Advent and Christmas 2021

We have plans for a great range of services and activities during the season leading up to Christmas, so here’s an overview. All of these are shown in the Calendar and in Worship Onsite or Worship Online.

Advent

This year for Advent we are looking to do something a little different, with a change from our usual layout in our churches and a time of watchfulness, anticipation, and reflection – a time of Joyful Expectation, as we prepare for Christmas. Our theme of Joyful Expectation will be developed over the four weeks as: Joyful Expectation – an Introduction, Forgiveness, Justice, Peace. Do join us on Sunday, or one of our small groups running through the season.

Tomorrow we enter again the season of Advent, and the new church year (year C for those who are interested in the church lectionary). Our readings all year will focus on Luke’s gospel which gives a particular emphasis to the poor, the outcast and forgotten, to women, and in which angels and song feature at key points. God’s Kingdom is pretty revolutionary if you read Luke! Have a look at Mary’s song in Luke 1.46-55 (The Magnificat) for just one example.

This year our Advent theme is ‘Joyful Expectation’.

What are we expecting and how do we find our joy?

Advent invites us into a state of wakefulness and preparedness for the coming of the reign of God in our hearts, minds and lives. This is our expectation. Advent is about waiting but it is not a gently passive waiting. It is longing, a dissatisfaction with the world as it is, an openness to a new order – a restlessness for the ways of God.

In many ways Advent is an exploration of how to be alert but not anxious, to live in this in betweenness – in between the birth of baby Jesus and the coming of the cosmic Christ, in between the world that is and the world that could be, in between our sleepy desire for a comfortable life and our deep desire for in breaking of the reign of God.

Our world needs more than just a bit of tinkering on the edges. Jesus did not come among us so business as usual could go on. Jesus came to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom – a community in which the light, loving kindness and thriving of God reigns in all life.

In Luke we find that there is joy in the justice that overturns the values of our comfortable world and brings the outsiders inside. Zachariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna come centre stage as older people, Shepherds receive the good news (and not educated men), Jesus teaches over again on the importance of things we overlook (lost coin, lost sheep, lost son), and women are prominent in his gospel.

Our joyful expectation then is for the breaking-in of God’s Kingdom that turns established things upside down. If we are truly to sing the Song of Mary ‘business as usual’ will not be the order of the day.

Yes, we will need some courage for this. It is really hard to wish for change; much easier to cling to what we know. But like the football song says, we never walk alone however stormy it our surroundings. When the angels announce big changes they always always say ‘do not be afraid’, and God’s promise is that he will never leave us comfortless whether we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) or through stormy waters (Isaiah 43 .2). Christian joy and hope are rooted in God’s promises; joy and hope like this sustains us most deeply through challenges, storms, and change. Joy and hope like this leads us forwards with confidence and courage to build the Kingdom of God in our place and our time.

And when we struggle and find all difficult some words from Maria Boulding may encourage us (The Coming of God, 1982):

“If you want God, and long for union with him, yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes.  If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that you have no strength even to want him, yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life.  If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already walking with the God who comes.

Your hope is not a mocking dream; God creates in human hearts a huge desire and a sense of need, because God wants to fill them with the gift of God’s own self. It is because God’s self-sharing love is there first, forestalling any response or prayer from our side, that such hope can be in us. We cannot hope until we know, however obscurely, that there is something to hope for; if we have had no glimpse of a vision, we cannot conduct our lives with vision. And yet we do: there is hope in us, and longing, because grace was there first. God’s longing for us is the spring of our longing for God.”

The photo is of moonlight in St Mary’s fields last week. It speaks to me of hope and the eternal presence of God through the day and the night.

May you be blessed with joyful expectation and sustained with hope and love this Advent

Felicity

We start the season with Advent Sunday on 28th November. As usual at our morning services we will be gathering Christmas gifts to be distributed to families in our area who might not otherwise receive any. And we are also delighted that our choir and choristers will be leading our Advent Carols – a service of music and readings, at 5.30pm in St Mary’s Kidlington.

