Forty days after his resurrection at Easter we celebrate the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Jesus takes his place at the right hand of the Father. His entry into glory is a cause of hope for us; where he has gone we hope to follow.
At some point on Christmas Eve we all have to stop. There’s a moment when no more last-minute preparation can be done.
Your Christmas journey begins by stopping. It’s true with our personal journeys too: moments of breakthrough and discovery come as we stop.
Sometimes we stop because we reach the end of our own resources. At other times it’s because we discover the gift of silence and stillness. Or maybe we simply realise that there’s too much else getting in the way.
Whatever the reason, stopping is a gift and it’s often a new beginning. In fact, there’s very little we can do to grow personally and spiritually unless we first make the choice to stop. It’s the place of prayer and it’s where we meet with God.
Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem after a long journey from Nazareth. They are exhausted. Mary is in the last stages of pregnancy, and there is no room in the lodging houses. All they can do is stop where they are offered a space. That night – this night – the gift that is Jesus Christ is born.
How today can you find space to stop, even for five minutes?
While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Read Luke 2.1-7
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without presents nor the moment of excitement as gifts are unwrapped or stockings emptied. It takes a bit of time, but we can’t enjoy the gift until we’ve done it.
Prayer is a kind of unwrapping. As we pray we begin to receive a gift from God, gradually and gently, and it is every bit as exciting as opening the very best of Christmas presents.
Prayer is so much more than telling God what I need or what I would like him to do. Rather, it is allowing God to show me what he is longing to give me and what his love is already doing in the world. Prayer is discovery and welcome, and that’s what makes it wonderful.
Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s unborn baby jumps for joy, and Mary sings a song of wonder for all that God is doing in the world. Mary begins to see what the gift she is carrying, the baby who will be born and called Jesus, will bring.
Mary welcomes the gift of God’s love that will turn the world upside down.
How might you, in this week, discover and welcome more of God’s gift to you? As you pray this week, pray with open hands, to receive what God gives.
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.’ Read 1 Luke 1.46-55
For a child, waiting for Christmas is part of the excitement. Many still enjoy the Advent calendar countdown, whether or not accompanied by chocolate!
Prayer is not an instant fix with immediate answers to your personal requests. It is much more like a kind of waiting, perhaps even a longing.
As we listen, watch and learn to wait, we become aware of our own deeper needs and, just as importantly, the longings and cries of others.
Prayer is not giving God a shopping list. It is putting into God’s hands things that worry us or issues with which we struggle; it is waiting for God’s answer and help. When we pray we share the cries of those near us, and far from us, who wait for healing, or love or justice.
Hannah is broken-hearted because she has no child, and is made fun of by others. She comes to the temple and prays, her grieving lips moving silently. She waits and God hears her.
Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk.… Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.’
In what ways this week are you being asked to wait? As you pray this week, pray with an open heart, to wait for God’s love. Read 1 Samuel 1.9-17
The lights of Christmas – in shops, on streets and in our homes – are bold, beautiful, colourful and often dazzling. Occasionally one small light catches our eye – perhaps a candle’s flickering flame – and we see something new.
Prayer is taking time to look. It’s pausing long enough to see the goodness, wonder and beauty around you.
Prayer is refusing to rush out the door in the morning before stopping to see the good things that shape and fill your life.
It’s making time to see, what might otherwise remain unnoticed, the signs of God’s presence in the world and in the people you encounter today, and in your own life. The signs are there and you will see them if you open your eyes.
Jacob, running away from home, stops to sleep in the desert and dreams a colourful dream. He sees a ladder stretched from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down. He wakes and knows that God is in this place.
Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Where this week can you recognise the presence of God? As you pray this week, pray with open eyes, to see God’s presence around you. Read Genesis 28.10-17
The weeks before Christmas can be busy and noisy. There are moments and places where silence is a gift, like the quiet of a city street or country lane after a fall of snow.
Prayer does not begin, or end, with words. It starts in stillness and finds its fullest expression in silence.
As we are silent, we learn to listen. We discover how to pay attention to what is going on within us and to what is happening around us. Listening to your heart and to the world begins to enable you to listen to God. You might only hear him faintly, but as you do so you can catch his whisper of love.
Elijah, the prophet, was fed up and angry. He walked 400 miles complaining to God that everyone else had given up and abandoned him. God waited until Elijah had finished and was quiet and then God spoke; not in a violent wind, or an earthquake or a raging fire, but in a breath of silence.
Now there was a great wind, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
Where this week can you find a moment of silence? As you pray this week, pray with open ears, to listen to God’s whisper. Read 1 Kings 19.1-12
Christmas is, for many, a busy time of year filled with the joys of carol singing, presents and celebrations with family and friends. For others, Christmas can be a lonely time shaped by sadness and memories.
Christmas can also be a time to pause and reflect. In fact, that’s one of the ways we can unwrap the true gifts of Christmas – a moment of peace in the busyness, a breakthrough of hope in our sadness or a rediscovery of love in a relationship that has become stressed.
#GodWithUs: Your Christmas Journey seeks to help you explore what the Christmas story might mean in your life. The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situations you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence.
My prayer is that these reflections help you unwrap in your own life God’s gifts of peace, hope and love. May your Christmas journey lead you closer not just to the heart of Christmas, but to the person of Jesus whose birth we celebrate in this wonderful season.
We are very pleased to welcome Luna Rossa, who will be performing their beautiful,
bewitching music in the intimate and historic setting of St Martin’s church.
LUNA ROSSAare Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards,
award-winning songwriters who are best known for their work with the rock band PANIC ROOM, and before that KARNATAKA. Luna Rossa began life as a ‘little sister’ acoustic project to Panic Room, where Anne-Marie & Jonathan could create the perfect outlet for their more folky / rootsy material. Since the first Luna Rossa album was released in 2013, the project has taken on a
shimmering identity of its own and has won critical acclaim internationally.
Luna Rossa’s very special guest at this concert will be the lovely singer-songwriter Sarah Dean, aka The Incredible String Blonde. Sarah is much in demand for her
stunning, versatile vocals, which take her from folk to blues to rock and everywhere in between!
However, it is the Celtic Harp that allows Sarah to create the rich textures and atmospheres that take audiences to another place with its magical & mesmeric soundscapes.
Tickets are just £17 (£20 at the door) and include a buffet meal.
Please note that St Martin’s church does not run a
licensed bar. However, you are positively encouraged to bring your own beer and wine to this event!
(Soft drinks will be available.)