We held our ever popular Fun Club during February half term 2017. 18 Children between the ages of 4 and 8 were welcomed by our volunteers. They enjoyed craft, fun and games from 9.30am till 3.30pm. We also had the lady from Green Buttercup visit and the children helped her make bugs for the Romsey Art Festival display in our church.
A PRAYER FOR FEBRUARY
New Year has started and in the church calendar it is Epiphany, heading towards Lent. I have always liked to follow the Common Lectionary, not only because it provides bible readings but also because it provides a structure for the spiritual journey throughout the year.
I believe that this past year, and Christmas 2020, have been very different to what most of us are used to and will remain in our memories (for sure). We tend to best remember the most emotionally charged events in our lives, both the good and not so good ones.
The Christmas just gone reminded me of the two Christmases when we lived in Guangzhou in China in the early 1980s. Mainland China was opening up to the outside world but living there was very different to where we had previously lived and worked in Hong Kong. Christmas was not celebrated there at all in those days, so there were no signs of it, or any holiday period.
Chinese New Year was, and still is, the most important time of the year for the Chinese. It is then that people have time off and celebrate together with their families.
I remember vividly finding some red apples at the market and how wonderful that was. There were no emails, social media or video calls in those days and we collected any letters or cards sent to us long after Christmas from the PO box we had in Hong Kong. Yet the message of Christmas was the same, if not even more meaningful. The Saviour of the World had been born; bringing hope and love to be shared, not only at Christmas but throughout the year.
We give thanks to God that He has been and continues to be with us 'through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy.'
Let us pray with words that come from the Orthodox tradition:
O God Eternal, good beyond all that is good, fair beyond all that is fair, in whom is calmness and peace: reconcile the differences which divide us from one another and bring us back into the unity of love which may bear some likeness to your divine nature.
Grant that we may be spiritually one, both within ourselves and with one another, through the grace, mercy and tenderness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
(From the anthology Prayers Encircling the World)
A CHRISTMAS / NEW YEAR PRAYER
Living God, as we approach the end of the Christmas season at Epiphany with the celebration of the visit to Jesus by the mysterious Magi, we are reminded that Christmas celebrations are not the end, but a new beginning. Living God, as the Magi continued their travelling having glimpsed the glory of God in the infant Christ, so we too are called to take the spirit of wonder, joy and the celebration of new birth into the New Year and our journeying into your future.
Living God, keep our minds and hearts open to the opportunities and challenges you set before us, and assure us of the guidance and inspiration of your Holy Spirit we pray. May we continue to dream dreams and see visons and speak boldly* as we strive together to bring about your kingdom as a reality here on earth, as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name,
* Joel 2:28-29
“And it shall come to pass afterwards,
thatI will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
It was lovely the support we had for Carol Singing at local Care Homes and Nursing Homes. Carols were selected by residents from the Bethlehem Songsheet. We sang for about 30 minutes, this was followed by an opportunity to give Christmas greetings to the residents.
In Mexico, Las Posadas is celebrated in cities and towns. Each evening during the festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through the streets of the town. Adults, including musicians, follow the procession, which visits selected homes and asks for lodging for Joseph and Mary. Traditionally, the procession is always refused lodging, though the hosts often provide refreshments. At each stop, passages of scripture are read and Christmas carols are sung.
Similarly, in Latin America, Posada is a custom in which figures of Mary and Joseph 'travel' from house to house during Advent to symbolise how every household can make room for Jesus.
A Posada Prayer for Advent:
Eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we welcome Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem, we pray that you will be with us also as we travel on life’s way. Help us to experience the joy of looking forward, accepting new beginnings, and finding you in the most unexpected of places. Amen
A prayer for the new year:
Living God of all that is new, we ask that this year you will help us to carry your light into every place we go and share your good news with those we meet. May we walk and work in unity to reveal your love and goodness. Amen
A couple of weeks ago a friend recommended a book to me. It is by Hans Rosling with assistance from his son and daughter and is called ‘Factfulness’. It has a subtitle ’Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think’. It was a couple of days before I was able to get a copy and I am already well through it. It is fascinating!
