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from the Editor ...

Welcome to our Christmas and Epiphany dition of ‘Crosstalk’. Christmas is all bout new beginnings. Every year, we reell the same story but every year it means omething different to each one of us. We re all a year older - and hopefully wiser. We have lived through the year 2015 which as brought both joys and sorrows and which each of us will look back on with a mixture of feelings.

ut Christmas is an opportunity to refresh urselves as we rejoice anew in God’s message of love and hope through the irth of the Christ child. We can all be hanged by this remarkable event and the oy of this particular celebration is in haring and being together. That is why we really hope that you will want to come long to as many of our various Christmas vents as you can. Everything is listed lsewhere in the magazine.

was privileged to be in a packed St Giles’ hurch last Christmas when, together, we xpressed the hope and faith and love which the Christ-child brings. We don’t mind running out of hymn sheets - it’s all bout sharing!

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And then it’s into the new year and the unknown. But what we do know is that we go into it together as a community of faithful people who take their example from this new birth and try to live lives of hope and love. But most especially never to forget those who are so much worse off than ourselves. If we know that we are honouring our promise to love our neighbour then we can raise the roof this Christmas as we rejoice at the birth of Him who taught us the power of God’s endless love. Thanks to ‘the team’: Sarah, Joan, Brenda, Pat, Betty and Slavka, for their amazing work this year; and thanks too to our readers for your appreciative comments. I wish you every blessing this Christmas and peace as we move forward into the new year. With love,

Rev’d Ruth


The Vicar Writes “If only I could believe…” We get a paper on Saturdays (it’s the only day in the week when I can settle down to read one!) I don’t know about you, but from time to time something catches my eye in the paper and I tear it out to keep it. One piece was a letter written by ‘Bella’ to her brother who is homeless, a rough sleeper – a “tramp” as we used to say. She can’t easily find him so she wrote him this public letter: because there were things she wanted to say to him but never could, because she had no way of getting a letter to him; because this was in her heart. And it was a heart-breaking letter. She worries for him out in the cold, especially with Christmas coming. She worries for him with his alcohol problems, which makes it too dangerous for her to bring him to her home with her children, or even go and visit him where he sleeps at night. This had been a family that did the usual Christmas thing of going to “Midnight Mass” as part of the Christmas celebrations but Bella had not kept her faith. She wrote: “I don’t believe in God” But then she went on “but I pray for you. It seems that is all I can do.” I find this especially poignant both because I had a great-uncle who was a “tramp” and also because I hear people say something like this – a lot. “I don’t believe, but I pray.” What’s going on here? As Bella says, often there is nothing we can do to make a situation better and all we can do is pray. It feels like that with some of the big troubles in the world but it can feel like that too with our own family and personal issues. All we can do is pray. All we can do is long for some outside help because we can do no more. I have no doubt God hears these prayers – and answers them. (We would need several Vicar’s Letters to work out what we mean by “answer”.) (See the caption on page31 of the magazine…) But I am struck that people struggle to believe that God is listening, that God is real, but still pray. 3


We live in a cultural context – modern Britain – where frankly it is hard to believe in God. In most of the world, it isn’t. But here we are bombarded out loud and subverted subconsciously with the message that God is not real, not there, for wimps, for bigots, for the “old” etc etc .. And often we have strong personal reasons for wondering if “God is there”: apparently unanswered prayer, a sense of nothing when we pray, intellectual doubts, bad experiences of the Church. And frankly at the moment some of those who claim to believe in God are not giving him a very good press. Killing people in the name of God is never right. End of … But still we long, still we pray. “I wish I could believe.” Well Christmas is coming! How does that help? That’s surely a time when we are asked to swallow even more make-believe? No. We are invited to hear a story. It is a story and lots of stories contain truth even if not necessarily literal truth. And as it happens, I believe the core of the Christmas story to be literally true – the really important bit about God coming into our world. So three suggestions: 1) Come to church this Advent and Christmas and let the story connect with you; 2) Talk to another Christian, Rev’d Canon Dr Alan Bartlett perhaps one of the staff, about Vicar of St Giles’ how and why they believe; and Priest in Charge 3) Keep praying. God will respond. of St Cuthbert’s and St Mary’s I hope that you have a joyful Christmas and a faith-filled 2016. And that Bella’s brother is ok … Your friend and vicar

Alan

Vestry Hours At St Giles’ if you wish to book a Baptism (Christening) or Wedding, or to have your Banns of Marriage called, please come to the Church on FRIDAY evenings between 6.00 and 7.00pm

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Enquiries regarding Baptisms, Weddings or calling of Banns for both St Mary’s and St Cuthbert’s should be made by calling at St Mary’s Vestry on TUESDAY evenings between 6.00 and 7.00pm


Bits and Bobs from the Vicar .... It’s Christmas – but Advent first We have a range of beautiful and accessible services over the next few weeks. (See elsewhere in the mag for details.) This year, why not invite a family member, friend or neighbour to come with you to one of these. We can be confident that they will be well done and appropriate - so why not? Buildings – an update The St Mary’s DCC will have met by the time you read this to consider whether we need simply to focus on replacing the roof and repairing the tower and spire (!) or to plan for a bigger reordering which might attract more grant funding. But all will be done by consultation.

Ben

After Christmas I can barely think that far ahead but on the five Sundays before Lent (starting 10 January) we will be preaching on Sunday mornings through the Book of Esther, followed up by a Bible study during the week. We so enjoyed the Book of Ruth that we wanted to spend some time with another of the beautiful narrative books of the Old Testament. See fliers after Christmas. Magazine As we approach the end of a year, it is a good time to say a huge thank you to Ruth and Sarah and the whole magazine team for the marvellous work they do in producing our magazine. It remains top quality. It goes all round the world. Again, why not see if a neighbour might take out a subscription.

