As part of my Advent reading, I came across the theme of ‘Journeying with the Magi’. Despite the paradox posed by travel restrictions I was surprised how it speaks into our current situation. Matthew tells us the Magi observed a bright star, which led them to set out together on a journey of discovery, leading eventually to the squalor of a stable in Bethlehem where a new-born baby was laid in a manger. We don’t know how many Magi there were, or how they travelled, but clearly their journey was of paramount importance to them. They sought neither material nor financial gain. They journeyed far, following the star, wanting only to present their gifts and pay homage to the new king whose birth was heralded by the new star in the heavens.
So then, as we isolate at home due to Covid-19; as our nation prepares to isolate itself behind new borders due to Brexit, and as the United Kingdom itself seems less and less united, what is the Magi’s spiritual significance for us in these strange and troubling times? Esther de Waal knew nothing of Covid, Brexit or Devolution when she wrote these words: “The Advent journey is, or should be, an inner journey or pilgrimage inspired by the Magi who saw themselves as guests of the world, ready to go wherever the Spirit might take them…seeking their true self in Christ”.
I hope you all enjoy your Advent journey, inspired by the Magi. My prayer is that we may always walk on common ground with all God’s people (yet do so safely for now, until a vaccine is available!)
On behalf of myself and my husband Alan, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Spirit-filled Advent, a joy-filled Christmas, a profound Epiphany, and a very healthy, happy and peace-filled New Year. May the birth of Jesus be a really fantastic blessing to all the waiting world, bringing hope of much better times to come. May God our Maker, Saviour and Sustainer bless us all and keep us safe.
Your friend and Minister, Rev. Anthea Wickens
On Sunday 8 November, a short socially distanced outdoor service of remembrance is planned to be held in the courtyard at St Paul’s Church, The Square, Harmans Water starting at 10.45am. All are welcome. However due to the latest restrictions this may have to be an online service, This page will be updated on Thursday 5 November when the restrictions have been finalised.
Remembrance poster 2020
On Sunday 25th October, St Paul’s held its annual Commitment for Life Service, which was led by Revd Kevin Snyman. A video of the service can be found here.
Commitment for Life is the United Reformed Church’s global justice programme. It is a way local congregations are enabled to participate in actions for justice around the world by pray, action and giving. Commitment for Life partners with Christian Aid and Global Justice Now and focus on four regions around the world:-
- Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
- Central America (Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala).
During lockdown we have met together using Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. We have had time to walk around our neighbourhoods or spend extra time in our gardens. Without the noise of traffic and overhead planes, we have been able to listen to the birds singing to defend territories and attract mates. Put simply we have rediscover the wonders on natural world that surrounds us. And best of all, it’s free!
We have recognised for some time that nature was under enormous pressure. Human activity, from mining to building new roads and high-speed railways, from clearing forest for agriculture to discarding our rubbish, has been is destroying habitat. Of course, people were concerned about the threats to our environments, but the problem always seems insurmountable.
And then a microscopic organism arrived and changed everything. In just a few short weeks, coronavirus has changed the world more dramatically than years of protest about the dangers of unrestricted international trade that saw the environment as just another commodity to be exploited.
There is much talk about the ‘new normal’. But will that just be a different way of continuing with the same destructive activities as before?
On the other hand, perhaps this is an opportunity to pause, to think about what is important, and to strive for a new normal that sees our role in the world as stewards – tending the planet as a treasure to be passed onto future generations.
Recently, I have been trying to devote a bit more time to Bible-reading, starting with selected extracts from the book of Ezekiel. I wonder, how much of Ezekiel you have read? It is a rather strange apocalyptic style book. Ezekiel experiences a number of
powerful visions of God in all glory, which affect him deeply. But it is quite heavy going, and full of strange imagery, hence my decision to read selected extracts!
The overarching theme of the book concerns the relationship between God and his people. A priest and a prophet, Ezekiel was living in exile in Babylon, denouncing Jerusalem’s poor moral and spiritual life, but at the same time offering hope for the future. The prophet foresees God’s kingdom established in perfect form.
I feel this is a timely theme for us in our times today. We need to be Kingdom people, willing to heed a prophetic voice. Recently, crowds have taken to the streets expressing concerns over racial justice. And the government has been obliged to yield to Marcus Rashford’s campaign to offer more help to children growing up in poverty.
In the midst of this, and other news stories, God speaks through the prophet: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’
I pray that God will put a new heart and a new spirit in all of us to help us to move forward in faith and in trust.
Your friend and Minister, Anthea