The two Advent Groups will follow the same pattern – so people can choose whether to join onsite in the daytime or by Zoom in the evening:

  • Tuesdays at 8pm-9pm on Zoom 30th November, 6th and 13th December
  • Fridays at 2pm-3pm in St Mary’s Refectory 3rd , 10th and 17th December

The booklet exploring the theme of “Forgiveness, Justice and Joy” can be downloaded here: choose between printable booklet (best printed double-sided/flip on short edge) or single page to view on screen.

Please let Felicity know if you would like to join the zoom group (we will need to send you the joining link) and Susy for the onsite group. You can move between the groups if need be or even use the booklet at home for your personal advent reflections.

Saturday 11th December, 5.30pm, St Mary’s Kidlington

‘Presence and Absence’ is a very special Christmas service where we are able to acknowledge that Christmas time brings great grief as well as great joy. It’s ok to feel down at this time of year; you are not alone. In this service we can remember those we love who are no longer with us, or all the other situations that can seem hard for us in this season. This year our theme is angels and our service focuses on the Christmas angels from our crib scene. You are very welcome.

After a gap last year the Posada is now returning. For those who are unaware of it this it is a South American tradition that we have celebrated in the parish for quite a few years. It reminds us of the journey to Bethlehem made by Mary and Joseph. We have a small basket containing figures of them and a donkey which travels from St John’s on Advent Sunday around the homes in the village (and beyond!) returning to St John’s on Christmas Eve. Anyone wishing to welcome the travellers into their home can join in.

Margaret Dee is compiling the route based on requests so far, but if you would still like to join in, do contact her via Webmaster as soon as you can. :Any specially requested dates will be used if possible but no promises.

After the Advent Carols there will be a number of other carol services:

  • Saturday 18th December, 6.30pm, St John’s
  • Sunday 19th December, 5.30pm, St Mary’s Kidlington – Nine Lessons and Carols
  • Wednesday 22nd December, 5.30pm, St Mary’s Kidlington – Community Carol Service
  • Christmas Eve 24th December, St Mary’s Hampton Poyle – two services at 3pm and 5pm but THESE MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE to ensure everyone’s safety in our smallest church. Book using the link on the events in the list of Onsite Services, or contact webmaster.

The Community Carol Service on 22nd December is new this year. How is it different from our other carol services? In this joyful event we will highlight members of our local community who are for us the modern day nativity characters. Who is like Joseph in our village caring for his family, taking risks and protecting them? Who are our shepherds who work through the night while others sleep? Who are our wise people from other cultures? And who are our angels? Come and meet them as we sing the traditional carols and hear again the Christmas story. Lots of congregational singing. All ages welcome.

Children are always welcome at all our services and events, but we also like to make sure they have plenty especially for them:

  • All Together @ St John’s, Sunday 5th December, 10am will reflect on “I am the light of the world” and will certainly involve Christingles.
  • There will be a Christingle service on Sunday 5th December, 3pm in St Mary’s Hampton Poyle.
  • The preview of the St John’s Junior Church Nativity Play will take place during the service on Sunday 19th December, 10am in St John’s.
  • St Mary’s Kidlington will be holding Christingle services on Christmas Eve at both 3pm and 5pm but THESE MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE to ensure everyone’s safety. Book using the link on the events in the list of Onsite Services, or contact webmaster.
  • The Crib Service on Christmas Eve at 4pm in St John’s will feature another performance of the Nativity Play. It is also the service at which the Posada returns from its journey around the village (see above). THIS MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE to ensure everyone’s safety. Book using the link on the events in the list of Onsite Services, or contact webmaster.

Christmas

See “Children’s Specials” above for Christmas Eve services for children and their families.

On Christmas Eve there will be Midnight Mass services at St Mary’s Kidlington, starting at 11pm, and St John’s, starting at 11.30pm. The St Mary’s service will also be livestreamed for those preferring not to come onsite.

Christmas morning will see services for Christmas Communion at 10am in all our three churches: St Mary’s Kidlington, St John’s and St Mary’s Hampton Poyle.

On Sunday 26th December, there will be one service of Holy Communion for the whole parish, at 10am at St Mary’s Kidlington.

Please be assured that we are conducting Risk Assessments for all our special services over the season of Advent and Christmas to ensure they are comfortably safe for all attending.