Alan

Thank you to all those who ask after Ben and pray for him. This is some news. He completed his "apprenticeship" in June and has been appointed Area Logistics Manager for South Kivu and Katanga Provinces for TEARFUND. This means he is responsible for vehicles, radio equipment, shipment of goods and people for an area twice the size of France ... The good news for him, apart from greater responsibility, is that he is living in a cooler area with more colleagues around him. We seem to hear only bad news, and news of Africa's failures, but I am attaching some photos of a new reservoir that TEARFUND have built in South Kivu, that supplies clean water to 50,000 people. Yes - 50,000 people! Ben tells me he drinks the water because it so pure and clean. It rises up in the mountains (photo 1) and comes down a 30km pipe to the reservoir (photo 2) from where it goes to fountains in the villages (photo 3). It is a remarkable piece of engineering. And in case we forget the conditions, photo 4 shows one of the roads Ben drives on ... Do give thanks and please keep praying. 5


Forthcoming Events in Brief .... Date

Time

Event

1 December

3.30pm

Messy Church at St Mary’s

5 December

11.00am - 3.00pm

Crafting Day with broth at St Cuthbert’s

5 December

7.30pm

Dauntless Theatre perform Carols Songs and Snatches at St Giles’

8 December

3.15pm

Messy Church at Ludworth

14 December

2.00pm

St Mary’s Mothers’ Union

16 December

8.00pm

Carols Kegs and Crackers in the Lambton Arms

19 December

9.30am - 12 noon

18 January

2.00pm

30 January

9.30am - 12 noon

St Mary’s Coffee Mornings Sherburn Village Community Centre St Mary’s Mothers’ Union St Mary’s Coffee Mornings Sherburn Village Community Centre

Ludworth Community Centre - regular events       

Mondays Mondays Tuesdays Wednesdays Wednesdays Thursdays Fridays

10.00-11.30am 7.00-8.00pm 7.00pm 4.00-5.15pm 6.00-7.15pm 10.00-11.30am 6.00-8.30pm

Mothers and Toddlers Pilates British Legion Arts and Crafts Bingo Mothers and Toddlers Youth Club

Broth & Bun Lunch at St Giles’ first Wednesday of every month in St Giles’ Church Hall from 12 noon ‘til 2pm Come along to our free lunch – a bowl of broth with a bun and a cup of tea. Plenty of time to sit and chat.

The next lunches will be on: Wednesday 2 December and Wednesday 6 January We’d love to see you there 6


St Cuthbert’s and St Mary’s Services

in December .... 6 December 9.00am 10.45am Gospel for the day

Advent 2 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Luke 3. 1-6

13 December 9.00am 10.45am 4.00pm Gospel for the day

Advent 3 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Family Carol Service at St Cuthbert’s Luke 3. 7-18

20 December 9.00am 10.45am 4.00pm

Advent 4 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at St Mary’s with Christingle Luke 1. 39-45

Gospel for the day

24 December Christmas Eve 4.30pm Family Nativity Service at St Mary’s 6.00pm Christingle at St Cuthbert’s 11.30pm Midnight Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Gospel for the day Luke 2. 1-14 25 December Christmas Day 10.00am Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Gospel for the day John 1. 1-14 27 December 9.00am Gospel for the day

Christmas 1 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s No service at St Mary’s John 21. 19b-end

See page 8 for details of all of our Christmas Services Regular Activities at St Cuthbert’s and St Mary’s Tuesdays 6.00-7.00pm Wednesdays 9.00am 9.30am 6.30pm Fridays 7.00pm - 8.30pm

Vestry Hour at St Mary's Morning Prayer at St Mary’s Holy Communion at St Mary’s Holy Communion at St Cuthbert’s SCUFFS Youth Club at St Cuthbert’s

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St Cuthbert’s and St Mary’s Services

in January ....

3 January 9.00am 10.45am Gospel for the day

Christmas 2: Naming and Circumcision Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s including baptism Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Luke 2. 15-21

6 January Feast of the Epiphany 9.30am Holy Communion at St Mary’s 6.30pm Holy Communion at St Cuthbert’s Gospel for the day Matthew 2. 1-12

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10 January 9.00am 9.30am Gospel for the day

The Baptism of Christ Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Luke 3. 15-17, 21-22

17 January 9.00am 10.45am Gospel for the day

Epiphany 2 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s John 2.1-11

24 January 9.00am 10.45am Gospel for the day

Epiphany 3 Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Luke 4.14-21

31 January 9.00am 10.45am 11.45am Gospel for the day

Epiphany 4 Service with a Difference at St Cuthbert’s Friends and Family Service at St Mary’s Holy Communion at St Mary’s Luke 2. 22-40

7 February 9.00am 10.45am Gospel for the day

Sunday next before Lent Sung Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s Sung Eucharist at St Mary’s Luke 9. 28-36


Services for Christmas across all of our churches 6 December

6.00pm

East Durham Churches Together Carol Service with the Sherburn Hill Salvation Army Band

St Joseph’s RC Church, Gilesgate

13 December

4.00pm

Family Carol Service

St Cuthbert’s

20 December

4.00pm

Service of 9 Lessons and Carols with Christingle

St Mary’s

6.00pm

Service of 9 Lessons and Carols

St Giles’

4.30pm

Family Nativity Service

St Mary’s

5.30pm

Carols round the Crib

St Giles’

6.00pm

Christingle

St Cuthbert’s

11.30pm

Midnight Eucharist

St Cuthbert’s

10.00am

Festal Eucharist

St Giles’

10.00am

Sung Eucharist

St Mary’s

24 December

25 December

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St Giles’ Church Services in December.... 6 December 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Advent 2 Holy Communion Advent Procession Evening Prayer Luke 3. 1-6

13 December 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day 20 December 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Advent 3 Holy Communion Sung Eucharist Evening Prayer Luke 3. 7-18 Advent 4 Holy Communion Sung Eucharist Service of 9 Lessons and Carols Luke 1. 39-45

24 December 5.30pm Gospel for the day

Christmas Eve Carols Round the Crib Luke 2. 1-14

25 December 10.00am Gospel for the day

Christmas Day Festal Eucharist John 1, 1-14

27 December 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Christmas 1 Holy Communion Parish Eucharist Evening Prayer (NB no 4forAll this week) John 21. 19b-end

See page 8 for details of all of our Christmas Services

         

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Regular Activities at St Giles’ Morning Prayer in Church 8.45am Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri - all welcome Holy Communion in Church every Wednesday at 10.00am Little Lights in Church every Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am - 11.30am Bereavement Drop In every Friday 10.30am to 12 noon Monday mornings 10.00am-11.30am ‘Home Alone’ coffee morning 1st Saturday in month: Coffee morning 10-11.30am 1st Wednesday in month: Broth & Bun Lunch 12 noon - 2.00pm 2nd Wednesday in month: Mothers’ Union 2.00pm (except July/August) 2nd Thursday in month: Lunch Club at 12 noon at Queen’s Head Last Sunday in month: 4forAll 4.00pm


St Giles’ Church Services in January ...

