Thoughts from the Vicarage 74

Dear friends of The Valley

Welcome to this midweek, Tier 4 Thoughts from The Vicarage!

Soon we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus with joy and hope. Jesus came to bring light that shines in the darkness, even into the darkest of places.

‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5)
Many of you have already been in touch following the sombre and unwelcome news on Saturday.

After prayer, reflection and due consideration of our capacity we have decided to go ahead with services in person, with ‘book a place’ in the smaller churches of All Saints and St James The Greater. If you still wish to book a place at either please let me know.

There is no need to book a place if you’d like to attend St Michael & All Angels.

The services for Christmas

  • Christmas Eve 11pm – Midnight Mass St Michael &All Angels Lambourn
  • Christmas Day 9am – Christmas Day Eucharist All Saints East Garston
  • Christmas Day 10.30 – Christmas Day Eucharist St James the Greater Eastbury
  • Christmas Day 10.30 – Christmas Day Eucharist St Michael & All Angels Lambourn

As those of you who know me well will appreciate, it saddens me to write this – but Christmas worship will feel very different this year and I do want to urge everyone to adopt a cautious approach with the rise in infections and hospitalisations being a real concern. We have made every effort throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety of all in our Valley churches and we continue to so do – thanks to the small band of people in each church.

Just a couple of reminders …

If you decide to come, when you arrive please do not socialise with anyone outside your bubble in church and keep your distance at all times. Please scan with the QR code or sign in and please follow instructions for communion and for leaving the church at the end of the service. Even though attending public worship is permitted, many people may feel it is currently better they do not do so – and that is absolutely fine. We each need to do what feels right for us.

There are plenty of alternative churches to ‘attend’ including:

Morning Prayer and Compline

Morning Prayer and Compline are two offices at which prayers are offered for the Valley and for the wider world and if ever you’d like to join us via Zoom you’d be very welcome! One of the prayers we pray each day is called The Benedictus or Song of Zechariah and I would like to share it here in these last few days before Christmas.

It’s a prayer of prophecy prayed by thousands of people every morning across the world. It’s taken from the beginning of Luke’s Gospel and is about the coming of Jesus, the Saviour. This “Most High” that Zechariah mentions comes not in a cloud of glory but as a vulnerable child, with an ordinary family, in a cold stable. That is the son of God whom we are soon to welcome—a humble saviour who lights up our lives when we sit in darkness, who guides our weary feet to peace.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty saviour,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets God promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

You might like to read it slowly, letting the words reveal their meaning for you. What bubbles up as you read? And pray ‘Help me sift through these thoughts, Lord, and discover what you want me to know today as I await the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. ‘

Heavenly Host of Angels

St Michael & All Angels has an especially impressive Heavenly Host of Angels this year. They’ve become more numerous since this photo and as you can see, they come, rather like us, in all different sizes, shapes and colours!

Angels, messengers of God who appeared firstly to the shepherds. Shepherds who really were the outcasts of Bethlehem – on the edge of society. The angels chose those shepherds to be the first to hear the good news of the birth of Jesus, born in a stable, born to be a King. They bought good news of comfort and joy just as they do today here in 2020 even in the midst of a pandemic – bringing comfort, joy and hope to our world so much in need.

We will soon be celebrating that light which shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not and cannot overwhelm it – that light may be a pin prick or vast like the heavenly host. Will you bow down and worship the babe born in the manger this Christmas?

Let us each join with the angels and continue their work of bringing comfort and joy to all those in need this Christmas and beyond.

Who is your angel? Could you be an angel to others not only at this festive season but beyond … I wonder?

When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled by Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

May you have a blessed Christmas sharing the comfort and joy of the angels with those who need it … following restrictions of course …

God bless,

Julie