The author has become increasingly aware that we all adopt a very pessimistic view of the world and that we totally fail to take into consideration the progress we are making. Yet in almost every sphere of life in which we as Christians would want things to get better, it is happening.
To begin making his point he begins the book by asking the reader to answer some questions – I will ask you to answer the first 3 that he sets:
1. In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?
2. Where does the majority of the world population live?
- Low-income countries;
- Middle-income countries;
- High-income countries
3. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in poverty has…
- almost doubled;
- remained more or less the same;
- almost halved
The answers are at the end of the prayer, have a look.
How did you do? If things are not as bad as you thought, join the club.
Hans has asked these questions and more to students studying politics and economics, to politicians and to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos and in many other forums and, without exception, we all got it wrong. In fact, answering randomly would have, on average, got one third of the answers right and the great majority of scores were substantially below that random score. In the UK only 6% were correct on question 1, 23% were correct on question 2 and 9% were right on question 3. No wonder we think the world is becoming a worse place in which to live.
All the time we are praying for things to improve. The Holy Spirit is working through people improving the world – that’s what we are praying for, so why do we not believe it is happening?
How about some real facts?
- Children dying before their 5th birthday was 44% in 1800, 4% in 2016.
- Nuclear Arms in the world was 64,000 in 1986, 15,000 in 2017.
- People undernourished was 28% in 1970,11% in 2015.
- Clean water was available to 58% in 1980 but 88% in 2015.
And I could go on. The point is, that through our prayers and the acts of the Holy Spirit, we are getting better. Of course, we still have a way to go but let’s recognise we are making progress.
Great God we thank you for all the good that is happening in the world, we thank you that the Holy Spirit is working through people to improve so many aspects of everyone’s lives. Help us to recognise the progress and to continue our prayer so that all peoples will one day be able to say, ‘Your Kingdom has come’. Amen
Answers to the questions: 1, c; 2, b; 3, c.
2020 has certainly been a year unlike any others, with restrictions imposed upon us that we have never seen before. We have seen acts of neighbourliness by many which some found reminiscent of the war days, and we have seen acts of selfishness by a few which have resulted in enforced restrictions again being imposed on the innocent majority.
On the wider stage of the world, we have seen governments using necessary civil restrictions as an excuse to tighten their control of the people or line their own pockets, and governments listening to their informed advisors and taking good decisions to aid their people’s health and economy.
As we look to a future when this pandemic is finally brought under control, we will never see the same “normal” as before; but may we learn from our experiences and listen to the calls of God guiding us in His love to build on the good and help defeat the evil in this world.
So, I offer this prayer …
Lord God our Father
You offer us a life of peace, inner peace brought through love, a world in which all can live in harmony and respect for one another. Help us to hear your word speaking to us through the different circumstances in which we now find ourselves, that we may be channels of your love to be felt by all whom we meet.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have come as God to earth to show us the way, to show us the truth and to give us eternal life. We thank you for the sacrifice you made for each one of us and ask that the example you set us whilst on earth, may be a guiding light for all humanity. Holy Spirit, the power of God within us, enable us to live out God’s calling to us and, through our actions and our words, reflect your light into this darkened world. Amen
Almighty God, we seek your guidance during the Autumn. We are happy to have the sun shining for our holidays but become sad when the earth becomes baked. We are pleased when the rains come about but depressed when they do not stop and cause flooding. We listen to the forecasts hoping for the weather we need. We are 'Children of God' and are challenged.
Lord, we thank you for the bounty of harvest time, the colours of the trees and gardens. Bless those who work on the land and people who are employed in the food trade. Give wisdom and humility that we may guard and care for your creation. Forgive us for our inaction.
We remember those who continue to suffer because of the pandemic. Help us to be aware of the need to greet and recognise others. Lord, we miss the hugs of family and friends, the shaking of hands and the smiles now hidden under masks.
Father God, we pray for guidance:-
In love, to listen to one another
In love to learn from one another
In love to care for one another
In love to share fellowship together.
Blessings and Amen