3 January 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Christmas 2 Holy Communion Parish Eucharist Evening Prayer John 1. 10-18

6 January Feast of the Epiphany 10.00am Said Eucharist Gospel for the day Matthew 2. 1-12 10 January 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

The Baptism of Christ Holy Communion Sung Eucharist Evening Prayer Luke 3. 15-17, 21-22

17 January 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Epiphany 2 Holy Communion Sung Eucharist Evensong at St Oswald’s John 2. 1-11

24 January 8.00am 10.00am 6.00pm Gospel for the day

Epiphany 3 Holy Communion Sung Eucharist with prayers for healing Evening Prayer Luke 4. 14-21

31 January 8.00am 10.00am 4.00pm Gospel for the day

Epiphany 4 Holy Communion Sung Eucharist 4forAll Luke 2. 22-40

7 February 8.00am 10.00am 4.00pm Gospel for the day

Sunday next before Lent Holy Communion Service of the Word Evening Prayer Luke 9. 28-36

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.... at St Mary’s and Ludworth The stoning of Stephen: We started our Messy Church time by creating an effigy of Stephen out of a 'onesie' and newspaper!!! We then heard the Bible story of what happened to Stephen before taking the effigy outside of the church and acting out the story. We threw plastic balls (to represent stones) at the effigy and this was great fun. There were two key points that we learnt from this story: 

Stephen wasn't afraid because he knew that God was with him. This was our memory verse - 'Do not be afraid for I am with you' - Isaiah 41:10

Stephen was able to forgive the people who were stoning him.

We then had a meditative time thinking about who had been unkind to us and who we could forgive. Our art and craft activities were fun to do - painting stones, decorating biscuits, making a 'I want to shine for Jesus' decoration, colouring and Lego. By the end of all of this, everyone was ready to enjoy a delicious tea. Our next Messy Church will be at St Mary's on 1 December and at Ludworth School on 8 December. Do come along and join in the fun if Can you help the you can! .... and at Sherburn Hill This was held on 20 October with seventeen children present. The theme for this month was Adam and Eve. The children cut out an apple tree together with a snake. Then they made apples for the tree and apple magnets which could be taken to stick onto fridges or freezers. Other activities included table top games and the favourite parachute game. Wendy told a story and showed a poster and Gail had the children singing ‘How good is the Lord?’ while Rev’d Alan held a discussion with everyone. Messy grace and tea ended the afternoon. 12

angel reach her friend?


News from St Cuthbert’s .... St Cuthbert’s 150 Club October 1st J Stock 61 2nd O Langan 153 3rd G Bartley 4 Thank you for your support

What does it cost?

Do you ever consider what it costs to keep our churches open? At a recent DCC meeting it was suggested that we make it known how much per month it costs to pay the Parish Share for St Cuthbert’s Church. It is £1,150 per month or £13,800 per year. This does not include money for heating, lighting and maintenance or any unforeseen emergencies. The amount quoted is expected to rise by 3% next year. Please could you consider offering a little more?

Crafting Day .... with broth Saturday 5 December St Cuthbert’s Church 11.00am to 3.00pm

County Durham Volunteering Awards 2015 Congratulations must go to David Woods who is chair of Ludworth Community Centre. He has won an award in the ‘wealthier volunteering’ category. He works extremely hard to ensure that the centre thrives and offers opportunities for all. He listens to the views of all ages and takes these into account when planning. Recently he has helped to develop the idea for a village skate park. He organises numerous events. He has a wealth of knowledge and leads from the front, taking community members with him. He has made a difference to the whole community and asks for nothing in return. Well done Dave!

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News from St Giles’ .... 4-for-All in October: ALL SAINTS We had a very good attendance in October even though the weather was bad. We started with a quiz on the screen, using all the Saints’ names we have covered this year – of course the letters were “scrambled” for us to guess them. This proved to be very popular. We had prayers with Rev’d Tim to start off with and our strap-line was “GIVE GLORY TO GOD” to which we replied “LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE”. We saw a film of Barnabas who could juggle 12 balls at a time. He was a clown. He thought he had nothing to offer to God after joining a religious order – but realised his talent was juggling 12 balls. This was his gift to God. This was a delightful film enjoyed by everyone. “Well Done!!” to Jennifer and Andrew. We sang action songs (which we all love) and of course we had to include “When the Saints go marching in”. We also learned a new 4-for-All song, written by Jen to the tune of “Kumbaya”. We moved around the church to take part in all the activities. Such a lot to do and never enough time!! There were candle prayers at the altar with Rowena – also some beautiful written prayers to take home – much appreciated. Stars at the font with Slavka – folded with messages inside from the children asking God for help with people and prayers. They opened up like stars when placed in the water – lovely! Find a Saint who shares your name! (or that of a family member). We were asked to look them up in the Bible and Saints’ books, draw the Saint and illuminate the first letter of their name. Andrew had a full table for this (as always). Glass lanterns were made with coloured shapes stuck on the outside of jars and a candle inside to show the beautiful effect. These were taken home by everyone. Jennifer is excellent at making things. The Prayer Tree was again popular. We had paper candle shapes with “glittery” gold flames – they were coloured in and designed and a prayer put on the back. We even had a ‘clown’ on one of them (relating back to the story). Well done!! We came back to our places in our worship area to have prayers with Tim and our 4-for-All grace. We then tucked into a wonderful tea (lots of lovely food to eat). Thanks to Jacqui and Jean for all the marvellous treats. We went home full of food, full of joy and full of light – Give Glory To God … Let Your Light Shine! Love Jen K 14


A Prayer for Saints Lord, some of your Saints have streaked like lightening into the sky, with power, light, and colour. Thank you for the dazzling faith of all our great Saints. Keep us always ready to learn from them. Amen.

