Tuesday, December 24, 2019

24. …full of grace and truth.

Truth is an important word in John’s Gospel. “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” says Jesus (John 8.32) Truth, in John’s Gospel, doesn’t mean the opposite of lying, or an accurate description of things. It also means “faithfulness”.  In this context it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us. The Bible tells a story of God’s unending love. No matter how people fail and fall, he never gives up on them. Although the book of Genesis describes Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden of Eden into a world where life is often hard, (Genesis 3.23), we soon discover that God seems to have gone out into that world with them. He makes himself known to Noah, warning him of the flood (Genesis 6). He calls Abraham to go to a new land and make a new life there (Genesis 12). He turns up in the shape of three strangers who tell Abraham that he will have a child, (Genesis 18) and later in a burning bush from which he calls Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3). The story goes on. Prophets hear God speak to them. People find him in the words of scripture, in their worship in the Temple, in the depths of their own hearts, ready to forgive and to heal as many times as they need it. God is faithful – true – to them, no matter what they do. Christians believe that in the vulnerability of the child born in Bethlehem, we see this faithfulness taken to its extreme. God not only speaks in words, but through the Word who lives, dies and is raised among us. And he is a Word of grace, an unearned, unmerited gift, given to all.

As you prepare for the gift-giving and receiving of Christmas Day, think about what the gift of Jesus might mean to you?
Who has shown you faithful love in your life?
What truth might you need to discover  in order to be made free?

Jesus is God’s gift to us. Make a gift tag to put on a present for someone you love. Draw a picture of Baby Jesus on it.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Well done to the three members of our Children's Choir who started our Carol service with the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. It's a big gig for small people and they did brilliantly!

23. …the glory as of a father's only son...

Christians believe that Jesus revealed the glory of his Father in a unique and complete way in the world. He was God made visible, the perfect image of his Father. Yesterday’s reflection reminded us, though, that “glory” in John’s Gospel is linked not with kingly splendour but with suffering love, so today’s phrase is a poignant one. It reminds us of the closeness of Jesus’ relationship with his Father, the love which is at the heart of the Godhead, and therefore the cost of Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross. If we love someone, we will do almost anything to prevent their suffering. It can be unbearably hard for us to watch someone we love struggle, and yet people cannot be who they were meant to be, cannot have life at all, without the risk of pain and sorrow. In Jesus, God gives away what is most precious to him, because he knows that the world needs to see his love embodied in Jesus, no matter what that might cost.

Have you ever had to watch someone you love struggle or suffer in order for them to do what they felt called to do? (Imagine what Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai’s parents might feel?) How did you feel and what did you do in that situation?
Have you ever had to give up or give away something that is precious to you? What do you feel about that now?
What do you think people saw in Jesus that made them feel that they were looking at God?

Draw a heart shape and write or draw in it what you think love looks like? Who loves and cares for you? Who do you love and care for?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas at Seal

22. And we have seen his glory...

Glory is a very important word in John’s Gospel, but it often doesn’t look as people might expect it to. The Hebrew word which is translated as “glory” has at its root a word which means “heaviness” or “substance”. God’s glory is splendid, shiny, substantial, like solid gold. After Moses saw God’s glory on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33.17 -23), his own face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil over it so he wouldn’t dazzle others. In Luke’s Gospel, God’s glory shines around the angels who announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2.8). Later on the disciples see Jesus himself shining with glory (Luke 9.28)
In John’s Gospel, though, God’s glory is seen not in shining light, but in Jesus’ death. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before he is arrested and crucified, Jesus prays “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” (John 17.1) Earlier, Jesus tells his disciples that “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15.8), and the fruit he expects them to bear is the fruit of love. “By this everyone willl know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35) God’s glory is revealed in Jesus, and in his followers, in costly love and service.

What do you think of when you hear the word “glory”? What is the most glorious thing you have ever seen?
Have you ever felt touched by God’s glory in a moment of pain, fear or failure? How did that happen?
The cross has been depicted in many ways – plain wood or golden and richly jewelled, with Jesus dying , dead or risen in glory on it. What messages do these different images convey to us?

Draw a cross and decorate it as richly as you can. It is a reminder of God’s love. Think about ways in which you can show God’s love to others.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

21...and lived among us...

