Monday, November 28, 2005

Advent arrives

Winter at last
The mild weather finally gave way to persistent cold. We woke up to 25mm of snow on Friday morning. A guaranteed instant return to childhood. I emailed my Swiss Pastor friend Valdo deep in the rural heartland of Canton of Vaud to tell him. “We had 25cm last night”, came back the reply. And apparently their roads were just as paralysed as ours, as snow was unexpected after the unseasonable mildness. During this week, however, St John’s central heating has refused to be coaxed into life, and the residual warmth in the stone has slowly ebbed away, leaving a flesh-numbing chill for the volunteers running the Card of Good Causes Shop and the Art Exhibition. The engineers came to fix the gas boiler equivalent of a spark plug failure, but to no avail. Rushed off their feet by call-outs due to the cold spell, they did not have the spare parts, which had to be ordered. We wait and shiver. Advent Sunday was a chilly nightmare.
Evening service was an Advent Carol celebration - well, for me that meant two Carol services. One at St John’s, then another at St Teilo’s. Mercifully, the choral music was different at each service, also some of the readings. Both were full of tranquil beauty and lots of candles lit in darkened churches. God in the darkness of waiting. That sums up a lot of life for me these days. Saturday evening, Gordon, my last uncle died aged 84, after living bravely with cancer for several years. That makes me the oldest male in our branch of the family to bear the Kimber surname. An uncertain honour and dignity.
Anyway, the whole evening was a fine pleasure, rather than a lengthy chore. Moreover, St Teilo’s heating is working, and I just about managed to thaw out before I got home.

Another 'tradition' re-assessed
The beginning of the new Christian year was given an unexpected fillip by an email from my colleague at the City United Reformed Church, Dr Tom Arthur. He was trying out on me a booklet of study material on the nature of prophecy, revisited in the light of contemporary New Testament Scholarship. It was aimed at some of the thinkers in his lively congregation, and made stimulating reading.
He started with an examination of Christmas liturgy of the Nine Lessons and Carols, made famous by King’s College Cambridge, reflecting how its presentation of scriptural lessons promoted one particular interpretation of the saving work of Jesus Christ, prevalent in the nineteenth century, which is but one of several interpretations which carry equal weight in ancient Christian tradition. He challenged his readers to look again at how the prophets understood God’s work in their own time, and how this related to the prophetic ministry of Jesus and his declaration of the kingdom of God.
His essay suggested to me that a good piece of practical work would be to propose a new set of readings for the Nine Lessons and Carols, to reflect a broader understanding of Christ’s work. So, I proposed this to him and he incorporated the idea into the version of the essay he published on his church’s website. It’s worth a read.
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