Quiz Night Thank you to everyone that attended the quiz night. The evening was based around popular TV quiz shows including Pointless, Mastermind and Countdown! We had an excellent pot luck supper as well!' Thank you to everyone that brought food and we look forward to seeing you at the next social event.

Dauntless Theatre will be performing an evening of ‘Carols, Songs and Snatches...’ at St Giles' on Saturday 5 December at 7.30pm. Come and get into the festive spirit with all the best Christmas music! Tickets are £5 (including festive refreshments) and are available from Jennifer Moss. In 1213, King John ordered 3000 capons, 1000 eels, 400 pigs, 100 lbs. of almonds and 24 casks of wine for his Christmas dinner. (Presumably, others helped him eat it!)

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News from St Mary’s ....

Carols, Kegs and Crackers Wednesday 16 December 8.00pm

Thursday 10 December 1.30 – 2.30pm Christingle for Sherburn Primary School in St Mary’s Church

in the Lambton Arms

St Mary’s Coffee Mornings Sherburn Village Community Centre

Saturday 19 December and Saturday 30 January 9.00 – 11.30am

Tea, coffee and bacon butties Come along for a cuppa and a chat

ALL WELCOME!

Mothers’ Union Monday 14 December 2pm Service with our Diocesan ‘Wave of Prayer’ followed by Christmas tea, carols and fellowship. and Monday 18 January 2016 2pm – Service of Holy Communion

Fun-Draiser Musical Evening Many thanks to Rita and Jim Tait and the wonderful singers, musicians and everyone who supported this event on 30 October, and to the ladies who baked the delicious scones! It was a wonderful evening and £469.00 was raised for Church Funds. 16


Thanks to Gordon Hall, military historian, researcher and battlefield-tour guide, who recently sent the following story to Rev’d Alan. In the Great War, an Australian Officer was killed fighting at Gallipoli in 1915. Lt Col Alexander White, a good man, was loved by his men. After his death this snippet was found in his wallet and reads – “Let me be a little braver when temptation bids me waver; Let me strive a little harder to be all that I should be. Let me be a little meeker with the brother that is weaker. Let me think more of my neighbour and a little less of me”.

Itinerary, 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry 1915 Dec 1-17 18 19-31

La Crèche Dickebusch Sanctuary Wood

WWI

Introducing Becky Sibanda .... My name is Rebecca Sibanda and I am the new EDYs worker. I moved to Durham at the end of August with my husband, Isaac, because he is studying for ordination at Cranmer Hall. We were living in Norwich, where I worked for The Salvation Army as Divisional Youth Officer, but I am originally from the Wirral. My husband is from Zimbabwe, but he and his family moved here in 2003. Isaac and I met while I was studying Christian Youth Work at Chester University, and we were married in June 2014. We are both really excited to be here in Durham for the next 3 years, and I am thankful that God has provided an opportunity for me to continue doing youth work while Isaac is studying. Over the past few months since I’ve been in post, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the churches and the communities surrounding them. There are some great opportunities to meet young people and have a real impact on their lives. If you are interested in volunteering with the EDYs work, please do get in touch. I look forward to meeting you all soon.

Becky 17


A Special Type of Bank Account? The following was found on a social network by Rev’d Margy and shared with the Wednesday morning congregation at St Giles’. We thought all our readers would enjoy reading and reflecting upon it too. A 92 year old petite, well poised lady, who is fully dressed each morning by 8 am, with her hair fashionably done and make up perfectly applied, even though she’s got very poor eyesight, moved into a nursing home today …. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she manoeuvred her walker to the lift, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the new curtains that had been hung at her window. “I love it,” she said with the enthusiasm of a 5 year old who has just been given a new puppy…. “But Mrs Clark, you haven’t seen your room yet, just wait.” “That’s got nothing to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind … I’ve already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up … I have a choice – I can spend the day in bed contemplating the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I have stored away, just for this time in my life.” She went on to explain: “Old age is like a bank account and you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing …” And with a big smile she said, “Remember the five simple rules to be happy: “Free your heart from hatred “Free your mind from worries “Live simply “Give more “Expect less.”……

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Christmas and Epiphany as told in the Bible (NRSVA) Of the four Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, only Matthew and Luke actually describe the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and what followed. Even their accounts tell different parts of the story. Here we can read what they each had to say. Matthew’s story Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. The Visit of the Wise Men In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising until it stopped over the place where the 19


child was. When they saw that the star had stopped they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’. Luke’s Story In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 20


In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. John and Mark don’t tell us anything about where Jesus was born but Mark tells us what He will do. John tells us who He actually is, The Son of God. John In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. Mark John the Baptist proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ Christmas is the time for the world’s celebration of this great story. Come and join us at one of our services (see page 8) when we can all hear the story and rejoice as we sing together and give thanks for the great mystery which is Jesus’ birth. 21


