Greetings to all of you at the start of the season of Advent, which begins on Sunday 29th November. Advent, of course, marks the run up to Christmas. It is a time often associated with waiting and longing, and with mixed feelings, but perhaps never more so than this year. As I write we are hopeful that some of the Covid-19 restrictions will be relaxed, allowing us to once again worship in church and to have some opportunity to spend time in the physical presence of our loved ones. It is a time when we are supposed to feel excited and happy and full of anticipation, Christmas preparations, parties, special food, family gatherings, New Year resolutions and so on. But of course it is often also a time of deep sadness – poverty, loneliness, unemployment and bereavement become all the harder to bear in the face of the great seasonal marketing machine, and all the more so this year, when all the emotions associated with these realities are exacerbated and heightened, and we are aware that even the simplest moments of familiarity and joy will not be quite the same as usual.
As we enter Advent we contemplate the hope of Christ coming into the world. There are various traditions associated with the season, and you may well have your own, but for me, this time of year is marked by the presence in church of the Advent Wreath. Hopefully our churches will be able to be open over the season and I am sure that each church will be adorned in the usual traditional way, but if you are unable to get to church why not think of making an Advent ring in your own home? All you need are four red or purple candles, a white one, and some evergreen collected locally. No need for a special candle holder, just arrange the four candles in a square, on a table or sideboard surface, place a white candle in the middle and lay some greenery around. Even one candle will do if you can't get hold of 5 – just light it little by little, allowing it to burn down everyday, or every Sunday, and use it to reflect upon the coming of Christ into the world and what that means to you, as the day draws nearer and nearer. However much the Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Christian tradition, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian peoples in Europe using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future, looking towards the warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. By the Middle Ages, the Christians had adapted this tradition and were using wreaths as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas, the light of the candle representing Christ who came to radiate the truth and love of God. The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath includes various evergreens, signifying continuous life. The four purple candles represent the four weeks of Advent, purple in particular symbolizing the prayer, penance, and good works undertaken at this time. The progressive lighting of the candles week by week symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord's coming into the world. The single white Christ Candle is lit only on Christmas Day and the Sunday following Christmas to celebrate his birth.
In Advent, as we look towards the coming of the Christ child, we recognise that sometimes we have to wait for the things which make for peace and justice. The coming of Christ into the world however reminds us that WE are the peace and justice makers and that God never acts without making us a part of the action. Making our own advent wreath at home can be a powerful reminder and symbol of this. As we light the candles, week by week, we can commit ourselves to God's service and to living the life of Christ who came, not to be served, but to serve.
All of the ministers will be offering times during Advent for regular, seasonal reflection. Details can be found on the circuit website www.stockportciruit.org.uk or call your minister. Most of these sessions will be on Zoom so if the timing of your own church Advent course doesn't work for you, do think about dropping into another one. You will be most welcome!! And please also check out the website, read the notices below carefully, or look at your local church newsletter for details of the other interesting activities which are planned in the Circuit in the run up to Christmas.
And please remember as always, as we continue to live with lockdown measures:
In this time of isolation and separation may we feel the unity of God's spirit in the bonds of peace and love which connect us to one another.
When we feel lonely let us know that in Christ we are never alone.
When we feel isolated may we be reminded that within the worldwide Body of Christ we are always connected.
When we need a hug help us to feel the warmth of God's embrace
When we are compelled to keep our distance, may we be drawn close to each other within the Spirit of Companionship that flows from God and which moves through and between each one of us.
With love and blessings,
See your local church notices for details of 'live' worship in your church, but for the time being we are continuing our Circuit wide Zoom service at 3pm on Sundays.
Sunday 29th November (Advent Sunday) and Sunday 6th December
Login details as usual as follows:
Meeting ID: 872 1224 6881 Password: 974333
While we are once again unable to worship in our churches, let's continue to say this prayer together when we can, at 11am on a Sunday morning. This way we stay connected in a very really and tangible way. You can also read more about each church on the Circuit Website www.stockportcircuit.org.uk
God of Love and Life, we pray to you this morning for the life the United Stockport Methodist Circuit, for our sisters and brothers who belong to:
(pausing briefly to reflect after each name)
Christ Church Methodist /URC , Dialstone Lane Methodist Church , Davenport Methodist Church , Edgeley Community Church , Hazel Grove Methodist Church, Heaton Mersey Methodist , Heaton Moor United Church, Jubilee Methodist Church, (Marple Bridge), Marple Methodist Church, The Ridge Methodist Church, (Marple), Romiley Methodist Church, St. Johns Methodist Church, (Cheadle Heath), Tiviot Dale Methodist Church (centre of Stockport), Trinity Methodist Church, (Bramhall Lane ), Windlehurst Methodist Church ( High Lane ), Woodley Methodist Church
We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. We ask that this time of crisis might pass and that those who suffer might find comfort and strength within the knowledge of your grace, revealed through the kindness and compassion of the people of God. Eternal God, though the self-offering of your Son you have filled our lives with your presence. Help us in our sufferings and trials. Fill us with hope and strengthen us in our weakness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Circuit Christingle Service 24th December 3pm
This year we will be holding our annual Christingle Service, jointly across the Circuit, on Zoom on Christmas Eve at 3pm. Look out for details about collecting your Christingle Kit from your local church – details for joining the service will be in the bag with everything else you need to make a wonderful Christingle.
Food for Schools and Traidcraft Shopping
For details of how to support Davenport Methodist Church in their collection of food for Adswood Primary School, or to buy Traidcraft products for Christmas, please look at the Circuit Website www.stockportcircuit.org.uk or call your minister for details.
Virtual Trip to Bethlehem 10th December 7pm
Rev. Raj Patta has organised a 'virtual tour of Bethlehem' to help us see and understand this sacred place as it is today.
Circuit 'Carols in the Car' Event Saturday 19th December
The United Stockport Methodist Circuit are organising and hosting a fabulous event on Saturday 19th December
Carols in the Car @ Hazel Grove Park and Ride
Choose your time: 4pm, 6pm or 8pm
Join us for a COVID-secure chance to sing your heart out to your favourite Christmas carols, brought to you by the United Stockport Circuit and played by local music groups.
This drive-in event will bring the Christmas Spirit and the Christmas Story to Stockport in a unique way.
Tickets are £6 per car, of which £5 will go to Mind, supporting mental health in our area.
To buy tickets, go to www.carolsinthecar.co.uk