United Benefice of
St Mildred’s, Whippingham
St James’, East Cowes
20th December 2020 : 4th Sunday of Advent
WORSHIP IN THE ADVENT SEASON
It has been good to see so many of you back in church as we travel through Advent together. If you are as yet unable to rejoin us, please remember that the diocesan website www.portsmouth.anglican.org still has a direct link to parishes that are streaming live worship, while for those unable to access such resources this pewsheet continues to contain material for offering a “spiritual communion” at home. You must do whatever feels right and safe for you – though of course our church safety procedures are still firmly in place.
Services at Whippingham are now being shown on YouTube: you can catch recent worship via the following link:
Alternatively, search on Youtube for St Mildred’s Church and find all previous services.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:
Give thanks for: the ministry of Bishop Christopher and his wife Sally in this diocese
Pray for: our Archdeacons; Brexit arrangements; all who travel
PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:
Please pray for: Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Beryl; Ena Young; Brenda; Stuart; Andrew; Maureen & Gordon; Joy and Dave; Rosie and family; Barbara Blacklock; Hilda Bell; Paul & family; Emily; Lilly; Jenny and Mike Abbott; Gary; Oliver; Jenny; Ruth’s family; Gemma and her family; baby Ada; Robert Hall; Rita
Give thanks for: Samaritans; family and marriage guidance counsellors
PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:
COLLECT FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
God our redeemer,
who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
OLD TESTAMENT READING 2 Samuel 7 : 1-11, 16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ 3Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ 8Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.
GOSPEL READING Luke 1 : 26-38
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.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
This year has shown us very clearly that the best laid plans can and do go astray. In fact, one of the more stressful things about our situation seems to me to be that nobody can actually plan much any more, and for want of planning, we tend to cave in to depression. Planning events gives us hope, a light in dark places: I noticed it particularly when people started planning the few Christmas events we have been able to arrange – the carol service, the Christingle and of course the tree festival.
Well, some plans are always doomed to be taken over by events, and the same was true for Mary, who had no idea that God was going to hijack her life so drastically. Way before that, the same was true of King David, with his plans to build a spectacular house for God. God had other ideas, it seems. The thing is, our plans are often too small, too narrow, to fit God’s purposes. When David set his heart on providing a house for God, God‘s plan was for a home for all his people. He had to be reminded that God was in charge – God who had taken him away from just being a shepherd and made him a king. When Mary made room for God in her heart, she found she also had to make room for a baby in her womb, and any ideas she might have had about settling down to a respectable quiet life with Joseph were scuppered for ever.
God, it seems, doesn’t do “respectable”. The things that matter to us are less important to him. So all our planning has to be provisional. And we do well to discern what God is up to in our lives, both as a church and as individuals. No wonder Paul tells his church in Thessalonica to “pray constantly”. Without that rooting in prayer, we are likely to move in totally the wrong direction.
By “rooting in prayer” I mean far more than simply asking God to bless us and laying down what we think are our needs before him. The deepest prayer is simply to be still before God. On one level we already know this: that’s why people come and light a candle, or simply sit in a church to soak up the atmosphere, or look for him in the beauties of nature. Instinctively we know that that is prayer, even if we don’t say or think a single word. There was a cartoon recently that summed up the whole prayer situation: the picture was of a girl kneeling. The opening words in the speech bubble were “Dear God…” and after that there was nothing but scribble and crossings out. God doesn’t need our words necessarily: he needs our hearts.
And our hearts are very costly indeed if we are serious about giving them. Giving our hearts to God may well mean sacrificing something else – an obsession that has taken over our lives, a grievance against someone, a relationship that is heading the wrong way, or perhaps our status in a particular situation, our power to control people or events. It’s scary. Without God’s help, we probably couldn’t do it. And today, when we have so little control over our lives, we so much want to exercise our freedom to be in charge in some area to compensate. The road ahead looks so very uncharted. Why would we do this rash thing of handing ourselves over to God and giving him our hearts, which are already pretty fragile?
The answer is because we believe in a God who loves us and is in charge. This is the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome. King David was given the light of hope via the prophet Nathan: it was all going to be all right in the end. Mary too was given the reassurance that nothing is impossible with God, and that helped her to trust in his purposes. We too need to know that however messed up we might be, however fearful of the future, God has already gone ahead of us and knows how to take us on to wherever he wants us to go. Where we can only see a few steps at a time, God has a far bigger plan. That plan will be for our wellbeing and our healing.
Of course the one thing we aren’t very good at at all is waiting for God to act. It’s a bit like that prayer – “O God, give me patience – NOW!” But Advent teaches us that waiting in hope is part of our growing in faith. If all our prayers were instantly answered we would be in danger of seeing God as some sort of Santa Claus who existed only to satisfy our unreasonable demands. We would quickly become spoiled brats. Our relationship with God goes far deeper than that, and so a better prayer than “O God make this or that happen now” would be “O God, please give me the grace and faith to trust you in all things and know that you have heard my prayer.” Or, to put it more as our post communion prayer says, “…fill us your servants with your grace, that in all things we may embrace your holy will and rejoice in your salvation”.