Some Christmas pictures

by the children at St Giles’

and a very Happy ‘special’ Birthday to Rev’d Dorothy

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The Symbolism of Gifts to Christ For centuries Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh presented to Jesus by the magi, or three wise men. These were standard gifts to honour a king or deity and tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of these and that they were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself. These days we may think that gold would be an appropriate gift for a new- born child, but have reservations about frankincense and myrrh. Their belief in the Christ child was so strong that the magi made the long and often perilous journey of about a thousand miles. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when they travelled from the East in search of the Christ child they inquired of King Herod where they might find him, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ Upon finding the baby Jesus they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The tradition that there were three magi or wise men arose from the fact that the Bible mentions three gifts. An interpretation of these is found in the wellknown Christmas carol ‘We Three Kings.’ Gold is mentioned throughout the Bible. It is a precious metal and as such was a very valuable gift at the time of the birth of Jesus. It is believed that it was given to Jesus as a symbol of his divinity, right to rule and king-ship. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of his priestly role and in recognition of the difficult and tumultuous times that lay ahead for him, and of his willingness to sacrifice his life. Frankincense is a white resin or gum obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant and was therefore used in worship where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God and is a symbol of Christ’s divinity, holiness and righteousness. Myrrh symbolises bitterness and suffering and was given to Jesus by the magi for they understood that his beliefs and teachings would lead to suffering during his time on earth. Myrrh oil is yellowish-orange in colour and is harvested from the Commiphora Myrra tree in the same manner as frankincense. It was widely used in biblical times to embalm the dead and as a medicine and perfume. The Gospel of Mark tells us that wine mixed with myrrh was offered to Jesus when he was about to be crucified to ease his suffering and the Gospel of John records that Myrrh was burnt during his burial. 23


As We Were in December 1915 and January 1916 Christmas was on the horizon and readers were being urged, in the December 10th edition of the Durham Chronicle, to begin Christmas shopping early! William Smith & Co, Drapers were offering an ‘unlimited supply of useful gifts – furs, pretty blouses, dainty neckwear, pinafores and frocks.

At St Mary’s Church in Sherburn a sale of work in the church hall raised £30 for parochial and war funds. Rev C Parkinson presided, assisted by Mr R Smith (churchwarden). Mesdames Wearmouth, Ord, Welsh, Jackson, Smith and Collingwood were the main organisers.

There was a short memorial service attended by ‘crowds of family and friends’ at St Cuthbert’s for Sgt T H Gilpin 2 DLI who had been killed in action. He had been a Reservist and on being called up was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force. He had survived all the major battles from Mons to Loos and had spent four days’ leave with family and friends in Shadforth only a few weeks before his death. Other local men whose names appeared in the long lists of wounded and killed were: Pte Arthur Kell (3rd Dorsets), Gunner B Brown (RFA) who was killed in action, and Company Sgt Major GJ Hope (14 DLI) who died of his wounds. In January 1916 a letter was received from Pte Tucker 8 DLI: ‘We spent a lively Christmas in the trenches. We are holding one of the worst parts of the line and in some places are only 15 yards from the Germans. We have had 3 killed and 9 or 10 wounded, not so bad after 15 days in the trenches. We have been lucky.’

The Christmas decorations at St Giles’ were ‘of a pretty character’ and a great number of parishioners came for Holy Communion so that Rev Thomas conducted services at 7, 8 and 9 am and another after matins. The Sherburn Hill Picture Hall hosted a social evening. It was very well attended by local people; musical numbers were rendered and ‘dancing was indulged in until a late hour.’ After expenses a sum of £5/12/2d was raised for wounded soldiers. In Shadforth Mrs Cowley and Miss Whittingham made up parcels to the value of 5/6d which were sent to every Shadforth man serving at the Front. 24

And in December 1965 there was news of a local man who had made good. Daniel McCartan, whose parents had a linen draper’s shop in Gilesgate, had been appointed Irish Chief Secretary and Clerk of the Crown for County Down.


Nearer home, Christmas festivities were in full swing: Shadforth Youth Club put on a dance with music provided by the pop group Five by Five based in Gilesgate, there were lots of pictures of senior citizens enjoying a Christmas meal and nurses singing to patients around the wards. Shadforth Christmas Fair boosted the Church Restoration Fund by £60. High on the Christmas present gift list were ....... gonks. These were ‘little wooden men with long, furry hair and huge noses.’ (I have to admit to owning one of these.) There were many designs and the monk gonk, complete with shaved head and brown habit, was a particular favourite in Durham.

Dr Fitzgerald, a GP at Sacriston, had taken to doing his home visits on horseback since going by car was impossible. The Advertiser had some spectacular photos of the snow-covered city. Braving the snow and ice, two couples married this month – Margaret Hesp and James Langley were married at St Giles’, as were Ann Heseltine and Barrie Evans. There was a lovely photo of midwife Doris Blakey of 57, Gilesgate, who had retired after 40 years’ service. She had delivered 2,250 babies in that time and was very well known in the local area. The weather continued to be very cold well into January. Durham University Observatory recorded a temperature of 15°F (17°F below freezing!) and the highest temperature in one 24-hour period was 30° F (still below freezing point.) And the first wedding of 1966 in our parishes was between Miss E Lowther and Mr E Lennox at St Cuthbert’s.

The weather was also worthy of a mention. There had been very heavy snowfalls with drifts up to 20 feet high in exposed areas.

WLM Thanks as always to Michael Richardson, Gilesgate Archive, for providing the original images used in this article

The Legend of Tinsel As the Holy Family fled from Herod’s men, Mary became exhausted. They found a cave and hid inside for the night. A spider worked all night and made a web across the whole entrance of the cave. As Herod’s soldiers passed by, they assumed that no one could be in there as the web was intact. The Holy Spider Web was turned into silver in recognition of the work of this humble spider. Tinsel, or so the legend says, is our way of remembering that wonderful miracle. 25


