Tag Archives: Bethlehem

20 December, Simon says II: In her.

She said those words, ‘Thy will be done’.

In her God’s gracious will had won.

Simon’s couplet sent me to this painting from Plowden Catholic Church in Shropshire. Mary seems to be having a moment of weariness, such as any parent will have undergone, and her Child seems anxious to comfort her.

Here they are, far from home in Egypt. Is Joseph his own boss, self employed as he had been in Nazareth, or is he out all day, at the beck and call of an employer, who might expect him to work extra at short notice? Does Mary sew or launder to help make ends meet in the big city?

At any point after she said those words, Mary’s life will have had problems. There were many more difficult years after the Holy Family returned to Galilee; if Mary thought her troubles were over, they had only just begun.

Most of her appearances in the Gospels are challenging. Even heartbreaking. She was not mentioned on the day the mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff near Nazareth, but she must have been there. And so it went on until Good Friday.

Thy will be done: giving birth in the stable probably also meant Mary didn’t have her little home-made layette with her. All her preparations apparently wasted; no doubt some other family  benefited, but she and Joseph had to start from scratch: that gold the Wise Man brought must have come in useful!

Thy will be done: it will be, but it probably won’t be done smoothly!

More from Simon soon!

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2 December: Reminder, Carol Service tomorrow

We recently posted a notice for the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury in aid of peace making in  Palestine.

This service will be tomorrow, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00, at St Paul’s Church, Canterbury CT1 1NH.

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

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28 November: the Amos Trust Carol Service in Canterbury

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off in Canterbury on Tuesday, 3 December, from 19:00 – 21:00 at St Paul’s Church, CT1 1NH

 

 

About this Event

Join us when the Amos Trust Bethlehem Christmas carol service tour stops off at St Paul’s in Canterbury, where we’ll be joined by Sami Awad from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem plus special guest performers.

Sami is a leading Palestinian peace activist who will be explaining why non-violence is at the heart of the Christmas message and of his family in Gaza. All proceeds will go to our 2019 Christmas appeal for our partners in Gaza and the home and peace-building work of Holy Land Trust.

Please join us.

The tour will be part of Ahlan Gaza, our new campaign that aims to share stories of life in the Gaza Strip. Join us and our very special guests as we turn our hearts and minds to Gaza to start the Christmas season.

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9 November: Across the Park

2nd Class Stamps x 50 (Self Adhesive Stamp Sheet) Christmas 20191st Class Stamps x 50 (Self Adhesive Stamp Sheet) Christmas 2019

It’s a short walk across the park to our sub post office at Saint Stephen’s, far preferable to the one in town, now that it has left its historic building for an upstairs counter in a stationery shop.

I came out with two books of Christmas stamps. The first week in November seems rather early for this, but they are rather lovely, and we do still post letters occasionally, so why not share something beautiful as well as the Christmas story?

We may even use these stamps well into next year; I know a nativity stamp on a letter always makes me pause before opening, whatever the time of year. I was feeling a little sheepish though, as I set out for home; it’s nowhere near Christmas yet in my mind’s eye, let alone my feelings. Not even Advent.

But then, crossing the road I nearly tripped over a lap dog, dressed in a Santa costume despite its ample fur coat. 1,000 times NO! Let the dog be a dog! Let Christmas be Christmas! Of course the animals, including the shepherds’ dog, belong in the story, the next chapter of the Creation story, and of course we should treasure and care for animals in our care, but a dog is a dog, a furry animal, not a living soft toy!

May the star and your angel lead you through Advent to Bethlehem and the manger!

patrixbourne.nativity.window.small

Of course the dog came with the shepherds to see baby Jesus!  Patrixbourne Church, Kent.

 

 

 

 

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New Year’s Day, 2018. Father Andrew at Christmas IX: Through Angel’s Eyes

angel.astonishedI think Angels are pretty scary aliens – just go back and read Sister Johanna’s posts about Zechariah’s experience! When we look Through Angel’s Eyes we may wonder who are the aliens – the Angels or us?

The winter night knows many a star,
But the Angels have found one brighter far
Than any that ever has shone before;
They float and fall through the silent snow
Like birds of God, to settle below;
To find our earth the Angels go.

A poor little planet, a poor little town,
A poor little cradle, not lined with down,
A particular absence of all renown;
Angels must be peculiar things,
Who float and fall with wheeling wings
To seek in such for the King of kings.