INTERCESSIONS(Supplied by Robin Mainstone)
Our heavenly Father, as once again we prepare for Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and thought and prayer; that we may reflect upon the wonder of your love and allow the story of the Saviour’s birth to penetrate our hearts and minds. So may our joy be deeper, our worship more real, and our lives worthier of all that you have done for us through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we pray for your Church around the world especially in areas of conflict. We pray for Christopher our Bishop as he prepares for his new life in retirement, Susan our rector, Mike and Peter our assistant priests.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we pray for all nations around the world who are affected by this terrible coronavirus, We ask that comfort and support are given to families who have lost loved ones, and that leaders of all countries work together in distributing the vaccine so that all those at risk are offered some form of protection.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the well-being of our community and all those who will be working over the coming festive period, Doctors, Nurses, Police, Fire and rescue services, and all those whose work will keep them away from celebrating the Birth of our Lord, your Son, Jesus Christ.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we pray for people in special need, remembering all those on our prayer sheet………………..comfort and heal all those who suffer in body and mind; give them courage and hope in there troubles; and bring them the joy of your salvation.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we remember those who have recently died especially Beryl, who has accompanied our singing many times with her music in this Church…………….and those whose anniversaries fall around now, and those who have almost no one to remember them.
Hear us Lord as we remember those who have died in the faith of Christ. According to your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of all your saints, we commend ourselves and all Christian people to your unfailing love.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
PREPARING FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
In union, Lord, with the faithful at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the sure hope that I may always be united to you. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with all my being. Let nothing ever separate you from me. May I live and die in your love. Amen.
You might like to sit in silence for a while, then pray:
who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of the promised saviour:
fill us your servants with your grace,
that in all things we may embrace your holy will
and with her rejoice in your salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To conclude, simply rest quietly in God’s presence.
BISHOP’S RETIREMENT (Extract from the Diocesan website)
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster has announced that he is to retire as Bishop of Portsmouth.
Bishop Christopher, who is 67, had delayed his resignation to lead the Church of England’s Diocese of Portsmouth through the Covid pandemic. He will now step down as bishop in April 2021.
He made the announcement on the same day as his wife, the Canon Sally Davenport, told worshippers at Holy Trinity and St Columba Churches in Fareham that she was also to resign as their Team Rector. The couple will retire together and live in Somerset.
“It has been a privilege to serve as bishop in this diocese for over a decade,” he said. “Because we are a small diocese with a family feel, our clergy and lay people have been able to collaborate effectively and respond quickly to changing circumstances – as the past year has shown.
“Over the past 10 years, I have seen courage, generosity and resourcefulness as our congregations have faithfully shared God’s love, through prayer, worship and serving others. I look forward to working with those fellow disciples over the coming months to continue discovering what the post-Covid Church will look like as we renew our commitment to respond collaboratively in changing times.
“It may seem surprising that I should make this announcement just before Christmas, but the timing means that the period that the Diocese of Portsmouth will be without a diocesan bishop will be as short as possible.
“Thank you to all those who have prayed for us and worked alongside us over the past 10 years, in the churches and communities of south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Sally and I will be sorry to leave so many valued friends and colleagues.”
RIP BERYL HALL
We are saddened by the unexpected death of Beryl last week, following heart failure. Our thoughts are very much with Robert at this time. Please continue to give him the space he needs, although I am sure condolence cards would be welcome.
HOLY COMMUNION – NEW ARRANGEMENTS
We are now legally allowed to offer wine as well as bread at communion, provided this is done by intinction (dipping the bread into the wine, rather than drinking from the chalice). Please be patient as we experiment to find out what works best as the safest way to do this.
The boxes for Foodbank donations are in church and we invite you to drop in your donations during one of the times when you come to a service. Please be as generous as you can as the Foodbank expects a massive surge in customers this Christmas.
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO CANTUS VESPERI CHOIR
Warmest thanks are due to Charles Paterson and the Cantus Vesperi Choir for the carol service last week, which was much appreciated by all who were able to attend. The hope has been expressed that the choir will return next year for another musical offering. (By which time perhaps we will all be allowed to join in the singing!)
WHIPPINGHAM CHRISTMAS TREE FESTIVAL ENDS TODAY!
The Christmas Tree Festival has its final open session today as follows:
Sunday 20th: 1.00 – 3.00pm
Don’t miss it! Proceeds to the Salvation Army and church funds.
We are having a socially-distanced Christingle service at St James’ church TODAY at 4.00pm. There will be space for a maximum of 50 children with their parents. Thank you to everyone who has offered to provide the ingredients for the Christingles themselves. In the past, numbers have been nowhere near the theoretical maximum, and with travel not being permitted before 22nd, I do not anticipate a huge turnout. Rev Susan
Midnight Mass will be celebrated at both churches at 11.30pm.
There will be a service of Holy Communion on Christmas Day at Whippingham at 10.00am.
We do not know how many non-regular attenders will want to be there this year, and it is possible that numbers may be an issue. It will therefore be a case of “first come, first served” in order not to disadvantage non-regular worshippers.
**************IMPORTANT INFORMATION **************
There will be no church worship on Sunday 27th December as the Archbishops have kindly given clergy permission to suspend worship in order to prioritise their families in the narrow window of opportunity granted by the government. This also applies to retired clergy!
Our services will resume on 3rd January at the usual times. During the week between those two dates, Rev Susan is hoping to have some time off and would appreciate it if any pastoral enquiries could be handled by the church wardens and other clergy.