Symbolism in Christian Art and the Church When you go to or visit a church you will probably be aware that from time to time the colours of the altar cloths change but you may not know the reason why. The colours of both the hangings and clergy vestments are symbolic of the Church’s liturgical year. The symbolism of violet, white, green, red, gold, black, rose and other colours serve an appropriate season, or may highlight a special occasion. For instance the colour symbolic of Advent is purple, Christmas tide is white as is Easter Sunday, while Palm Sunday is red and ordinary time is green. These are the main colours used. These colours are symbolic of day to day life in the church. Early Christian Art and religious iconography began soon after the death of Jesus Christ. Early Christian Art and religious iconography was originally based on the classical art styles and imagery used by the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans. A Christian sign or icon is an object, character, figure, or colour used to represent abstract ideas or concepts - a picture that represents an idea and fundamental to understanding the icons and images found in Early Christian Art. A religious icon is an image or symbolic representation with sacred significance. The meanings, origins and ancient traditions surrounding Early Christian Art symbols date back to early times when the majority of ordinary people were not able to read or write and printing was unknown. Many Early Christian Art symbols or icons were 'borrowed' or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions. The Good Shepherd The image of the Good Shepherd, often with a sheep on his shoulders, is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in the Catacombs of Rome, and it is related to the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Initially it was also understood as a symbol like others used in Early Christian art. By about the 5th century the figure more often took on the appearance of the conventional depiction of Christ, as it had developed by this time, and was given a halo and rich robes. The Lord’s Supper is symbolised by a chalice of wine with the bread rising above it. The bread is referred to as the host and is a thin, round wafer made from bread and used for Holy Communion. The host sometimes has the letters I.N.R.I. on it which is an acronym of the Latin phrase JESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM, which translates to English as: "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews". It also has rays coming from it, symbolizing that the Real Presence of Christ is in the host. 26


Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the authors of the four New Testament books telling the story of the life of Christ. They were called the Evangelists. The Evangelist symbols in early Christian art were found in manuscripts, sculpture and wall paintings. Matthew’s symbol is an angel (man), Mark’s is a lion, Luke’s is an ox and John’s is an eagle. The apple is also referred to as the Forbidden fruit, symbolising sin. The association between 'apple' and 'sin' possibly derives from the similarity of two Latin words malum and malus meaning “apple” and “sin” respectively. This led to the to the apple’s connection with the fruit that was eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This eating of the Forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which brought sin into the world. The Butterfly Christian Symbol represents and symbolises the Resurrection. The butterfly has three phases during its life. First there is the caterpillar which represents normal earthly life where people are preoccupied with taking care of their physical needs. This is followed by the chrysalis or cocoon as this resembles the tomb. Then follows the butterfly, representing the resurrection into a glorious new life free of material restrictions. There are many more items which are symbolic. Look at religious paintings and icons and ask yourself, ‘Why is that in the picture?’

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Peace on earth This year I have expereinced my first remembrance service in Sherburn, made all the more special by the presence of Pastor Britta Timmerman. Britta comes from Kier in Northern Germany and was visiting Durham as part of an exchange between pastors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany and priests from Durham Diocese. Part of the intention of this meeting was to confirm and develop a link between the churches which started straight after the second world war, by encouraging friendships, exchanges and sharing of stories. It was a great pleasure to have Britta with us in Sherburn on Remembrance Sunday, in her openness and chattiness she made friends among us and reminded us that in war there are no winners. Britta also reminded us that war continues. She described how very often she gets a phone call in the early hours of the morning to let her know that another arrival of hundreds of refugees is due into the city. Some of these refugees stay in camps on the outskirts - in tents with no heating. (The city is on the edge of the Baltic Sea, so quite chilly!) Others hope to travel by ferry to Norway or Sweden. All of them need something to eat and drink, some friendly words and welcome. It can be exhausting work, but it is important not to forget that these people, too, are the victims of war. Their stories are stories of horror and bereavement, courage and fear. ‘Peace on Earth’ is written on the front of the Christmas Cards I bought last January (it pays to plan ahead). This Advent as we prepare to welcome the Christ child in to our hearts, I wonder what those words will really mean to us. I’m intrigued by the amount of shopping I’m witnessing as we create more and more ‘stuff’, but see fewer and fewer signs of what it might mean to us not only to pray for but to work towards peace upon earth. What would that mean? Answering phone calls in the early hours to help those in trouble? Offering hospitality to a stranger? Listening to the human stories of refugees? Finding out some facts about (for example) the war in South Sudan? What possible difference can a baby make? Especially one born in a stable 2000 years ago? And yet each Christmas we know the peace of the Christ child. Jesus’ birth shows us how we are to live - that vulnerability is a strength. Tthe warmth of humanity must take precedence over either wealth or power. When our brothers and sisters (wherever they are from) are strangers to us we are all less than we could be – we can only flourish when we learn to love and trust one another. As Britta left, she said she had arrived as a stranger and left as a friend. (But not before a trip to the cadbury shop in Dalton Park.) It is through such friendships that we understand Christmas.

te rch 19

Rev’d Allison

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Camels At this time of the year we see many images Christmas cards of camels carrying the Magi or, as they are often called, Three Kings or Three Wise Men on their long journey to present gifts to Christ. Here are some facts about these faithful, patient animals who we see pictured on the front cover of this magazine. Camels belong to the group of animals known as ungulates – animals with hooves, and in common with pigs and giraffes is an even toed ungulate. The term ‘camel’ is derived from Latin and Greek meaning ‘going without’ and ‘repaying in kind’. Baby camels are born without humps. They are however able to run within hours of birth. They call to their mothers with a lamb-like “baa” sound. Mother and child camel pairings are extremely close, staying together for several years. The two surviving species of camel are the Dromedary, or one humped camel which inhabits the Horn of Africa, and the Bactrian, or two humped camel found in Central Asia. It was once believed that camels stored water in their humps but these are actually reservoirs of concentrated fatty tissue. Thus when properly cared for the camel can go without food and water for long periods of time. The kidneys and intestines of a camel are very efficient at reabsorbing water. Both species have been domesticated and are very useful as they provide hair for textiles, meat, and milk - a staple food of desert nomad tribes. Their mouths have a thick leathery lining allowing them to chew thorny desert plants. They perform tasks ranging from human transport to bearing loads and are popular in the tourist industry. Camels live for between forty and fifty years and a fully-grown adult stands at 1.85metres (6 feet 1 inch) at the shoulder and 2.15metres (7 feet 1 inch) at the hump. Dromedaries weigh about 300 to 600kg (660-1320lb). They can sustain speeds of up to twenty-five miles an hour and can run at forty miles an hour in short bursts. Long eyelashes and ear hairs, together with nostrils that can close, form a barrier against sand. If sand gets lodged in their eyes, they can dislodge it using their transparent third eyelid. The camels' widened feet help them move without sinking into the sand. There are around 14 million camels alive today, with 90% being dromedaries. The only truly wild Bactrian (two humped) camels, of which there are less than one thousand, are thought to inhabit the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia. 29


