt, they stand out for you in high relief.  And perhaps they now receive closer focus in your prayers.

I found the prayers on the last page of the recent Newsletter touched me very powerfully.  My prayers and contacts with God have kept me going during these trying past months. 

That day, I had just had a good laugh (out loud!) over the bishop’s reason for wanting to find his train ticket; then I had sobered up as I read about KitKat no longer being an ally of all who support Fair Trade.  So bitterly disappointing! And then I came to the page with those very evocative prayers.   And I prayed them…..

In these last months, zoom has helped people to ‘meet up’ in a certain and extremely important way, in social and business life.  I myself don’t actually want involvement with it.  And friends have had a good laugh when I’ve said these words: ‘Fortunately, I can talk to God without Zoom.’  And I know He listens to me.

Yes, my birthday this time was my 80th.  And so much of your splendid newsletter shaped a lot of my thinking.  Thank you so very much, all of you who help to produce the newsletter.  It’s a splendid Christian instrument.  God bless!

Margaret Edwards.

 o o O O O o o 

Autumn 2020
Update: Israel and the occupied Palestine territory

 Healthcare challenges in Gaza

The spread of Covid-19 in the community in Gaza would be devastating.  Gaza’s healthcare system does not have the capacity to deal with a significant outbreak of the virus.  Gaza also has one of the highest population densities in the world and isolation is therefore not a real option for most people.

Until recently, all Covid-19 cases in the Gaza Strip were contained in quarantine facilities but cases were found to be in the community in August and a state of emergency was declared and full lockdown has been imposed.

Christian Aid’s partners have been adapting their work in Gaza since the start of the pandemic in March.  As community centres closed, children and youth were kept engaged at home through online lessons and activities.  Women have been able to access remote support to cope with added pressures and the rise in gender-based violence.

Christian Aid partner PARC is meeting both short and longer-term needs.  In August, 400 vulnerable households in Gaza received two rounds of food parcels, delivered to their door, with fresh produce and dried goods.  The products were purchased from local small-scale farmers and women-led cooperatives, to support them through the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Through humanitarian access, PARC continues to support more families, including those who have recently lost their daily wage because of the curfew.

Farmers are being supported to reach markets, to use their right to access further funding and help them plant for the next season, to feed the food-insecure.

The people of Gaza are used to tough times and remain unbelievably hopeful and resilient.

Thank you for your support and solidarity with our Palestinian partners and friends which is so needed in these challenging days.

 o o O O O o o

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Two American preachers were visiting in Germany and attended Sunday Services. Since they couldn’t speak German, they decided to do as the man sitting in front of them did.

A few minutes into the service the preacher from the pulpit said something and the man in front of them stood up. So they did too. The congregation burst into laughter. They sat down when the man did.

At the end of the service, they met the pastor and found that h spoke English. They asked him why everyone laughed so much when they stood?

The pastor explained that he had announced that they would have a christening service that afternoon, and would the father of the child please rise!

 o o O O O o o

A CHRISTMAS PRESENT LIST:

Give to your enemy  …  forgiveness.
Give to your opponent  …  tolerance.
Give to a friend  …  your heart.
Give to a customer  …  service.
Give to all men  …  charity.
Give to every child  …  a good example
Give to yourself  …  respect  

Anon

   o o O O O o o

 

Update from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

How our partners are responding to coronavirus in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

Across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, Christian Aid partners have been responding to the coronavirus pandemic by providing information and support to the most vulnerable communities.

Our local partner the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) has been pushing for the authorities to provide access to coronavirus testing and ensure healthcare services reach Bedouins living in the Naqab/Negev desert. Adalah has also been  successfully campaigning for the Israeli Ministry of Health to provide real time coronavirus updates in Arabic as well as Hebrew.

The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights (B’Tselem) is continuing to document human rights violations amidst the pandemic, including the recent confiscation of tents in the northern West Bank that had been designated for a filed clinic.

The Palestinian Agricultural Development Association (PARC) is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to help farmers to continue to work safely and supply food to people living in Gaza and the West Bank. PARC is also distributing information about the importance of regular hand washing and physical distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Shu’un al Mar’a (Women’s Affairs Centre) has been using radio and social media to provide women and girls in Gaza, who have survived sexual and physical violence, with information on the importance of regular hand washing and physical distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has been raising concerns about the conditions of quarantine facilities in Gaza, pushing for effective enforcement of social distancing (in particular the ban of public gatherings) and exposing the impact of the 13-year blockade on the healthcare system.

Our local partner in emergencies, The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), plans to help people living in Gaza and the West Bank by offering emotional support to help people keep calm, as well as providing care to high-risk people such as the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. Additionally, PMRS plans to provide personal protective equipment to frontline medical staff in health  centres, and also raise awareness of the importance of regular hand washing and physical distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the region.

