Pew Sheet for Sunday the 17th of December 2023. Advent 3 – Gaudete Sunday
I always rejoice at this time of the year to read and reflect on the writings of the prophet Isaiah (though grammatical and stylistic differences within the text lead some to believe there may have been at least two authors of the work living a century or more apart). It is one of the most significant books of the Bible, being the first of the ‘major’ prophets in the Old Testament and the first of the ‘latter’ prophets in the Hebrew Bible. The book is replete with promise, and is often called the ‘Book of Consolation’ by many Jews since it was written at least partly during the Babylonian exile, yet promises that the people and royal house of Judah and Jerusalem will be restored, and that through them, all the nations of the world will be blessed by the coming of the ‘promised one’ who will bring good news to the oppressed, bind the wounds of the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty for all captives, comfort everyone who mourns; and proclaim the year (or time) of God’s favour on all the peoples of the earth.
Anyone who has heard those wonderful words, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people – says your God’ in George Frideric Handel’s wonderful Christmas oratorio ‘Messiah’ cannot fail to be moved by the hope and consolation which those words would have brought to a people living in subjugation and fear in Babylon, or indeed, in Israel or Gaza today; for God promises through Isaiah, that all human suffering will end one day, and we will all live in the glorious liberty, peace, and freedom of God’s eternal reign through the one who came to us as a fragile, vulnerable child in a manger, even as he held the entire universe together as God made incarnate in human flesh. The words of the Magnificat, which also form part of our readings this week, show how well-versed Mary was in the Hebrew scriptures of her day, and how instinctively she trusted in that same God of mercy, truth and justice Isaiah wrote about; and would one day bring forth from her womb to lay in a bed of straw by her side.
As our penitential season of Advent draws to its close, we celebrate the joy of that revelation, and the purple candles of penitence in our Advent wreath give way to the pink candle representing that joy which comes from knowing God’s comfort in times of trouble and distress, and trusting that God is ever faithful to his word and will do what he promises, as the apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Thessalonians this week.
But what then, should our response to God’s great faithfulness be?
Paul tells the members of the Thessalonian church that they should respond with gratitude in every circumstance they face, and should never tire of, or cease praying, for that is the key to knowing the comfort which only God can give, as the Benedictine theologian, author, and monk David Steindl-Rast also
reminds us when he says that, ‘It is not joy that makes us grateful, but it is gratitude that makes us joyful.’
Let us then, during this last week of Advent, try to cultivate that spirit of righteousness and praise of which the prophet Isaiah spoke, out of a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has done, and will continue to do in, through, and for us; and in particular, for the gift of himself as one born in a stable who would lay down his life so that we could know the oil of gladness instead of mourning!
Collect and Readings, Gaudete Sunday, 17th December 2023.
God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God.
To comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations.
They shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples,
all who see them shall acknowledge,
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots and,
as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
For he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day on, all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit and do not despise the words of prophets,
but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it….
…There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptise with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.
Church Christmas Closure
Please note that St Laurence’s will be closed for the holidays at the end of the service on Christmas Day. It will reopen for private prayer on Wednesday the 27th of December. There will, however, be no midday Eucharist that day. Our midweek Eucharists will resume again on Wednesday the 3rd of January.
Donations to St Laurence’s by standing order
If you are one of those kind enough to donate to the life and work of the parish through your bank account and haven’t yet changed your standing order to include our new Lloyd’s Bank account details, please do have a word with Paul Cresswell or one of the churchwardens after the service and they will make sure that you have the correct bank account details so that you can continue to make your donation. We are very grateful for your contribution and apologise for any inconvenience caused!
Pew Sheets for Christmas Day and the 31st of December – and thanks!
There will be no pew sheets for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve on Sunday the 31st of December due to the extremely busy schedule in the run up to Christmas and my period of leave between Christmas and New Year. I would like to thank Sue Davies and Derry French for all their help in the office while Emma has been away on maternity leave, and to Canon Alan Hodgetts for collating the online news sheet every week. Normal service will be resumed in the new year! I would also like to express my appreciation to Steve Lloyd, George Hooper and Didier for keeping our social media up and running, and to our wonderful organist, musical director, choir members, servers, sides persons, welcomers, hospitality team, and all involved in our children’s and pastoral ministry during the last twelve months. You are all an inspiration, and we could not function without you! Thank you; and have a well-earned break!