Rulers During Jesus’ Time .... All the action of the New Testament takes place in lands of the Roman Empire. The land of Palestine was a small part of the Roman Empire, but a key part, because of its strategic location. Different names are mentioned as leaders and rulers so this is a quick look at who they were during the life of Jesus. These dates are working with a birth-year for Jesus of 5BC (!) though scholars differ - as can be seen in the ‘Star’ article. Order of Power in Palestine Roman Emperor The ruler of the empire was the emperor. All other rulers in the empire were accountable directly to the throne. At Jesus' birth, Augustus was the emperor. Augustus (30 BC - AD 14) Jesus' birth (circa 5 BC) (Luke 2) Tiberius (AD 14-37) Jesus' Public Ministry (Luke 3) Caligula (AD 37-41) Wanted status of deity Claudius (AD 41-54) Expelled Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2) Nero (AD 54-68) Probably responsible for deaths of Peter and Paul The emperor was the absolute ruler of the Roman Empire. A surname of the early Roman emperors was 'Caesar'. When Paul said, 'I appeal to Caesar' he was referring to the emperor who at that time was Nero. At the end of the first century, Christians struggled with the loyalty statement of Rome "Caesar is Lord! " While not wanting to appear disloyal to Rome, many Christians refused to associate the designation of Lord with anyone except Jesus. This caused some to see Christians as enemies of Rome. King Kings were the highest local rulers of the territories in the Roman Empire, subject to the central authority of the emperor at Rome. The King's office was approved by the Roman senate. During New Testament times Palestine, whole or in part, was ruled by the kings of the Herodian dynasty .... The dynasty began with Herod the Great in 37 BC and ended with the death of Herod Agrippa 2 in AD 70." Herod the Great was the most notorious of the vassal kings. He governed the Jewish people on behalf of Rome. At his death, his kingdom was subdivided among his three surviving sons and the areas called Tetrachs: Archelaus over Judea - Samaria (4 BC- AD 6); Antipas over Galilee and Perea (4 BC - AD 39); Philip over the area northeast of Palestine (4 BC - AD 33). 30


Antipas is the Herod most frequently mentioned during Jesus' public ministry since many of the events took place in and around Galilee. The names of the Rulers of the Herod Family are as follows: 1. Herod the Great - Authority over Palestine at time of Jesus' birth (Matthew 2:1-19, Luke 1:5) 2. Herod Antipas - Controlled Galilee and Perea during Jesus'; public ministry (Mark 6:14-29, Luke 3:1, 13:31-35, 23:7-12) 3. Archelaus - Replaced by procurator in AD 6 (Matthew 2:22) 4. Herod Phillip - Ruler of territory around Caesarea Philippi - (Luke 3:1) 5. Herod Agrippa 1 - (Acts 12:1-24) 6. Herod Agrippa 2 - (Acts 25:13-26:32) Governor Governors were sometimes known as Procurators and were rulers of designated territories, appointed by the emperor and directly responsible to him. Much of their work involved finances, such as taxes. The Governor or Procurator who ruled over Judea and Samaria had an official judicial residence in Caesarea. When Herod Antipas was a tetrarch of Galilee, ie the local Herod family king, Pilate was governor of Judea, Samaria, and Old Idumea and so answerable to the Emperor. Pilate ‘washed his hands’ of the decision to have Jesus killed.

Odd fact .... A GCSE Religious Studies exam paper was criticised for being insufficiently difficult. A picture of the Nativity was reproduced, showing two adults standing by the manger. Candidates were asked the taxing question, “Who are the two people in the picture?” A maximum of two marks were awarded. This was in order to distinguish between those who could identify both mystery characters, and those who could name only one. Left is the caption Rev’d Alan referred to in his Vicar’s letter. This comes from "What am I doing here?" by Hilary Brand - a great introduction to coming to church (good for old-timers too). Available from the Parish library in St Giles'. 31


God’s Messengers They pop up everywhere, don’t they? They appear in many religions, in legends, in the Old Testament and the New, in hymns and Christmas carols, in art and on Christmas cards. Some people believe each of us has a special one watching out for us and protecting us. Angels, I mean. We are so used to hearing about them I almost think we wouldn’t be phased if we bumped into one in the street! But what exactly do we know about them? Well, we believe that the angels are heavenly beings, in touch with God, benevolent spirits who do God’s bidding and act as go-betweens for communication between God and mankind. They are a step up from humans (Psalm 8 says “You have made him (man) a little less than the angels”), therefore we humans look up to the angels and respect them as being close to God. They also provide us with a guiding and protecting presence, hence the term ‘guardian angel’ which is in common use today. So let’s take a closer look at what we mean by the word ‘angel’. If we go back to the Hebrew, the word mal’ākh means messenger, and this messenger can be either human or heavenly. There are certainly plenty of stories of angel messengers in the Bible. Perhaps the most famous one is about the visit Mary had from Gabriel, the angel who announced that she was going to bear God’s son. Mary’s response (“No way! I’m not married!”) shows that the angel messengers allow interaction between humans and God. Of course, that wasn’t the first time that Gabriel (whose name means ‘God is my strength) got a mention. The prophet Daniel tells us that while he was praying to God, Gabriel came flying down to where he was, delivered a message from God and explained the vision which Daniel had seen. This same angel told Zechariah: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news”. The good news was, of course, the forthcoming birth of Zecharaiah’s son, John the Baptist. Two other angels which feature in biblical texts are Michael (whose name means ‘who is like God?’) and Raphael (‘God heals’). Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel and in the New Testament appears in Revelation as the leader of God’s army against the Devil. Raphael cured the blindness of his companion Tobit and is also said to be the angel which stirred up the water in the pool at Bethesda thus releasing its healing powers. Other well-known Bible stories feature angels; in his dream at Bethel, for example, Jacob saw a ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels moving up and down, connecting the two great spaces. Lot and his family were led by an angel out of Sodom before that city was destroyed. And it was an angel who approached Gideon in the village of Ophrah to announce that he, Gideon, was to save the people of Israel from the Midianites. 32