We are often surprised when anything extraordinary – good or bad – happens close to us. We are proud of our own local heroes simply because they are local. Their success might have had nothing to do with us but we enjoy the reflected glory. “Who would have thought that an Olympic sportsperson would live next door to me!” We are horrified, though, if a neighbour turns out to be a notorious criminal. “You don’t expect things like that to happen around here!” we say. Yet everything has to happen somewhere.

In Jesus, says John, God comes to us where we are, hallowing the places that we might think are ordinary, or even “God-forsaken”. Nazareth was a small settlement, with nothing particular to recommend it. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” asked one man, Nathaniel, when Jesus’ disciples told him that they had found the Messiah. (John 1.46) When he met Jesus, he was forced to re-evaluate that prejudice. God could be at work, even in this unlikely place!

Has anything noteworthy – good or bad - happened in the places where you have lived? What are the stories which have been told about those places?
Have you ever encountered a famous person in an unlikely place – on the train, in a shop, on holiday…What did it feel like? What did you do?
Jesus found that the people of Nazareth were among the most resistant to his message (see Luke 4.16-30). Why do you think this might have been?

The Bible says that when we welcome and care for others we are welcoming Jesus in them. Make a “welcome” sign for your house, so that all your visitors feel cared for.

Friday, December 20, 2019

20. And the Word became flesh...

This is perhaps the most extraordinary part of the Prologue, the part John has been leading up to. He has told us about this Word, God himself, Creator of the universe, who made and sustains all things, and yet now, the Word becomes flesh, born as a vulnerable, helpless child in Bethlehem. For his first hearers this would have been extraordinary. Jewish people were brought up to regard God as so holy that his name could not even be uttered. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the centre of the Temple complex, where God’s presence was thought to dwell. No one could see God and live.  Greek philosophy thought of God as pure spirit, unchangeable, incapable of suffering. Flesh was seen as inferior, something which would be gladly cast off at death.  The idea that God would willingly become flesh was puzzling and shocking. And yet, this is what had happened, said John. God had entered into his creation (or perhaps revealed himself in a creation he had already been part of?) He had felt what we feel, suffered as we suffer, died as we die. “What if God was one of us?” sang Joan Osborne “Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home?” In Jesus, that is just what the Gospels tell us happened – God became a human being, someone you might see on the bus (or the donkey!), someone who you could touch, see and hear.

How do you feel about your flesh, your body? Is it a source of delight or anxiety to you?
Right now, how does your body feel? Spend a few minutes being aware of what you are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling with it.
Why do you think it mattered that “the Word became flesh”? How does it change our idea of God?

Draw a body, or around your own body. Thank God for all the amazing things it can do.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

19. ..who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will man, but of God.

John’s Gospel speaks of the need for us to be born again (John 3.3.) if we are to live as the children of God we are meant to be.  John is clear, though, that this status isn’t anything to do with our physical birth – “not by blood or of the will of the flesh of the will of man”. It doesn’t matter who your biological parents are or what ethnic group you come from. God makes a family for himself. The Gospels often sit very light to what we might think of as “traditional family values”. Jesus’ own birth is surrounded by scandal and mystery; Mary isn’t married to Joseph when she conceives him. When he grows up, instead of marrying, fathering children, and looking after his mother as a “good” son should, Jesus goes off preaching and teaching, stirring up trouble which could rebound on all the family. He gathers a group of disciples around him, a rag-tag bunch of men and women from all walks of life, and welcomes followers who others might regard as outcasts. It did not fit the model of family life in his time, and it doesn’t fit it now either. The church he founded saw itself as a new family, gathered together by God, in which all were brothers and sisters to each other, across the divides of gender, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whoever had given them life physically, it was God which gave them life spiritually, binding them together in his love.

Have you ever felt yourself to be on the “outside” of your family , friendship group or social circle? What did it feel like?
Have you ever had to make a decision which put you at odds with your family or friendship group? What happened and what did it feel like?
The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. How can you show God’s likeness to others?

