Rev Dave’s Christmas Message 2023

The last Sunday of the church calendar, before Advent begins, is known as Christ the King day. It is also known as ‘stir up’ Sunday, not because it is traditionally when the Christmas pudding is made, and everyone takes a stir, but because of the prayer that is said after communion on this Sunday;

‘Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’

A call to God to stir up the Spirit in the faithful to urge them on to good works and producing fruit for God’s kingdom. I sometimes wonder why at the end of the year we say this prayer, but perhaps it is obvious that at the end of a year we take stock, we look back, we reflect and we a push to go on into a new season. This is a prayer to urge the faithful to take stock and push on in the Spirit.

I was reminded at a recent home group that the season of Advent is a time to not actually look back, or even to look towards Christmas, but in fact Advent is to look forward, with joyful anticipation, to the return of our Saviour Jesus. The day when God’s kingdom will fully be restored, when there will be an end to war and injustice and God’s peace will reign eternal.

Advent should always brim with promise and hope. The long-expected Holy One is drawing near, bringing peace and righteousness. Advent promises a great reversal as well as the promise of all things new! It is foretold that the natural order of things will be overturned. The lion will dwell with the lamb. The desert will blossom and bloom. And there will be great joy!

Isaiah12:2-3 says ‘Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for God is my strength and my might; God has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’

Drawing water from the wells of salvation is such a lovely image. It is powerful! It is especially a great Advent image filled with promise and hope! What will that living water do for us? What thirsts will it quench? What wounds will it heal? How will the advent journey for each of us individually and collectively as a community of faith make real these hope filled images? In our holy imagination, especially in Advent, we watch and wait. We pray and hope for God’s great promised reversal. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. We look and long for justice, love, peace and joy to flourish as those wild myrtle bushes in the driest of deserts. Today our world is broken and lost, but some day … someday, in God’s own time, God will lead us to the wells of salvation, and there we will draw water and we, and our world, will be healed.

No matter your circumstance this Advent season please know that You matter. Know that God cares for you and walks with you through your joys and sorrows, through sickness and health. The journey is not yours to walk alone. May you feel God’s presence in your midst. Pray for God once again to stir your Spirit, to stir your soul!

As you read through this copy of the parish news you will find there are many suggestions as to how you can join in at St Anne’s and have your Spirit stirred. From Advent and Christmas services, to Alpha in the New Year, to our regular services and groups for all ages and for whatever stage of the journey you are on. You are warmly invited, you are welcome, come and share the Good News of Jesus with us.

Before I finish I must join our warden Sarah in saying a huge thank you to Sarah and Pat, to Carole, to all those who have contributed to the Parish News over the years, including past and current pupils from St Anne’s school, and to all those who have faithfully distributed the magazine around our community – thank you, thank you, thank you, you are all amazing. Parish News has been such a huge part of the life here at St Anne’s over the years and it will be strange to not have Sarah and Pat emailing us all every few weeks asking for items and thoughts for the day. But although this may be the final edition in this form, we are grateful that there are plans in the New Year to share news from St Anne’s in a different way. I suspect this may not really be quite the end of Parish News!

May you and your loved ones have the most blessed Christmas, overflowing with love and the power of God’s grace. May the peace that surpasses all understanding and the love that knows no bounds, be born to you again in the simple, yet miraculous birth of a baby who’s message continues to change individual lives and in turn the world.

Rev Dave