Pastoral Support and Provision
If you know of anyone who would like to receive holy communion at home in the run up to Christmas, please do let me or one of the Churchwardens know. There will also be some training in the new year for anyone interested in assisting with pastoral visits or taking Holy Communion to those unable to come to church. If you are interested in helping out in this vital aspect of parish ministry, please do speak to me in the coming weeks.
I would also like to express my thanks to all of our church wardens, Chris Ryalls, George Hooper, June Margerrison, Carolyn Baylis, and Caroline Winter for all the unseen work they do supporting everyone in their respective parishes, and for all who look out for those who are vulnerable or housebound. Special thanks to Didier, Alan and Daphne for assisting me in this important role, and to all of our safeguarding representatives, as well as to our church treasurers, secretaries, and PCC members for all the very important work they do to keep us on track and in order!
Many of you will have heard about the Living in Love and Faith process which has been taking place in the Church of England for the last few years. As of today, Sunday the 17th of December, it is now possible for LGBTQI+ people who have been married in a civil wedding ceremony to have their relationships blessed in church by those members of the clergy who are happy to do so. As a member of Inclusive Church, we look forward to being able to offer these prayers during our normal services when requested, and to offer bespoke services for couples who would like to have them in the New Year. Please do speak to me if you would like to know more!
Pascal and I would like to thank you all for your kind cards, good wishes, and seasonal greetings over the last few days. Lack of time, and a dread fear of forgetting someone prevents us from replying to you all individually, but we would like to wish you all every blessing this Christmas season for ourselves, and on our behalf of the whole ministry team. Have a very merry Christmas, and the happiest of New Years!
To Rachel Skillen who has been specially chosen to attend an international meeting of the Girl Guiding Association in Malta next year. Rachel will be selling some craft work at the back of church today to help raise funds for her trip.
If however, you would like to make a donation to help her meet the £1,300 cost of the visit, please do speak to Steve or one of the churchwardens; or drop an envelope with Rachel’s name on it into the usual collection plate in the coming weeks. Thank you!
We would like to extend a huge thank you! to all those who contributed to the success of this year’s Christmas Fair which raised over £2,300 for our church funds. Our special thanks go to Ann Abraham, Jo Anderson, Barbara and Terry Capstick, Jean Collins, Mark and Karen Collins, George Hooper, Susan Jordan, Anne Newham, Dorothy Plews, Liz van de Poll, Judy Robbins, Chris and Cathy Ryalls, Brian and Shelia Spatcher, Pam Taylor, and Penny Wilmott, who helped organise and man the stalls over that period.
A very special thank you as well, to all the local traders and businesses who Contributed donations for the raffle and silent auction including Sarah Long, Philip Menday at The Bell Hotel, Jonathan at the Country Garden Florist, Barbara Scott of Scott’s Trading, the Sunny Nail Bar, Sue North and everyone at The Farm Deli and last, but not least, everyone at The Barber Shop Winslow. Thank you for all you contribute to the life of our community, and for your continued support for the life and work of St Laurence’s Church Winslow.
We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude!
This Week’s Events
Sunday 17th December
Christingle Service, 5pm at St Laurence’s, Winslow.
Nine Lessons and Carols, 6pm at St James’, Great Horwood.
Monday 18th December
Christmas Service, 3.30pm at Swan House Care Home.
Bell ringing at 7.30pm in St Laurence. Contact Jan for more information on 07835 461361.
Tuesday 19th December
Zoom In Morning Prayer on Tuesday at 9am. Meeting ID: 748 9970 4493 Password: Trinity or contact Didier on [email protected]
Christmas Carols at Swan House, 2.30pm in the courtyard. Please contact Chris Chapman if you are able to go along and help bring some Christmas cheer to the residents.
Lions Club Carol Concert, 6pm St Laurence’s.
Wednesday 20th December
Morning Coffee from 10.00-11.45 in the St Laurence Room.
Midweek Holy Communion on Wednesday at 12 noon at St Laurence’s.
Thursday 21st December
In Touch 2pm for refreshments and chat. Contact Anne on 01296 714 330.
Friday 22nd December
Junior Choir at 6.30 pm followed by full Choir Practice at 7.30pm. Contact Derry on [email protected] for more information.
Saturday 23rd December
Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, 6pm at St Laurence’s.
Sunday 24th December
Sung Eucharist for the 4th Sunday in Advent, 9.30am at St Laurence’s. Nativity and Crib Service, 3pm at St Laurence’s.
Christingle Service, 4pm at St James’.
Midnight Sung Eucharist, 11.30pm at St Laurence’s.