Make a badge or a sign saying “I am a child of God”. Think about what it means to you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

18. ...he gave power to become children of God,

“To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,” says John. Children of God; that’s a powerful claim. And yet it is who we were always meant to be. Early in Luke’s Gospel, Luke traces the family tree of Jesus, back to the great king of Israel, King David, then through the patriarchs, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, until he gets to the first generations of humankind, “…son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.” (Luke 3.23-38). The genealogies of the Bible can seem boring and irrelevant, but they are there for a reason, in this case to make the point that Jesus restores to humankind their true identity.  Adam and Eve were God’s creation, his children, but we have often forgotten this. Jesus calls us to  “abide in God” as John later puts it in chapter 15, enjoying the closeness for which we were created, rediscovering the family relationship God always meant us to have. In the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, their first instinct is to hide from God, who comes looking for them “at the time of the evening breeze”. “Where are you?” calls God, plaintively. In the birth of Jesus, once again God comes looking for us. It is up to us whether we respond and let him draw us back into the relationship we were always meant to have with him.

Think about those who raised you and gave you life, your biological and/or adoptive or foster parents. What does it mean to you to think of yourself as their child? Are you glad to identify yourself as their son or daughter or not?
How close do you feel to God right now?
Imagine God asking you, “Where are you?” What would you answer?

Look at yourself in a mirror. What do you see?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

17. …who believed in his name...

“Believing in Jesus” or “believing in his name” is such a familiar phrase that it can become mere jargon. (A person’s name stood for the whole of themselves in the ancient world, and often still does today, so these phrases are really the same.) . It can be no more than a box to tick on a survey identifying ourselves as part of the Christian “tribe”. Some Christians treat it as if it is the “terms and conditions” we have to assent to in order to get our ticket to heaven. But John means us to understand far more and deeper things than this. The Greek word he uses, the one used generally for “belief” in the New Testament, is pistis, and it really means something more like trust than belief. It’s not so much about agreeing  with some ideas about Jesus – that he was the Son of God, or that he rose from the dead, for instance – as about being prepared to put yourself into his hands, living the way he lived, following in his footsteps. We can “believe” that a parachute exists, understand how it works, feel its weight, even carry it on around on our backs. It is quite another thing, though, to jump out of a plane knowing that it is only the parachute which will stop us from plummeting to our deaths. That’s the kind of belief, trust, faith, which John is talking about here.

Who do you trust in life, and why?
How do people earn your trust? Have you ever thought you could trust someone only to find yourself let down by them?
What does it mean to you to say that you “believe in Jesus”, if you do?

Build a tower out of bricks, cards, yogurt pots, or whatever you have to hand. What makes it stable? What makes it more or less likely to fall down? As you build, think or talk about what makes someone trustworthy, the sort of person you can rely on.

Monday, December 16, 2019

16. But to all who received him...

What might it mean to “receive” Jesus? “Receiving lines” are a feature of formal occasions – weddings for example. They give a chance for every person to be welcomed by the hosts, for their presence to be noticed. But John means far more than a formality here, far more than a simple “so glad you could come…”. The Greek word John uses, “elabon”, means “to take to one’s self”. Receiving Jesus isn’t just about acknowledging Jesus’ existence, or even his importance to the world. It’s about allowing him to make a difference to us, letting him get involved in our lives, transforming us. Going back to the wedding analogy, it’s not so much about saying hello in passing to a guest, but about taking a new person into the family, gaining a son or a daughter who will change the whole family dynamics, bringing (hopefully!) new perspectives and new life.

Have you ever “received” someone into your life who you knew would change you forever – a spouse, a child, a partner, a friend? How have they changed you?
Have you ever been “received” into someone else’s life? What did it feel like to know you were now part of their lives for good?
Do you feel that way about Jesus? Does letting him be a part of your life make a difference to you, or does he feel like a distant acquaintance or a guest at a formal “do”?


Draw a picture of the people who you feel belong to you, and to whom you belong. Pray for each one as you draw them.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

15. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

John’s Gospel can sometimes sound rather anti-Semitic. Often John refers to those who oppose Jesus as “the Jews”, despite the fact that Jesus and all his disciples were obviously also Jewish. Probably John was Jewish too, so what is going on here? John’s Gospel was written around the end of the first century AD, at a time when the Jewish people were coming to terms with the trauma  of the Roman army’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Jewish people were expelled from their land. Different Jewish groups (of which Christianity was one) blamed each other for this, and Christians were forbidden to enter the synagogues.It is against this backdrop that John writes, and clearly he has an agenda. It is not that he criticises Judaism in itself; it is the Jewish leaders whomoppiosed Jesus with whom he has difficulties, especially those who had colluded with Rome to crucify  him. When says “the Jews”, or refers negatively to Jesus “own people” as he does here, this is what he means. It would have been very helpful, though, if this was what he had said! Possibly it might have helped prevent the cataclysm of suffering which Christians have inflicted on Jewish people over the centuries too.

