Services at Christmas 2022

  • Sunday 18th Dec – Christingle Service
    • St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch at 4:30pm

  • Friday 23rd DecLessons and Carols
    • St Andrew’s Church, Tain at 3:00pm (followed by seasonal refreshments)

  • Saturday 24th Dec – Christmas ‘Midnight’ Services
    • St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch at 7:30pm and
    • St Andrews, Tain, at 9:00pm.

  • Sunday 25th DecChristmas Day Services
    • St Maelrubha’s, Lairg at 8:30am,
    • St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch at 10:30am and
    • St Andrews, Tain at 10:30am.

  • Wednesday 28th Dec – The Holy Innocents
    • St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch at 10:30am

  • Thursday 29th Dec – Christmas Service
    • Christmas Service at St Columba’s, Brora at 12 Noon (followed by food and fellowship)

All are welcome at any of our services.

Sermon for Advent 1A 2022

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

A new year in the Church’s calendar begins today, so Happy New Year. And what a New Year’s Eve party there was the night before last in St Andrew’s, in honour of our patron saint (whose day it is on Wednesday). I heard that there was lots to eat and drink, quizzes, party pieces, a right old knees up.

We’ve now arrived at “Advent” which comes from a Latin word means ‘coming’. But whose coming are we talking about? Obviously we’re beginning to think about God coming as a human being among us, with us and like us, in the person of Jesus. But although the readings today do mention the coming of God, they don’t mention the coming of Christ at Christmas.  So we need to learn from that, that Advent isn’t just about Christmas, it’s rather more far-reaching than that.

In Advent there are in fact three comings of God. The first, is when Jesus, the Son of God came to be born in the stable at Bethlehem. But today we focus more on the final coming of Jesus at the end of the world. But there’s a further coming we need to be aware of, namely, when God enters our lives every day. Every single experience can be an opportunity to make engage with God. And we’re reminded of that day-to-day contact with God in our services and especially in the celebration of the sacraments, as today in our Eucharist.

The lovely first reading from Isaiah invites us to go with God. It says,

Come, let us go to the house of the God of Jacob” 

Isaiah 2:3

Remember that Jesus himself is the real Temple of God. And, because the Christian community is united with Him, doesn’t that make us a part of God’s Temple as well? To be God’s Temple in the world – a awesome responsibility. And so we go to him and with him

that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths”.

Isaiah 2:3

He’ll show us the paths – to follow in our lives, the way that will lead us to meet him on that last day and so that along the way we may lead others to that path, principally through the way that we live our lives.

The Second Reading and the Gospel emphasise the need for preparedness for that final coming of Jesus, whatever form it may take. The first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem also helps us to prepare for that final coming. These readings are a warning and we really need this warning. On the one hand, you probably don’t like to think too much about how or when you’ll leave this world. But it’s a fact.

Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said that there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. In today’s world there are many people who’re very afraid of death and who don’t want to talk or even think about it. Today’s readings don’t allow that.

Given the extent of the threats to our climate and our world from our reckless exploitation, I can’t help feeling that humanity in general is very like the people mentioned in today’s Gospel:

Before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing till the flood came and swept them all away

Matthew 24:38-39

People were doing very ordinary things. The things that we all do. But they were so busy doing them they failed to give any thought to where their lives were ultimately leading and what the goal of their life was, except perhaps an endless and often fruitless search for happiness – whatever that may mean. They were very busy, just like us. Maybe they were very successful, maybe they made a lot of money, maybe they had wonderful marriages, and lots of exciting experiences… But, they weren’t ready for God’s call at the end of their lives. The question is: how ready am I right now?

Maybe you think: “I don’t have to worry. At my check-up the other day the doctor said I have the heart of a teenager.” (I wish) But how many teenagers end up as statistics in the death toll on our roads every year, or committing suicide? Maybe for them, death is something that happens to other people, to old and sick people, though the Climate Change protests suggest that it’s the teenagers who’re the ones taking notice.

