Monday, November 30, 2015

Messy Church for Christmas

We had a great Messy Church yesterday. There were about 25 of us, thinking about the Christmas story together. Many thanks to all who helped and all who came and enjoyed getting messy.
We finger painted Light of the World pictures - putting the messy into Messy Church! - and liberally sprinkled them with glitter...

We also made egg box nativity scenes, with starry skies, sprinkled with a bit more glitter.

And tree decorations of nativity story characters.

Lots of cards ready to take home or to be sent to some of the older members of our congregation, and a big card for church members to sign for a display at the back of church.
Some nativity tree decorations

Oops! Wrong date for table decorating craft evening

Oops! Someone pointed out to me yesterday that I had been advertising one of our Christmas craft evenings with the wrong date. The Table Decorating workshop is on Thursday 10th Dec, not Thursday 11th Dec. Hope no one was confused! If you'd like to come to this workshop, or to the one happening this week - Christmas Wreath making - on Friday Dec 4, you'll need to contact Chris - details on the poster. Last year, this was very popular, and I know there are lots of people signed up already, so don't delay! Booking is essential.

In the Picture: Elizabeth

Carl Heinrich Bloch 1834 - 1890

Read: Luke 1.24-25, 39-45 

 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’
 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

In this picture by Carl Heinrich Bloch, a Danish painter, Elizabeth is pictured literally welcoming Mary with open arms. We can understand her joy for herself; she is to become a mother, despite thinking this was impossible for her. But she is also overjoyed to greet Mary, her relative,  who is to be the mother of the Messiah, and that tells us something very important about Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's pregnancy carries no shame with it; it may be extraordinary, but she is a respectable married woman. In fact it is the means by which "her disgrace" is taken away, the disgrace which was commonly felt at the time if women were unable to bear children. But Mary finds herself pregnant before her marriage, and while she may know that the child she carries is God's, her neighbours and perhaps other members of the family don't. She is open to accusations of adultery, and could even be stoned. How does she feel as she approaches Elizabeth? Will she disapprove of her? She needn't have worried. Elizabeth sees God at work in this, probably rather frightened, teenager in front of her, and her only concern is to reassure and support.

  • Have you ever encountered God at work in unexpected people or situations?
  • Look at each person you meet today and ask yourself, "how might God be at work in them?"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Breathing Space Communion Services for Advent

Come carol singing with us!

In the Picture: Zechariah

The angel appears to Zechariah   
Alexander Ivanov 1806 – 1858

opaque watercolour on paper (26 × 39 cm) — 1850's
 Museum Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Read : Luke 1.5-23

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’
 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Zechariah had been a priest all his life, one among many who served in the Temple in Jerusalem. Priesthood was hereditary, and there were so many priests that they had to serve on a rota in the Temple in Jerusalem. Individual priests would not often have the honour of offering the incense in the sanctuary, one of the most holy parts of the Temple, so the day when Zechariah was chosen was a special one. He must have hoped it would go well, but instead of quietly fulfilling his duty, he found himself confronted by an angel, with explosive news. His wife, Elizabeth, would have a child. As both were old by this stage, this seemed incredible. Ivanov’s painting, a water colour sketch for a fresco, captures the moment when the angel makes Zechariah unable to speak until the child is born. Sometimes we need to keep silent, and watch and wait, rather than hurrying to try to get our heads around life. 

  • Have you ever had an experience of God, or a message you thought was from God?  
  • How would you have reacted in Zechariah’s position?

Advent Thoughts: In the Picture: Introduction


The story of the first Christmas has been a powerful source of inspiration for artists for most of Christian history. They haven’t just focussed on the stable, the shepherds and the magi. They have painted and sculpted every part of the tale, from the angel appearing to Zechariah, to tell him that he is to become the father of John the Baptist, to Simeon and Anna greeting Jesus in the Temple forty days after his birth and acclaiming him as “the light that enlightens the Gentiles”. In between those points virtually every human experience is found. There is new life, hope, love and tender care in the story, but also fear, death, shame and poverty, things we may all feel in the course of our lives. That’s why depictions of the events around Christ’s birth have such universal appeal; we can see our own lives reflected in them. They may seem to be pictures of things that happened long ago and far away, but in reality they are happening right here, today, in our lives and the lives of those around us. Christians believe that in Jesus, God came among us in flesh and blood; “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth” (John 1.14) That means we can find him just as much in our own lives as we can in a straw filled manger.

This Advent series of thoughts, one a day from Advent Sunday onwards, focusses on a different picture each day and on a different character or group of characters from the Nativity story. How does each of these characters or groups fit into the bigger picture of the story? Can we identify with them, or recognise what they might be feeling and thinking from experiences in our own lives?

Read along – a post a day – and see what you think. Links posted here every day through Advent.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sermons from St Peter & St Paul, Seal, Kent: Christ the King

Sermons from St Peter & St Paul, Seal, Kent: Christ the King: John 18.33b-38 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asks Pilate of Jesus. Jesus has been arrested, hauled up before the Jewish cour...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Advent Candle Light colouring

How are you going to mark Advent?
It's good to find time and space amidst the busyness to pause and reflect. If you're into colouring, here's an Advent exercise for you. Print out the picture - there's a PDF version here if you prefer it
(You are also welcome to copy the idea and draw your own version - your handwriting may be tidier than mine - I threw this together yesterday!)

Starting on Dec 1, find candle ray number 1, look up the bible verse - there's an online bible here, where you can enter the verse - Then decorate that candle ray as you want. You could fill it with patterns, draw a picture, write out the verse, or a word from's up to you.
On Christmas Eve colour the candle and the flame.
Why not post a picture on social media at the end, or as you go along, to share your Advent journey?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Advent is coming

How are you planning on observing Advent?
Will it be a frantic round of shopping and cooking and work parties and family get togethers?
Will it be focussed on your children or grandchildren, if you have them? (Children are great, but Christmas isn't just for them.)
What about you in the midst of all this? How wlll you find time to stop and reflect.
If you'd like to make some time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus away from all that busyness, there will be opportunities to do that through Seal Church.

There will be daily reflections posted here from Nov 29 - Advent Sunday - links will be posted on facebook and twitter. They will help us to reflect on the Christmas story through art. We'll be seeing how we can put ourselves "In the Picture".

There will also be quiet, candlelit, Advent "Breathing Space" Communion services on Thursdays Dec 3,10 & 17 in church - these are wonderfully peaceful services lasting half an hour, with lots of silence to help us catch up with ourselves, and catch up with God, and with short talks to help us think.

To start us thinking about Advent, here's a poem by David Redding, from "If I could Pray Again(1965)

O Lord,
Let Advent begin again
In us,
Not merely in commercials;
For that first Christmas was not
Simply for children,
But for the
Wise and the strong.
It was
Crowded around that cradle,
With kings kneeling.
Speak to us
Who seek an adult seat this year.
Help us to realize,
As we fill stockings,
Christmas is mainly
For the old folks —
Bent backs
And tired eyes
Need relief and light
A little more.
No wonder
It was grown-ups
Who were the first
To notice
Such a star.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is tomorrow. Come along and join us at as we pray for all those affected by war, remember those who have lost their lives in conflict, and consider how we can be peacemakers in our world.
There will be a brief act of remembrance at Godden Green War Memorial at 9 am, then our main Remembrance service at Seal Church at 10 am.
I will also be leading a short act of Remembrance on Wednesday Nov 11th at 11 am at the War Memorial in Seal Churchyard, if anyone would like to come along and join me then.

Monday, November 02, 2015