Family feuds are often the most bitter and long-lasting. Are there arguments within your extended family which have rumbled on for years? Is there anything you can do to help heal them?
What are the flashpoints around which people in your family, neighbourhood or workplace argue?
Can you think of any situations where people have managed to disagree yet still remain kind to each other?

Have you felt angry with anyone today? Has anyone been angry with you? Pray for those people.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

14. …yet the world did not know him.

After two thousand years of Christian history, Jesus has become probably the most famous person who ever lived. Whatever people believe about him, there can be very few who have never heard of him at all. We often have a very distinctive mental picture of him too, complete with white robe, which would be unlikely for an ordinary Galilean carpenter, and a shining halo, which he definitely didn’t have! We think he must have been unmissable. And yet, “the world did not know him”, says John.
In reality that is not surprising. He was, after all, just a Galilean carpenter, one tradesman among many, from one small village among many, in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. He didn’t have any special religious training.  He wasn’t from a leading family, and had no powerful political backers. To the Roman and the Jewish authorities he was just another troublemaker – and they had plenty of those to deal with.
Jesus’ story spread across the world and across history  solely because of the transforming effect he had on the lives of those who knew him.

Think about famous people today. What makes them famous? Would you like to be famous?
What would you like to be remembered for, by whom, and why?
How did you first come to hear about Jesus?


Notice the people around you today. Silently pray for someone you see who you don’t know, remembering that God knows and loves them.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Happy St Lucy's Day

And in other news... Today is the feast of St Lucia of Siracusa, who brought light and love to those in darkness, just as we all can, whatever is happening in the world around us.

More about her on my blog, from my trip to Sicily earlier this year - scroll down to find it.

13. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him.

The Word of God was “in the world” says today’s phrase. John has already told us that the Word was with God, and was God, and had created the world, but now he is in that world he had created. This was an idea which was very hard for many people schooled in Greek philosophy to understand. How could the Creator also be something created – a flesh and blood baby? Christian theologians have tied their brains in knots through the centuries over this question too.  But John doesn’t try to explain this – this Prologue is more poetry than theology. The point he is making is that there is no great gulf dividing God from what he has made. The word for ‘world” which John is “cosmos”. It is the whole created order, everything there is. And all of it, says John, is touched by God, sustained by his power, blessed with his love. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, in her poem “Aurora Leigh” “Earth’s crammed with heaven/ And every common bush afire with God;/But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, /The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,.” Like Moses, who was told to take off his shoes when he heard God’s voice in the Burning Bush because the ground he trod on was holy, we are called to be aware of the presence of God in our world.

How aware are you of God’s presence in your life? What could you do to open your eyes to it? (Prayer? Bible reading? Service of others? Receiving Communion?)
Are there places or situations you think of or have described as "god-forsaken"?
Why is that? In the light of this verse, where might God inbe present in them?

Stop somewhere ordinary today for a few minutes – in the garden, in the shopping centre, in the playground, at work - and say quietly to yourself “God is here”. I wonder how it changes the way you feel about that place?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

12. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

The word Advent means coming. Advent is a time when we think about three different ways in which God comes to us, according to the Bible. A classic way of describing this has been that God comes to us in History, Mystery and Majesty; in the past, the present and the future. He comes in history in the child of Bethlehem. He comes in mystery, as we discover him in our lives now, through his Holy Spirit, in the Eucharist, in one another, in those who need help. But Christian faith affirms that he will also come again one day in majesty. This doctrine of the Second Coming has been especially important to people who have been suffering, like the African American slaves who sang about it in many of their spirituals. It reminded them that the pain and humiliation they were going through would not last forever, and that God had not abandoned them. Christians understand the Second Coming in many different ways, some literally, some more metaphorically, but it does remind us that the story is not over, and that God is a God of hope and new beginnings.