We live and work for today, for tomorrow, for next month, for next year, for our future, for our children’s future… But what about our real future in eternity? Our future with God?

So today’s Gospel says,

Of two men in the fields, one is taken, one is left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.

Matthew 24:40-41

This could mean that one is taken away by a natural or personal disaster (an earthquake or a heart attack) and the other left untouched. Or it could mean that God takes one away to himself and abandons the other. In either event, the meaning’s the same. Two men, two women who appear to be the same, doing the same thing. But there’s an important difference. One’s prepared and the other isn’t.

The trouble is we don’t know the hour or the day when the Lord will come.

If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into

Matthew 24:43

And, in many ways, that’s a blessing. On the one hand, if we did know, just imagine the anxiety of knowing what the time and the day, on the other hand, imagine the temptation to let our lives go completely to pot knowing that we could straighten everything out at the last minute. So it’s a question of always being ready.

Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”.

Paraphrase of Romans 13:11

The obvious question is, How do I prepare? St Paul writing to the Roman’s has some advice.

Let us give up all the things we tend to do under cover of darkness and live decently as people do in the daytime.” 

Paraphrase of Romans 13:13

Are there dark areas in all of our lives? Things we do, things we say, things we think, indulging in self-centred behaviour; things which we wouldn’t like other people to know about because they do harm to us or to others.

Instead, we need to develop our relations with God and with our brothers and sisters based on a caring and unconditional love for all. That of course includes future generations and those living in areas of the world threatened by the Climate Change going on as a result of excessive consumption. We need to learn how to find God, to find Jesus in every person, in every experience. We need to respect every person as the image of God. We’re to love our neighbours as ourselves, to love everyone just as Jesus loved us.

If, in our words and actions, our daily lives are full of the spirit of Jesus, then we’ve prepared. We don’t need to be anxious about the future or what’ll happen to us. Concentrate on today, on the present hour, the present situation and respond to it in truth and love and the future will take care of itself. Then we don’t have to fear no matter when Jesus makes his final call. Because we’d know he’s was going to say:

Come, my friend. I want to call you now; I want to share with you my life that never ends.

And we’d respond:

Yes, Lord, I am ready. I’ve been waiting for you all this time.

It’d be an encounter, not of strangers, but of two old friends.  

Amen.

The Season of Not-Knowing?

Are you someone who when you’re reading a book, tends to skip to the end to see what happens rather than sticking with the hero through thick and thin. When Andrew and Daniel were young, on long journeys they’d start asking if we were nearly there yet, before we were a couple of miles from home.

Part of the problem is a failure to be content with now. How much of your time do you spend thinking about the past? How much time do you spend worrying about or anticipating the future? How much time does that leave for living in the present?

The spiritual writer Anthony de Mello suggested in his writings that most of us spend far too much time anywhere but in the present. In Advent it’s so easy to think about Christmases past or to have already arrived at Christmas to come. C. S. Lewis wrote a story called “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus” about a land in which there are two festivals that overlap by just one day.

The first festival is called Exmas and for fifty days the people prepare for it, buying and sending cards and gifts, decorating trees and preparing food

But when the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens being exhausted with the preparation, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper become intoxicated.”

The other festival, called Crissmas, starts on the day that Exmas finishes. But those who keep Crissmas, do the opposite, they

rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.

and then celebrate for several weeks afterwards.

For me Advent is about waiting for the unexpected. It’s a shame to miss all that by skipping ahead to what we think we know happens at the end of the season, on 25th December. To fail to engage with the now part of the story day by day and week by week. To fail to really listen to and reflect on the now part of the story. To have already moved on to the next part, because we know what happens next and it’s more exciting, more interesting, or perhaps more comforting.

This Advent how about really living in the present? Resisting that strong temptation to skip ahead, Enjoy the anticipation. Enjoy the state of not-knowing, because, if you enter into it, almost anything could happen. Enjoy the possibility that something truly amazing might come to pass. That God might just do something in your life that you didn’t expect, and that His coming into the world – your world – might mean that things are never the same again.

