December 2022 – Mince Pies & Crisps

Mince Pies and Crisps

It is dark outside and winter is upon us, but as our ancestors whose lives depended upon the seasons understood, even in the depths and darkness of winter, that the light of spring will soon begin to work its regenerative power. This ancient Festival of Light with its celebration of the rebirth of the sun was adopted by the Christian Church in the fourth century when Pope Julius declared the 25th of December as the official birthday of Jesus Christ.  The birth of the Son supplanted the birth of the sun and the birth of Christ became the new focal point of this ancient festival.

Even though the festival was embossed with the stamp of Christ is has never become entirely separated from its pre-Christian roots.  The use of foliage or wintergreen, including mistletoe, as well as the yule logs that were burned to provide light and heat for the festival, are just two of the traditions that survive, even if the log has been turned into a chocolate one! The Christian church has continued to add to this celebratory cocktail with its own embellishments and rites.  The cult of the crib thrived in the middle ages and its vestiges are still with us in the form of nativity plays and crib services.

These traditions and their inherent paganism have not gone unchallenged through church history and many of the protestant reformers including John Calvin and the early Presbyterians refused to recognise Christmas as Christian.  During the Commonwealth period, the church tried to suppress Christmas but this met with a significant level of passive and active resistance.  Following the restoration of the monarchy the feasting returned and aided in the following centuries by Charles Dickens, Prince Albert and consumer culture, it has continued to develop into what it is today.

It seems that Christmas is here to stay and I guess that it will continue to evolve and develop to reflect our ever-changing culture with its shifting values and patterns of belief.  Personally, I like mince pies, Christmas lights, Stollen cake, Slade, winter walks with my family, a warm house, new socks and lots of crisps.  What about you?  What do you like about Christmas?

 

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector

 

November 2022 – Hope Now

Hope Now

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

I have just been at our local primary school to take a barrage of theological questions from a class of eight-year-olds. I was asked to address the question ‘why do Christians believe in God?’ The subsequent dialogue was excellent and it was very good for me to have to give quick and simple responses to the profound questions of life that these young hearts and minds were already grappling with.

I was asked what I got from my faith and the answer that I found coming from my lips was “hope”. When I got home from my grilling, I began to think further about this and realised what an amazing thing it is to have hope that springs from faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is especially true when things go wrong and seem to fall apart before our eyes. We find ourselves asking God questions and wondering why things are as they are. It was interesting to me that these eight-year-old minds were wrestling with questions such as why is there war and how can God allow such suffering in the world. Perhaps, as never before, our children are exposed to a barrage of images and media input that forces them to engage early in life with the social realities of war and human suffering.

So, what difference can faith make in a world of trouble and turmoil? Part of the answer to that question is that faith brings hope even in the most desperate of life’s situations. How is it, that a believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ can rejoice and be at peace on their deathbed? How can a person of deep faith live in faith and hope when all that we consider worthwhile in life has been stripped away?

Only God can do this. Only the Lord of hosts can bring hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless and faith to the faithless.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo and Area Dean of Shoreham.

October 2022 – All Change

All Change

There is quite a bit of change taking place in the diocese of Rochester of which our church is a part. The major change is that by the time this edition of the Parish Notes comes out there will be a new bishop of Rochester.

The new Bishop is the Rt Reverend Jonathan Gibbs who was formally the Bishop of Huddersfield in the Diocese of Leeds and is also the Lead Bishop in charge of safeguarding in the Church of England.

The Diocese of Rochester serves a population of 1.3 million people, covering 215 parishes across Medway, north and west Kent, as well as the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

Responding to his appointment Bishop Jonathan said:
“I am delighted to have been announced as the new Bishop of Rochester. My wife Toni and I are so excited about the prospect of moving to this wonderful Diocese. 

For us, Rochester will be a new place to discover and we’re so looking forward to getting to know the people of our churches and our communities, and to working together with them as we encourage God’s kingdom to grow in this wonderfully varied and rich place.

We are very conscious of the diversity of the communities that we serve, from urban and suburban to profoundly rural, and I am looking forward to the opportunity of exploring all these different places and to sharing in the journey with the people here of growing God’s Church, of serving the communities, and of proclaiming the good news of Christ to the people whom we seek to love and to serve in Jesus’s name.”

We will be praying for Bishop Jonathan as he takes up this significant responsibility in this time of significant change in and beyond the Church.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo and Area Dean of Shoreham.