Which of those three “comings” resonates most powerfully for you? History, Mystery or Majesty?
If Jesus turned up on your front doorstep today, what would you do? How would you feel?

If you haven’t done so already, put up a nativity scene somewhere in your house – you can make one yourself if you don’t have one. https://tinyurl.com/rzr9fac (Copies available in the Children’s Chapel) .Leave baby Jesus out of it until Christmas day. You could let Mary and Joseph “travel” around the house until then too, or hide them somewhere new each day for the rest of the family to find, like “Elf on the Shelf”!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

11. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

There is almost nothing in this Gospel about John’s preaching, but the other Gospels give us a picture of a man who lived simply in the desert, clad in camel hair clothing, challenging people to deal justly with one another and offering them a baptism of repentance, not unlike the regular ritual washing which was already part of the Jewish tradition. John’s baptism, though, was meant to prepare them to be a part of God’s coming kingdom, to share in God’s work in the world.
John had a large following both during and after his death. One follower is mentioned in Acts 18.25, and a whole group in Acts 19. There is still a group in the Middle East, the Mandaeans, who claim to be direct descendants of these followers of John the Baptist, and acclaim him as the last and greatest prophet. John’s Gospel takes the greatest pains of all the Gospels to emphasize that John himself had pointed to Jesus (see yesterday) and had not claimed to be the Messiah himself, which probably indicates that his followers believed he had! Biblical scholars suggest that there may have been tensions between the community this Gospel was written for and those who still followed John.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of tough but fair criticism or challenge? How did you react to it?
What do you think might have attracted people to John’s teaching, which was often tough and uncompromising?
What might you need to sort out or repent of in order to be able to do what God calls you to do?


Give something up for the day – anything which you might regard as a treat. How difficult is it, and how do you feel about it?  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

10. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

Paintings of John the Baptist, whether as an adult or a child often portray him pointing towards Jesus, or to a symbol of Jesus – the Lamb or the cross. The picture, right, by José Leonardo (Spain, 1601- 1653), shows him pointing down to the lamb behind him and up towards the cross on the top of the staff he is holding. Around the staff is twined a banner bearing the words, “Ecce, Agnus Dei” – behold the Lamb of God – the words which John’s Gospel tells us John said when he first saw Jesus. “This is the one you are waiting for – follow him!” How John knows about Jesus isn’t explained, but he sees in Jesus a light that will light up the world and wants people to follow him . John says that his “joy has been fulfilled” when Jesus comes to him. “He [Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease”, says John (3.30).

(For more about paintings of John the Baptist, see this excellent series of videos from the National Gallery)

Have you ever realised that you needed to hand over a job to someone else, that your part of the work was done? How did that feel? Was it easy to do?
How do you point people to Jesus in your daily life?
Who do you admire whom you would like to point others to?

Write to, email or phone, someone who you think is doing a good job and tell them so.

Monday, December 09, 2019

9. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

John the Baptist, the “John” referred to here, is described as a man “sent by God”. The Gospels all give John high honour as a prophet, who was chosen to pave the way for Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel he is described as a relative of Jesus, the son of her cousin Elizabeth, and Christian art has often portrayed them as children together, like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Madonna of the Rocks”. This Gospel doesn’t tell the story of John’s death, though it refers to him being in prison (3.24), and in 5.35 Jesus refers to him in the past tense, so it sounds as if he has been killed by then. It seems as if his story was so well known that the writer didn’t feel it necessary to mention it. But it is still clear that John’s mission, the thing he was “sent by God” to do, was an unenviable one – it ended in a squalid death on the whim of a spoilt girl, manipulated by her mother, who demands his head on a platter as a reward for dancing for King Herod and his guests. (Matthew 14). John is honoured in the Gospels because, like so many of the prophets before him, he did not turn back from the message he had been sent to proclaim. Like the writer of Psalm 26, he could say “I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” 

Have you ever struggled to do something you knew you should? How did you deal with this?
What do you think God has “sent” you to do? What is your life for?
Are there dangers in thinking of ourselves as “people with a mission”?


Make a label or draw a label shape. Write or draw on it some of the things you do.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

8. …and the darkness did not overcome it.

