Sunday 11th December, 2011

The refreshing power of the Sabbath

Being Sunday, the main focus of today was on visits to St. Mary's.

Both Sue and I were feeling much better, so we decided to go to church twice.

In the morning, there was the annual Christingle service. A Christingle is an orange decorated with a red ribbon to represent the death of Jesus Christ, four cocktail sticks with sweets on them, symbolising the 4 seasons and a candle symbolising Jesus Christ's message bringing light into the darkness of the world.

Children are presented with a Christingle in return for a (voluntary) donation. St. Mary's collects money for a children's home in Nakuru Kenya. When these services first started at St. Mary's, children processed down the aisle, carrying their Christingles, with candles lit. This was a very moving sight bringing tears to parents eyes, but Health and Safety concerns now mean that only a symbolic candle on an oversized Christinge at the front of the church is actually lit.

Each year, Sue and I make a donation to the St. Nicholas Children's Home in lieu of most of our Christmas cards.

One joy of going to Church is meeting face-to-face the people who have been praying for us and for whom we are praying.

From time to time, I have been mentioning the teenage girl with the persistent infection. We met her father, who was very upbeat. The end of her ordeal is now in sight. There is no longer any infection and she is getting much more mobile, although there is still an open wound that needs to heal. She has a short-term objective .. to be comfortable enough to sit down with her family for Christmas lunch, so that is now our focus for prayer.

Sue and I have now settled into a pattern which involves a daily joint prayer time, for the first time in our lives. We usually start the time by reading, rather than singing, the words of familiar songs and hymns. We are amazed at the beauty of the some of the words, which we really have never thought about properly.

Today, we looked at a very old hymn. originally written in German in the early 1600s and translated into English in the mid 19th century. The words exactly capture the magnificence of God and how he cares for people who believe in him:

Now thank we all out God, with hearts, and hands, and voices;
who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers' arms, hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever-joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in his Grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son, and Him who reigns with Them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

 By contrast, the first song that we sung in the evening service was written as recently as 1999 by Stuart Townend, yet captures in 4 succinct verses the basis of the Christian Faith:

From the squalor of a borrowed stable, by the Spirit and a virgin's faith;
to the anguish and the shame of scandal came the Saviour of the human race!
But the skies were filled with the praise of heav'n, shepherds listen as the angels tell
of the Gift of God come down to man at the dawning of Immanuel ^

King of heaven now the friend of sinners, humble servant in the Father's hands,
filled with power and the Holy Spirit, filled with mercy for the broken man.
Yes, He walked my road and He felt my pain, joys an sorrows that I know so well;
yet His righteous steps give me hope again - I will follow Immanuel!

Through the kisses of a friend's betrayal, He was liften on a cruel cross;
He was punished for a world's transgressions, He was suffering to save theost.
He fights for breath, He fights for me, loosing sinners from the claims of hell;
and with a shout our souls are free - death defeated by Immunuel!

Now he 's standing in the place of honour, crowned with glory on the highest throne
interceding for His own beloved till His father calls to bring them home!
Then the skies will part as the trumpet sounds Hope of heaven or the fear of hell;
But the Bride will run to her Lover's arms, giving glory to Immanuel!

 ^ "God with us" .. referring to Jesus' time on earth.

I finished the day very tired, but spiritually refreshed.