3 December 2013
Originating from Germany, like many Christmas customs, the christingle is an orange with a candle inserted in the top, to symbolise Jesus as the light of the world. Children at the service on Sunday will each be given one. ‘We’ll light the candles, and then put out the ceiling lights,’ said the Reverend Michael Brierley, priest-in-charge of Tavistock, ‘and it’s a wonderfully moving moment for old and young alike, to see the lights of these candles flickering in the dusk. It’s a way of preparing for Jesus’s coming at Christmas, just like Advent calendars - a sign that the light of Jesus cannot be put out by the darkness of the world. It’s a very special service indeed, and supports the Children’s Society, which does such important work with children who are impoverished or neglected.’
The christingles are adorned with sweets to represent the fruits of the earth; and the service will feature special Christingle carols and prayers. It will conclude with a tea in the church, to which all are extremely welcome.
The service begins at 4 pm, and people of all ages are warmly invited.
For further information, contact the Reverend Michael Brierley on 01822 617432.
1 December 2013
I couldn’t help noticing the title of a book that I once saw somebody reading: And the Ass saw the Angel. Those of you familiar with the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible will recognise that it is a quote from Numbers 22:23. It prompted me to read the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-24.
I can’t pretend to understand the whole of that puzzling story, but it stimulated a few thoughts in my mind. Balaam is headed for a rendezvous and task that God had previously forbidden him to take on. Let the AV tell the rest of this part of the story:
Balaam was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” And Balaam said unto the ass, “Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.” And the ass said unto Balaam, “Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” And he said, “Nay.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
And the ass saw the angel.That book title and story reminded me of how often I have been slow to catch on to what God is up to or what he wants to say to me. It is often from very humble places that God has got through to me! As I grow older I hope that I am a little wiser and less overconfident than when I first began my ministry! It pays to listen to the ‘asses’ rather than become one oneself! In the words of the late Denis Thatcher: Do keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and remove all doubt! However, it is the listening rather than the silence that is the key ingredient in the growth of wisdom.
Over the next few weeks we will probably be reminded of another “ass” which often features in pictures or retellings of the Christmas story, although it doesn’t actually get mentioned in the Gospel accounts. As one well known carol proclaims: Ox and ass before him bow and he is in a manger now. The ox and the ass were added to the story by a much later “gospel” which was never accepted by the church as a reliable account of the life of Jesus. It said the following: Mary … placed the child in the stall, and the ox and the ass adored Him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Isaiah the prophet, saying: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib (a quote from Isa.1:3). Whatever its historical basis, this “ass”, like that of Balaam, sees the unseen. It recognises in the baby in the manger what many people overlooked then and still overlook today (read the Christmas Day Gospel: John 1:1-14, especially 9-14).
Let us pray that in this Advent and Christmastide we and others will recognise the God who has come among us and hear the words he speaks to each one of us.
May God bless you all.