Most human beings are at least a little wary of darkness. It is a survival mechanism to be afraid of the dark. Darkness can be dangerous. We can lose our way in it. It can hide predators or other dangers. It’s not surprising that it has often been a negative symbol, even though it can also be beautiful and restful too. Darkness and night are used in John’s Gospel as signs that something bad is going to happen, or that something is being hidden. Nicodemus, a prominent religious leader, comes to Jesus “by night”. He doesn’t want anyone to see that he is visiting this new and rather controversial teacher (John 3)  At the Last Supper, when Judas goes out to betray Jesus, John simply says “and it was night” (John 13.30). It is a sign to us, the readers, that the darkness of arrest, trial and crucifixion are about to descend on Jesus. Yet darkness doesn’t have the last word. Three days later, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb where Jesus’ body has been put “while it was still dark” and finds it empty, and Jesus raised from death. God didn’t wait for the dawn to raise Jesus. It happened in the night time. God comes to us in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of our need. We may be scared of the dark, but God isn’t.

How do you feel about darkness? Are you scared of the dark, or were you at some time in your life?
Have you ever been through dark times – depression, family problems, illness? What helped/helps you in those times?
Psalm 139 says “even the darkness is not dark to you [God]; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Does it help you to know that God can work in the darkness just as well as in the light?

Switch the lights off and sit in the darkness for a while, alone or with someone else. How does it feel? Tell God what it is like to be in the dark.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

7. The light shines in the darkness…

In John’s Gospel Jesus often seems to shine a light on what is happening around him. This does not necessarily make him popular!  John says, “Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed, But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. (John 3. 19 & 20) .
We can all be uncomfortable if things we wanted to hide are suddenly revealed!

Are there things about you which you would prefer other people not to see or know? Why?
Have you ever suddenly seen someone else in a “new light”, and discovered they were not the people you thought they were (for good or ill)?
Pray this prayer by Jim Cotter. What do you think of it?

Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, 
as I go down into the deeps of my being.
Show me the hidden things, 
the creatures of my dreams, 
the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. 
Take me down to the spring of my life, 
and tell me my nature and my name. 
Give me freedom to grow, 
so that I may become that self, 
the seed of which you planted in me at my making. 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O God.

Tidy some corner of your house today – just turning out that drawer of bits and bobs will do - and see what “comes to light.” Have you found something you’d forgotten you had?

Friday, December 06, 2019

6. ...and the life was the light of all people.

Yesterday we thought about Jesus bringing life. Now John tells us that the life he gave was like light to people. Light and darkness are very important themes in John’s Gospel, as are seeing and not seeing. Jesus lived in an age when there was very little artificial light. You couldn’t just flick on a switch when it got dark. People depended on the sun and the moon for light, things which were entirely out of their control, supplemented by the rather feeble light of oil lamps if they had them. Light was precious, enabling people to do things they couldn’t do in the darkness. It was God’s first gift in creation – “Let there be light” – and, in the book of Revelation we are told that the heavenly city “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb [Jesus]”. (Rev 21.23) Light and life go together in John’s Gospel because we need to see God, ourselves and others truly, in order to enjoy life as God intends us to.

How is your home lit? Do you tend to have lights on during the day or save them till dusk? How was the home you grew up in lit?
The baby Jesus is often shown glowing in the dark, and saints often have haloes.  Are there people who have been like lights to you?
We sometimes speak of “lightbulb” moments, when things suddenly make sense to us. Have you experienced lightbulb moments in your faith journey when you have realised something significant about yourself, God or someone else?


Have you got an Advent candle, to count down the days to Christmas? If not, why not make one by using a Sharpie pen to decorate a plain candle. Light it each day in Advent.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

December news from Rochester Diocese

Thursday 5 December 2019

Welcome to the December edition of Rochester Diocese's monthly e-newsletter. Due to the Christmas holidays, please note that our next e-newsletter will be out on Thursday 9 January, 2020.
Events and Training

Bishop James Christmas message

Bishop James uses his Christmas message this year to encourage us, amidst the uncertainty in our society, to look for where we see the signs of God's kingdom and to take those with us as we enter the season of Christmas.