Perhaps one of the best loved ‘angel stories’ is that of the angelic host which appeared to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth, gave them the good news of their Saviour and ushered them on their way to Bethlehem to see this infant king for themselves. Angels also seem to have the power to restore. It was in a vision that Isaiah saw God sitting on a throne in the Temple surrounded by beings which each had six wings – two covering his face, two covering his body and two being used to fly. Isaiah was aware of his sinfulness in the presence of God and these angels, but one of the heavenly beings took a piece of coal from the altar, touched Isaiah’s lips and pronounced him free from sin. In this way they seem to be acting on God’s behalf. Amazing. There have been accounts of angelic intervention/messages/assistance throughout history and perhaps the most famous in recent years is the story of the angels of Mons. The story begins during fierce fighting at the start of the First World War. In his book ANGELS A TO Z, Matthew Bunson recounts, 'One of the most famous episodes of angelic intervention, [was] the supposedly widely reported descent of an angelic army in August 1914, which came to the aid of the British forces against the Germans in Mons. . . The angelic host's assistance could not have come at a more propitious moment as the British were being driven back by the relentless German advance." Various recollections offered by British soldiers present at the battle indicate that three angelic figures hovering over enemy lines inspired the British forces to achieve great feats of heroism and endurance. German soldiers who had been captured by the British are said to have seen a force of angels, holding bows and arrows, in the sky. This celestial army was headed by a shining figure on a white horse leading the British troops into battle. The advancing German forces were thrown back by the heavily outnumbered British troops. Sounds like a wonderful story, but none of this has been verified; there is no mention of the appearance in any military records, nor is there any chronicled evidence. Moreover, many of those who were at Mons were killed either there or in subsequent battles, so few who could substantiate the sightings survived. The whole episode is now the centre of serious debate, controversy and research. All very intriguing ... PAM 33


A January Saint: Saint Benedict Biscop Born around 628 into the nobility of Northumbria, Benedict, or Biscop Baducing, as he was originally called, made his first journey to Rome at the age of 25 and returned full of zeal and optimism for the Church in England. He was 37 when he next ventured forth, this time calling in at a monastic island off the coast of Provence on his way back from Rome. It was there that he decided “to forswear riches that decay in order to serve under the true King and earn an everlasting kingdom”, received instruction and became a monk, taking the name Benedict. He remained on the island for a couple of years before going back to Rome and, on his return to England, he spent two years as abbot at the monastery of St Peter and St Paul in Canterbury. On his return to his native north-east, Benedict was responsible for the twin-foundation English monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. St Peter’s was the first to be built, in 674, on land by the river Wear donated by Egfrid, King of Northumbria. It was stocked with books, icons, relics and artefacts which Benedict had collected during his many journeys to Rome and other centres of Christianity. The foundation was so successful that the king gave him more land, this time on the banks of the Tyne, to build a second monastery. Both sites were notable in that they were constructed of stone (unusual at the time for religious buildings in this country) and had glass windows. Because local workmen were unfamiliar with the techniques required for this, Benedict brought Frankish craftsmen to work on the monasteries. Benedict was keen that these two monasteries should function as one, despite being two separate buildings several miles apart. His idea was to introduce ideas and perspectives from the Roman and European traditions into an area where the Celtic tradition was predominant. When St Paul’s was completed, twenty of the monks, led by Ceolfrith, left Monkwearmouth to take up residence at the new site. Among these was Bede, a pupil of Benedict, who had been greatly influenced and inspired by the monastery’s library and who went on to produce works of his own. In his later years, Benedict suffered from creeping paralysis and after a long illness, bravely borne, he died on 12 January 690. So his feast day is 12 January. PAM 34


The Star of Bethlehem The Star of Bethlehem is a common topic of questions asked to astronomers, especially around Christmas time, because it is a special astronomical phenomenon that occurred around the time of the birth of Jesus. What was the Star of Bethlehem? The first reference to the Star of Bethlehem is in the second chapter of Matthew. Matthew 2:1--2: ”In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." There were two astronomical events involving conjunctions of planets around the time of Jesus' birth---the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in 7 BCE* and the near-conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in Pisces in February, 6 BCE. A conjunction is when two or more objects appear very close together in the sky. Pisces is associated with the Jewish people in astrology, so when Jupiter and Saturn passed very close to each other three times during the span of several months in 7 BCE it was a notable event. Adding to the significance was that the triple conjunction in Pisces happens about once every 900 years. The first conjunction of the 7 BCE triple conjunction occurred in late May when the wise men may have started their journey. The second conjunction occurred in late September when they were visiting King Herod and the third conjunction appeared in the south towards Bethlehem in early December after Herod had sent them on their way. The close grouping of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn to within 8 degrees of each other in Pisces occurs only once every 800 years. Jupiter was the “star'' of royalty and luck and Saturn was the star of the Mesopotamian deity who protected Israel. Both of these rare conjunctions could have been predicted by the “wise men from the East'' and could have been interpreted by them that a great king was to be born in Israel (Herod, king of the Jews at the time and very paranoid about being displaced, was therefore upset at this news). Though Jupiter and Saturn never got close enough together to be confused as a single object, their alignment could have produced bright light, which is referred to as a star in the Christmas story. *BCE = Before Common Era or Before Christ 35


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Word scramble answers: bells; poinsettia; candle; gingerbread; wreath; carols; reindeer; stocking; cookies; eggnog; sleigh; elves; presents; garland; mistletoe; gift; holiday; angel; noel; ornaments; december; snowman; candy cane; tinsel; yule

A New Year by Phyllis Ellison Let go of the old, Reach out for the new, For the past is cold, And the future is due; Each year holds memories, Some happy - some sad, We must treasure the good, Let go of the bad; Make the most of each day, At work and at play, For the old year is history, The future_____ a mystery. 37


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Crosstalk Magazine December 2015 January 2016  

The Christmas edition of Crosstalk magazine

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