Tuesday, 17 December 2013

West Hendon Pre school nativity

The children put on an amazing nativity to a full church

The Second Part of Advent

Today we enter the second part of Advent, preparing more urgently to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas.

During the next seven days, the Church's prayer focuses on the longing of God's people for the promised Kingdom, and on the hope of all people of good will for a world of justice and peace. We enter into the often tragic reality of the world, but we do so on the basis of hope: "Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel".

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Gaudete Sunday - Rejoice!

Today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, is sometimes known as Gaudete, or rejoicing Sunday.

It has a more relaxed feel than the other Sundays in Advent. In some places rose coloured vestments are worn, and we ourselves lit the rose coloured candle on our Advent wreath.

Advent is a time for rejoicing - not for a superficial happiness, but for a fundamental joy that sustains us through the difficult times in life. As Christians, we know that history is in God's hands, that Christ will return and fulfil the promises of his Kingdom. Our joy is the joy of people who know that they are loved, and that their Beloved will not abandon then.

So, rejoice!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Nativity play at Colindale primary school

120 children from year 1 at Colindale primary school retell the Christmas story. Clearly new research has uncovered lost sources that st Matthew and st Luke were not aware of, for example "the grumpy sheep"-brilliant 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

As we continue celebrating Advent, inevitably our thoughts and prayers this morning also focused on Nelson Mandela, praying that he might come to share forever in the life of God our liberator.

It is very interesting to see how the media and various public figures have reacted to Mandela's death. There has been a lot of talk about Mandela's commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation. And that was undoubtedly part of his legacy, and one which as Christians we celebrate. But Mandela realised, in a way I am not convinced that all his obiturists do, that genuine forgiveness is hard won. Forgiveness is not cheap; rather for him it occurred on the other side of a life involving taking sides against injustice, suffering, persecution, struggle, and victory. In the same way, of course, the forgiveness we all need comes to us through a life, through the blood of the Cross, and through the triumph of the empty tomb. There is nothing glib here, nothing that allows us to cover up injustice, or the need to oppose it, with premature appeals to forgiveness. The prophet Jeremiah denounces those who "cry 'peace, peace' when there is no peace".

It is the less comfortable, more confrontational side to Mandela in which I am interested. In standing up for justice in the face of power exercised for injustice, he echoes the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament. The prophets were not - as we sometimes are in danger of thinking - holy fortune tellers. Rather, they dealt solidly and squarely with the here-and-now of the real world, telling - often quite bluntly - God's people, especially their rulers, when they were falling away from their relationship with God by damaging the poor and the oppressed.

The Church - and that means all of us - needs to continue this prophetic work in our own day. It is part of what we have been baptised to do.

But nor should we get too comfortable, spending all of our time pointing out wrong doing in others (however necessary that might be when those others have the power to oppress and exploit) without ever turning our critical attention on ourselves. In today's gospel one of the central characters of Advent, the great prophet St John the Baptist, turns on some of God's People, the Sadduccees and Pharisees, calling them a 'brood of vipers' and warning them not to appeal to their special status as God's People. Because, after all, God doesn't need them. God could make new children for Abraham out of stone. They need to repent.

And what about us? It is no good us sitting smugly and imagining that as the Church we are somehow privileged. God no more needs us than he needed the Pharisees and Sadduccees. How are we failing to live God's children? How are we complicit in injustice and oppression? What are the hypocrisies of which we need to repent? Those questions force themselves upon us during Advent and we should each of us spend time thinking about them, and then turn back to the Lord who wants to forgive us.

Drop down, ye heavens from above; and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent Sunday - some practical suggestions for a Holy Advent

So what things can we do in Advent to help us watch for the presence of God in our lives?

Fr Tony shared some ideas for this Advent to keep Christ in the middle of our homes and families and at the front of our minds every day, making it a daily habit, during Advent:

Ø Lighting an Advent candle – or any candle for that matter – and burning it gradually every day during Advent – perhaps for 5 minutes or during a meal. The light of the living flame of the candle reminding us of the light of Christ.

Ø Opening the doors of an Advent calendar every day leading up to Christmas Day can be another habit, perhaps with a short time for prayer, reminds us we are keeping close to God in Advent

Ø Set up your Christmas Crib with an empty manger – as a sign that during Advent we are awaiting the coming of the Lord – with the infant Jesus being placed in the manger after Midnight Mass on Christmas morning.

Ø Find moments for prayer during the day – perhaps going for a short walk or using your time on the tube or bus as a time of prayer, trying to be aware of God around us.

Ø Or get into the habit at the end of each day of spending 3 minutes prayerfully reflecting on the day that is passing – giving thanks for the gift of life; thinking about when in the day you felt that God was most close to you and asking God to show you those situations when you were not living as God wants.

A few ideas for Advent – you don’t need to do them all of course! – but I would encourage you to try something – to do something different for Advent – that becomes a daily habit and a reminder of God with you.

Kilimanjaro in review

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for climbing kilimanjaro in Tanzania in November. It was a truly unforgettable experience - deeply terrifying at times, wonderfully amazing at others and in all of those days a deep thanks to God.
Here are some images
all this for five of us! all carried by the  porters up the mountain

our camp above the clouds on the way up
Kilimanjaro from the lowlands - snow was added during our climb

Mawenzi  after a night of snow and hail
View of Kilimanjaro after some snow the day before we assaulted the summit 

Yes this small tent is what you think it is - a room with a view

protea in the wild
It took a great deal longer to go up than come down!
Vegetation changes according to the hight of the mountain

our amazing porters and guides

Pilgrim through this barren Land....

taking in the view

At the summit with Ernest the SMSJ school bear 

All this raises money for the BLMF - too cold for the diocesan tee-shirt

Kilimanjaro orchid

Mighty Mawenzi
coming down through the rain forest on the last day