Blessings

James

Tain Carol Service – 23rd December 2022

A Service of Lessons and Carols

for Christmas

 St. Andrew’s Scottish Episcopal Church

Glebe Crescent, Tain

FRIDAY 23rd December

3pm

Followed by Mulled Wine, mince pies & other seasonal refreshments

EVERYONE WELCOME

‘Anglican’ Christianity: A four-part series in Advent 2022

Richard Hooker

What does it mean to be an ‘Anglican’ Christian? 

Over 40 Churches around the globe, consisting of no less than 85 million people, identify themselves as ‘Anglican’. Yet, Anglicans are divided among themselves in terms of doctrine and practice as demonstrated in the most recent Lambeth Conference (Summer 2022). This Series looks to four staples that Anglicans have classically identified as the bases of their belief and behaviour to highlight harmony rather than discord.

The Series will be offered on the Mondays of Advent 2022 at 7pm (GMT) in four 30-minute webinars, each of which will be posted on YouTube. The Series is meant to be a resource for Anglicans/Episcopalians to use creatively during the Season of Advent, for example as a refresher course for individuals or a conversation starter for church groups, with discussion questions at the end of each webinar.

  1. Holy Scripture: ‘all things necessary to salvation’ and the rule of faith (Monday 28 November)
  2. The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds: symbols and statements of faith (Monday 5 December)
  3. The Dominical Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Monday 12 December)
  4. The historic Episcopate: a universal and locally adopted means of unity (Monday 19 December)

Presenter: Revd Dr Michael Hull, Director of Studies and Tutor, Scottish Episcopal Institute, Edinburgh.

Time: 7pm to 7.30pm (GMT) on Monday evenings in Advent 2022.

Registration is free. All are welcome. Register is here.

We did Remember

In Flanders Fields

BY JOHN MCCRAE

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Advent Study – the Book of Amos

The topic of our Advent Study year is “The Book of the Prophet Amos”.

There is clearly much for us to reflect on in this Book, which is well worth reading even if you don’t make it along to the study group sessions.

Amos, a shepherd and a farmer, found himself recruited by God to be his prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, though his message extends to other nations, including the southern kingdom of Judah. Amos saw a society and a religion on its last legs, but nobody else did.

Standards in Amos’ society had declined. Authority and the rule of law were despised, national leadership, while revelling in the publicity and privilege of position and quick to score debating- points, wasn’t facing up to the real issues and standards of public morality were at a low ebb.

Affluence, exploitation and profit were the main motivators of those in power. The rich were affluent enough to have multiple houses, while the poor and defenceless were shamelessly exploited or simply ignored.

Religion at the time adored what was traditional, sacrifices were meticulously offered, the musical side of worship was keenly studied but religious observance had become a self-justifying enterprise, self-pleasing and abhorrent to God.

The state of Amos’ society provide the context for his ministry and also invites us to considering that he might have something to say to us today as there are undoubtedly parallels between Amos’ society and our own. 

Groups start in the week beginning 25th November. 

There will be one session after the midweek service in St Finnbarr’s
at 11am on Wednesday mornings 30th Nov and 7th and 14th Dec

A second session will be held after the midweek service in St Andrew’s hall
at 7pm on Thursday evenings 1st, 8th and 15th Dec.

All are most welcome whether or not they’re members of any of our congregations.

We Will Remember Them

So you were David’s father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.

Ewart Alan Mackintosh

Services on Remembrance Sunday

Our Service Times vary a little from usual on Remembrance Sunday:

Dornoch – there is a parade from Cathedral Square at 10:30, followed by a service and Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial. St Finnbarr’s service will therefore start at approximately 11:30am.

Tain – The service at St Andrew’s will start promptly at 10:50 with an Act of Remembrance and two minute silence at 11am, followed by the usual Eucharist. James will lead prayers at the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tain Collegiate Church at 12:15pm.

Lairg – There will be a service at the War Memorial at 10:45am, followed by a Church of Scotland service in the Parish Church.

Brora – There will be a Service of Remembrance at St Columba’s at 4pm.