December 2023 - Ovingdean News
It's been another very busy year hasn't it? Whilst there have been challenges, losses and difficulties there have also been blessings and I am grateful for each and everyone of these. I hope and pray that in time even those difficult events and moments will end out in some way being a blessing or a helpful road marker to a better place in the future.
Some great news I read today is that church attendance across England is growing again, this is for the second year on the run and this is something to be very grateful for. I’m pleased to say our own church congregation continues to grow and we have been blessed with many weddings, baptisms and celebrations of praise and thanksgiving this year as people come to know God and affirm their faith. This year we ran a very successful Alpha course with other local churches supporting over 50 in their faith journeys. Fundraising and collections for those in need, including for the Ukraine, Whitehawk Foodbank, Mary’s Meals and local refugee and asylum seekers has made a real difference to those in need. We completed our new heating system for the church and conservation work on the listed ceiling is set to start soon. Our work in protecting the environment is also progressing well, securing once again the prestigious Silver Gilt Award for the Churchyard and our work as a Silver Eco Church of course continues. Also this year we have joined the Inclusive Church Network of churches that are united together around a shared vision of church as a place that celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. A huge thank you to all of you who have helped with these and the countless other activities undertaken by St Wulfran’s in 2023. You are my hope and my joy and I am so grateful for all you do.
The focus for the church in December is Advent, it is a time of waiting, where we anticipate the light of Jesus Christ entering the world on Christmas Day. Jean-Michel Hansen I think helpfully reminds us: “With the arrival of Advent, Christians everywhere turn again towards the Saviour. Advent marks the beginning of the celebration of His birth and His long-foretold ministry, atonement, death, resurrection and second coming. If Advent is an occasion when I re-turn my eyes to the Saviour, then it is also an invitation to consider where my eyes—and my heart—have been in the meantime. Advent is the gentle nudge that invites me to remember that the truth most worth knowing is that Jesus Christ is the way Home. It is also a gentle reminder that I ought to keep my eyes upon Him all year long”.
He goes on to say:“As we light our Advent candles, adding a new one each week, we move from darkness to light. Our ritual symbolically anticipates the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who will actually move us from darkness to light if we will let Him. Advent invites us to worship at the manger, but if we stop there, we have missed the meaning of Christ’s birth. His advent is the beginning of the path that takes Jesus from the light of the wonderful star that signals His birth, to the terrible darkness of his full and final sacrifice, and then on to the blinding brilliant light of His resurrection, which is the advent of ours. As we return to the manger, let us not forget the meaning of his birth and the purpose of His life.”
Advent helps us to remember or perhaps discover for the first time the joyful heart of the Christmas message. Of all that Christ has done for us, that we are not alone, especially in times of difficulty and that, along with all creation, we are loved. Advent reminds us of this love and is a message of light and hope that many of us need in the darkness and uncertainty of this winter season.
To celebrate this love and this joy we are planning a range of Advent and Christmas services including the All Age Service, Carols by candlelight, the Crib Service and Midnight Mass. The crib services are always lovely and this year we will be learning about the sleepy shepherd. It would be great to see you - everyone is always welcome - and details of all these services and events are provided in this edition of Ovingdean News.
May God bless you this Christmas, may any darkness in your lives be removed by the light of Christ. May your hearts be filled with joy and may you and those you love have a blessed and peaceful New Year.
With love, Fr Richard