EAPPI works to secure safer checkpoints

Christian Aid partner the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) supported people at risk across the West Bank by providing a protective presence at key flashpoints at Hebron, Jordan Valley, and Bethlehem border crossings. Around 30,000 people crossing at these checkpoints benefitted from the presence of Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) through EAPPI.

We have more human rights monitors on the ground than any other organisation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. At any given time, 25 to 35 EAs are in the field providing a protective presence and protective advocacy on a daily basis. Our knowledge and expertise is valued by a wide-network of international organisations and UN agencies.

EAPPI has been working to bring about improvements during checkpoint crossings, such as persuading soldiers to open gates to allow people through, connecting organisations that can help people who are denied access at checkpoints, and alerting the humanitarian hotline when overcrowding results in crushes at peak times.

We’ve heard that local communities are feeling safer in their homes and on their land, and that settler aggression has reduced due to our partner’s presence. EAPPI will continue to amplify the voices of marginalised Palestinian communities living under occupation.

 o o O O O o o

 

A REFLECTION for our times

Money can buy medicine, but it cannot buy health,
It can buy a house but not a home,
It can buy companionship but not friendship,
It can buy entertainment but not happiness,
It can buy food but not appetite,
It can buy a bed but not sleep,
It can buy a cross but not a Saviour,
it can buy a good life but not eternal life.

 o o O O O o o

A COLD DAY IN DECEMBER

On a cold day in December, some years ago, a little boy, about 10-years-old, was standing before a shoe shop on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached him and said, ‘My, but you’re in such deep thought staring in that window!’

‘I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,’ was the boy’s reply.

The lady took him by the hand, went into the shop, and asked the shop keeper to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with the towel.  

By this time, the shop keeper had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she bought him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, ‘No doubt, you will be more comfortable now.’

As she turned to go, the astonished child caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears in his eyes, asked her: ‘Are you God’s wife?

 o o O O O o o

CHRISTMAS EVE

A star shines huge and bright in a dark sky, a jewelled sky, as shepherds watch their sheep on Galilean hills. The night is clear, cold as death. Still far away, the wise men keep their eyes upon the face of heaven.

Guards salute the Roman captains as they rest from census-taking, and a watch fire burns. The inns are full: an outhouse, at the best, is what is offered.

Meanwhile, midnight comes and a sad donkey droops beneath the load of woman great with child. Joseph is tense, his face lined with fatigue, tired by a road that seemed unending, yet expectant, too.

The world around him waits with bated breath as Herod sleeps uneasily and turns, troubled by nightmares and strange thoughts of death.

God’s hand rests powerfully upon the earth.  Angelic legions mass within the skies as Mary sinks down in the straw and beasts watch, undisturbed, with large and wondering eyes.

A heavenly choir alerts the world to some great mystery at the dawning of the day.  The long tread of the camels nears its goal;

A star shines huge and bright to show the way.

Anon

 o o O O O o o

Angels….  As explained by children       

I only know the names of two angels, Hark and Harold.    Gregory, age 5.

It’s not easy to become an angel!  First, you die.  Then you go to Heaven, and then there’s still the flight training to go through.  And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes.       Matthew, age 9.

Angels work for God and watch over kids when God Has to go do something else.  Mitchell, age 7.

Angels don’t eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!!!    Jack, age 6.

Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven.  The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead.      Daniel, age 9.

When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten.  And when he lets out his breath again, somewhere there’s a tornado.   Reagan, age 10.

Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his Son, who’s a very good carpenter.   Jared, age 8.

All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it.      Antonio, age 9.

What I don’t get about angels is why, when someone Is in love, they shoot arrows at them.     Sarah, age 7.

(Thanks to Rev David Spence)

 

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible – Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter. Little Tommy was excited about the task – but he just couldn’t remember the Psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line.

On the day that the children were due to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Tommy was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, and that’s all I need to know.’

 

 o o O O O o o

FOOTNOTE: HOW WE PROVE REED THE NEWSLETTER

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin not sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight for it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

And soon as a mist ache is maid,
It nose bee four two long
And eye can put the error rite.
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.

Anon

 o o O O O o o

 

PRAYER

At Christmas time and the beginning of a New Year we uphold before God all our members and friends We assure all who are particularly lonely, who are unwell or in hospital or are feeling sad that they are remembered in our prayers.

 

A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION – PRAYER

Following in His footsteps                       

Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us the desire to do only what pleases you, and the strength to do only what you command.

Cleanse our souls, enlighten our minds, and inflame our hearts with your Holy Spirit that we may follow in the footsteps of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

St Francis of Assisi 1182 – 1226

 

 o o O O O o o

 

 A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND

A BLESSED NEW YEAR

TO ALL OUR READERS

 

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