To read and download the Bishop's message in full, click here

Diocesan Update
All you need to know this month from the Diocese and National Church

The environmentalist, theologian and author of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book in 2020, Dr Ruth Valerio, is to join Rochester Cathedral in February as an honorary canon. More here
As part of the independent Past Cases review currently underway within the Diocese, we are very keen to engage with victims and survivors to ensure their voice is heard and offer support. Read more here
The Winter edition of our diocesan-wide magazine is now available! A great read from start to finish. Look out for it in parishes, or read it online. Find it here
The deadline is fast approaching to apply for grants from the Church of England for fabric repairs  and the conservation of paintings and wall paintings. The deadline is 27 January. More here
Thank you to everyone who contributed so generously to the appeal made earlier this year, to support our companion diocese of Zimbabwe, who are facing a dire environmental, economic and political situation. More here
Due to limited use, we are no longer offering the Grantfinder portal on the Diocesan website. We are sorry for any inconvenience. Information from Grantfinder can still be accessed through local libraries.

News in brief
Stories from around the parishes

Lego helps build connections
Lego Saturdays in Tunbridge Wells are helping one church connect with new families. Read more
New artwork revealed 
St Justus installs 'stunning' artwork by local Christian artist. Read more
Award for interfaith in Bexley
Delight as Interfaith Forum wins London faith award. Read more
Church tree's eco fightback 
Every tree counts in Bromley church's eco response. Read more

Events and Training

For more local and Diocesan events, visit our What's On Calendar. Add your own event too. You can also explore the full range of courses and events available at:
  • St. Benedict's Centre here
  • St. Augustine's College of Theology here
  • The Diocese of Rochester's Spiriitualty Network here
  • For listings of forthcoming Safeguarding training, click here
Tim Boniface - The Infant
Saturday 7 December, 7pm (for 7.30pm)
St Stephen's Church, Tonbridge

A performance by jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and theologian, the Rev Dr Tim Boniface, of his latest jazz work, ‘The Infant: A Jazz Suite for Christmas’. 

Tickets cost £12.50 per person, which will include wine during the intermission.

To book in please visit 
Children's Society Christingle Service
Saturday 14 December, 12:30pm
Rochester Cathedral

Join in with traditional carols as the nights grow darker and celebrate the light of  Christingle in aid of the Children's Society.

The Children’s Society believes that every young person should have the support they need in order to enjoy a safe, happy childhood.

More details here.
22 January, 7pm to 9pm

Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells

A free evening of discussion on how we can better steward our planet.

A panel of guests will 
answer your questions and there will also be:
  • vegan cake, books & reusable cups for sale
  • creation worship songs led by Graham Kendrick
Book your free place here
22 February, 1pm to 5.30pm
St. George's, Beckenham

An event aiming to bring together people of BAME heritage from the local church to talk about vocation in the Church of England.

Be inspired in your vocational journey, be equipped with knowledge about the various ministries in the Church and be informed about the current state of BAME vocations nationally.
For more details and booking click here


Top resources to support you in your work, life and faith - or just to share with others.
We're a nation of podcast-lovers - around 7.1 million of us in the UK listen to podcasts each week. There’s a dizzying array to choose from too.  In the latest edition of Together magazine,  Brad Cook, Licensed Lay Minister at Christ Church, Luton gives us his pick of his top faith podcasts. View it here
There are lots of great resources available from Church House Publishing, to support you and your congregation's spiritual journeys over the next few months. From Advent and Christmas, through to Ordinary Time and on into Lent. Find out more here 
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE ROUND-UP The latest newsletter from the Children and Young People Team is now available. Full of updates, key dates and resources - great for anyone interested in youth and children's work. Receive it direct to your inbox by emailling:

Vision and Aims

GROWING DISCIPLES - To build confident disciples, who have deeper relationships with God and are more confident for evangelism and mission

Life Together - is a new initiative to help deepen our relationship with God across the Diocese of Rochester
  • Conversations around, Called Together, the vision for the Diocese, identified a desire among many of us to be better equipped as ‘devoted disciples’ of Jesus.
  • Inspired by this desire, ‘Life Together’, encourages small groups to form in a flexible and accessible way, to allow people to abide and obey with others in Christ.
  • The ways in which this could work are endless, exciting and could be very imaginative. 
How could it work for you? Find out more at:

Vacancies and appointments
Archdeaconry of Bromley & Bexley
Archdeaconry of Rochester
Lay and volunteer posts
Archdeaconry of Tonbridge
Volunteer & other posts
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