Month: November 2020

Little birds of Clothall

I’ve just been to church in Clothall, near Baldock.

Every year, at the beginning of Advent, there is a wonderful Advent Service with music, imaginative readings, beautiful prayers and all the enthusiasm of people intent on praising God at the beginning of the very special season of Advent. A season, which oddly this year, we are more free to celebrate and enter into its meaning.

So often, Advent is dwarfed by all the hype leading up to Christmas and we miss out on so much of preparation, not so much for the feasting and revelry and frenetic shopping, but the real Preparation. Advent is a time when We are prepared for Christmas, as one of the clergy reminded us tonight.

As we continue to be affected by the Virus and the change in life lockdowns of various types bring, the Advent message and celebration has so much to say to us and to uplift our hearts, minds, souls at this time.

I say I went to Church at Clothall, but this year it was a ‘virtual’ visit by way of Zoom. But somehow, those clever Christians there made it just as extra special as it usually is. We even had a live demonstration of making an Advent Ring. A talented lady made it look so easy! (but it’s not!) Thankfully, her husband was on hand to turn off the smoke alarm when the first Candle was lit and set it off! That too, brought its own contribution to a unique service.

Above you will see a detail of some of the Clothall birds in the East Window.
They’ve been strutting their stuff since the 14th century, I think. They have danced through quite a lot then! And that includes a lot of dark days in our human journey. They’re still there, so hopefully, they can encourage us that, indeed all this shall pass and we will be enriched, renewed and, even maybe set on fire like that Advent candle, by God’s love and the demonstration of it in the birth of our Saviour.

Sing and strut with the Birds of Clothall this Advent! And, as our friends in Sweden say, Glad första Advent, kära vänner!
(Happy first day of Advent, dear friends!)

Mr. G

Another Lakeland Rainbow

My friend Gill Henwood, who wrote about Tarn Hows and created the poem has sent me another photo she took of a rainbow over the Lakeland fells.

A reminder to us in these difficult winter days when there is so much heartache and anguish around that there is always a rainbow. God is constantly walking through the darkness and showing us the promise of light and that, indeed, all this shall pass. Or as St. John of the Cross puts it so much better:

“God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.”                 

Nowhere is this more true than in the Christmas Incarnation of Jesus, the light and Saviour of the world. He is the rainbow bringing a new perspective and promise of what is to come. Jesus is God’s glance of love pushing back the darkness and pointing our hearts to a new beauty.

Thank you Gill for this reminder of God’s love and care for us.

Mr. G

Lord, you search me and you know me

Another Psalm reflection from my friend Joyce Smith, verses from Psalm 139. This is often called The Hound of Heaven and is about the way God calls us into relationship with Him. A relationship which so often he initiates and which is His delight and desire. It was a significant Psalm on my Christian journey and has remained very special to me.

It is less about trying to escape from God and much more about how His love for us will stop at nothing to hold us close to Him. Even we ourselves can’t ultimately get in the way – which I think is a comfort and a joy.

Christ in Glory

detail of the East Window in the Church of St Eadmer,
Admarsh-in-Bleasdale, North Lancashire

In my study I have a wonderful framed photograph of part of the East Window in Bleasdale Church, Lancashire, where I had the honour of being Vicar. It is a magnificent image of Christ the King, seated on a throne, holding the Orb and raising his hand in blessing.

The photo Including the full triptych of accompanying angels was given to me as part of my leaving present mainly because I had often told the people there that when I left I would be taking the window with me.
One of the churchwardens worried that I might carry out my threat, so he took magnificent photographs and had them framed!

I had gazed on it for ten years and it still revealed new things to me.
It speaks of Christ’s Majesty and Glory and of His Victory over Death. His hand in blessing is extended to the whole world which is depicted as a rainbow flowing from the throne. Above the crowned head are the letters IHS – a Greek symbol for the Holy Name of Jesus – and at his feet there is an open bible with the letters Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end of the Greek Alphabet, which is from the end of the Book of Revelation – I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

The whole thing is rather splendid and in keeping with today’s Festival of Christ the King. Traditionally this is kept on the last Sunday of the Church Year to sum up all that has gone before as we have been led by the Church to contemplate the life of Christ – the saving events of His birth, his life and teaching, his death and resurrection; His ascension and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost and the way in which Christ has been lived out and witnessed to in the early Church. This Church year which has taught us so much about the things of God ends with Christ’s enthronement as Lord and King when everything is gathered up by our Risen, Ascended, Glorified Christ to the throne of heaven. Because it has been a difficult period in which to conduct our worship, our journey with Jesus Christ has been particularly and essentially significant and a reminder that we are constantly held in the Love of God, a love which is eternal.

For me the figure of Christ the King in Bleasdale Church sums all that up so I just wanted to share it with you.

[G C]