If we were heaven-taught we should know
That what we think high God might yet think low,
And straight to Bethlehem singing go;
For this earth of ours is still the Star
Whither the Angels flew from far,
Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.

More bright than the star that Wisdom led,
To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed,
Where the little Christ once laid His head;
And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same
As when to Bethlehem once they came,
To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: Star of Wonder?

venus-487x640

Last Christmas we saw one bright star in the sky -but it was far more to the West than the East – so it most certainly was not the Star of Bethlehem! 

In fact it was not even a star, but our planetary neighbour, Venus.

But there she was, a perfectly good reminder of the Babe of Bethlehem. Really though, reminding people of God is our job:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

No-one can prepare the way of the Lord without light, so let’s get on quietly with those good works that our daily lives demand, and hope that people will see through the imperfect beings that we are to the Good One whose grace sustains us. After all, Venus shines with a reflected light, not her own, and that’s exactly what is asked of her.

And let’s look up to the stars – at least when the cloud cover allows – and just wonder.

MMB.

 

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5 January: On the way and already there.

 

Saint Francis is known for his Christmas Crib, among many other things. All sorts of additions have been made to the Nativity scene since then, often reflecting the way of life around where a crib is set.

Our family crib too has extras for our delight. The West Highland Terrier is a rescue dog; he has attached himself to the Magi on the way to the stable of Bethlehem in our living room, where he was found wedged under the skirting when the floor was sanded and polished.

As for the little black cat who has taken up residence in the stable already, making friends with the gentle cow: she is another foundling. When our daughters were little I would bring home these tiny toy animals, each in its own tiny bag from a tiny shop in Broadstairs; unwrapping them on Friday evening started the weekend. There was delight when this one was unearthed in the garden; she was gone but not forgotten. In gratitude for those happy days, she will sit in the stable for years to come.

We are on the way to meet the Lord, but we may be surprised to see who is ready to greet us when we get there!

MMB.

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Star of Wonder

comet-hale-bopp

Did you ever wonder why Herod did not notice the Star of Bethlehem? Me neither, but perhaps we ought to have done! Enjoy a little science with your Christmas this year: even if you are not among the astro-nerds!

Christopher M. Graney suggests the Magi were astro-nerds; I wonder how long before that expression appears in  a translation of Matthew chapter 2?

Happy Christmas!

MMB

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Stars of Wonder

comet-hale-bopp

Eleven times in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles the scholars record comets in the sky – including the year 1066, when it was interpreted as signalling the Norman invasion. Small wonder that many people have tried to establish that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet, and that the appearance of one or other comet around 1AD could help date Jesus’ birth more accurately.

We’ll not go there!

But the Vatican Observatory website tells us that at least three comets will be visible, perhaps to the naked eye as well as telescopes, during 2017 -2018. they may be giant snowballs rather than stars, but are stars of wonder to most of us. I’m hoping to see at least one of them. Where are the dark skies round here? Not an easy question to answer.

We need not fear the darkness of night for

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.             Isaiah 9.2

This comet I did see! Hale Bopp, photographed by NASA.

MMB

 

 

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Light I: I offer you a part myself with this burning candle.

candle

Lord, may this candle, which I now inflame,

Be a light through which you enlighten me in all my difficulties and decisions.

May it be a flame by which you burn away my pride, my egoism and every impurity within me; a flame through which you warm my heart and teach me to love.

Lord, I cannot stay long in your Church, but I wish to offer you a part of myself, which will remain here with this burning candle.

Help me to continue my prayer in the deeds and words of this day.

Lord, a candle stands before me.

It burns restlessly, sometimes with a small, sometimes with a larger flame.

Lord, I too am often restless.

Let me find rest in you.

It gives me light and warmth; Lord, let me, too, be light for the world.

It burns away and consumes itself in its service.

Lord, often I have only an eye to my own interests.

Let me be a servant to others.

This candle can be used to light other candles.

Lord, let me become an example for others.

 

Candles themselves cannot pray, of course, but they can help us to pray.

Candles have various meanings in people’s lives.

Each candle is in some way a reflection of that light

Which came into the darkness of our world in Bethlehem.

A candle also reminds us of Baptism, the beginning of our way with Christ

And the call to life, to eternal life.

May you discover more and more the meaning which light has in your life.

 

Peter Smith MAfr.

(Peter Smith is a Missionary of Africa, at present working to welcome people to the Basilica of St Anne, Jerusalem.  This prayer can be found here in the May 2016 edition of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) Magazine.)

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