The missing myrrh

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’

We are transferring Epiphany (6th January) to this Sunday 3rd January so that more people can benefit from the great feast of discovery. The readings for Sunday provide a comparative glance between the poetry of Isaiah’s prophecy and the reportage of the evangelist, Matthew.

One of the most profound differences of the two accounts is that Isaiah omits the gift of myrrh from the treasury of the camel train. The point here is that homage is being made to a king and the rightful gifts of a king include gold – which is of great material value – and frankincense which has much spiritual or liturgical value. Jesus, the material and spiritual king, human and divine, is the host and recipient of the pilgrims’ quest. However, in Matthew’s account, we learn that the Magi also bring the spiced-oil called myrrh. This is the ointment which is ceremoniously applied to the recently departed. This gift proves Jesus’ kingly status, the king who leads his people from death to life into a new kingdom.

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’  You are being called to share all the gifts of the kingdom, including the myrrh. In other words, we are called to live in the pain, injustice and hardship which is so very real and present in this world at this time. How much gold are we carrying? Do we have any room for the myrrh which is needed to give people dignity and a sign of resurrection life to come?  Experiencing the pain, hurt and hardship in others is the first step.  Jesus then says, walk on, talk with me, come and see how I will make all things new.

Matthew recorded the delivery of these gifts and, in particular, the Magi’s homage to Jesus in the form of myrrh. Here we understand the nature of their epiphany, the recognition of the King of kings. At the heart of the Christmas story is the personal act of sacrifice and love.

“Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek: may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Post Communion prayer for Epiphany from Common Worship

We are in Tier 4 but I would like to encourage you to continue to share the life of faith with us at St Michael’s, Summertown whether physically attending public worship or through our Facebook or YouTube streaming.

Sunday services: 8am Holy Eucharist; 10am Parish Eucharist (with children’s church); 6.30pm Taizé Prayer.

Coffee after Church – if you would like to join up on Zoom with a chat with some familiar faces, please do so. Here is the invitation: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82384567362?pwd=NXF0YjFnUkk2VGZKZ09DOWNQM0REQT09
Time: Jan 3rd, 2021 at 11:30am.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels!

Gavin

Called out of our comfort zone

Christmas, the birth of God in human form, is not a scene from a card or a chocolate box. Christmas asks us questions and this year, the questions are more uncomfortable, more discerning.

Whatever your personal circumstances are this Christmas, you are not alone! Many of us have had to make deep personal sacrifices in order that our friends and families stay safe. My mother, who is 90 and without the vaccine, will be spending her first Christmas alone. It seems that this Christmas will be celebrated at huge personal cost to many of us.

This level of disruption and unsettlement is, however, how the Christmas story plays out. Due to forces outside of their control, Mary and Joseph are called out of their comfort and family joy by the Roman Census. We know the events surrounding the birth of Jesus – they seek out a shelter, they are eventually joined by strangers and animals. After the birth they have to seek asylum in Egypt. Christmas, the birth of God in human form, is not a scene from a card or a chocolate box. Christmas asks us questions and this year, the questions are more uncomfortable, more discerning.

As we reflect upon 2020 and the virus named after 2019, we realise that in 2021 our hope is founded. But I think the perspective of many of us has changed. Will we ever take for granted the embrace of a loved one, the hug of a grandparent, the sign of peace in church (the holy kiss). So, we should question our intent to give thanks for those whom we love, to reconcile ourselves to those who are difficult to love, to pray for the lost and the lonely.

I am deeply distressed that we cannot freely gather together and celebrate the birth of Christ. I dislike having to ask people to ‘book’ their places in church. I do not like having to request people to keep their distance and leave church promptly. All of these unfortunate things are necessary. I hope that St Michael’s, Summertown has been able to engage with you this Advent and into the twelve days of the Christmas season? We have posted videos, launched a calendar, extracted sermons, recorded services, displayed the Christmas tree, crib and angels in the Threshold. Please take time and have a look at our website https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk for more information. Some of the highlights are below.

For the children and young families

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prZ7dz6Erxk

The Christmas story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMU0ozNyARM&t=8s

CHRISTMAS DAY

We still have spaces for the 8am and 10am Eucharists on Christmas Day. Please email me, Gavin Knight at: vicar@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk to book a chair. We have enough space and are well prepared to invite people in safety. It would be good to see you. Remember, we are all called out of our comfort zone this Christmas.

OTHER NEWS

From our link parish in Taung, South Africa. Tumelo is a member of St Chad’s Church in Taung and visited in 2011.   

We are still protected under God’s wings. Things have changed in South Africa. We are having a 2nd corona surge. This time, it is so fast 10 000 people are infected daily in Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape are worse. 200 death daily. Scientist have identified a new corona virus just like in UK. The big problem is that youths don’t care and they are infecting the elders. I think the government doesn’t know what to do. We must just pray hard for this situation. We are attending church services and observing corona protocol. We did not arrange for carols but will be having service on Christmas Day at 8am.Early next year will be election of a new bishop. We are praying hard for the right person to serve His people. We are waiting for rain in the North West though other provinces are experiencing floods and severe thunder storm. My garden is doing very well this summer, we are have unions, green beans and spinach. We wish all the churches a Happy Festive season and are praying for you all.  Tumelo

From Summertown URC:

We have recently decided to revive our Spring and Autumn Lectures but now screened on zoom for the foreseeable future, until covid regulations allow otherwise. The first of these is now arranged for FRIDAY, 22nd JANUARY 2021, from 7 pm – 8 pm, when Michael Taylor, a former Director of Christian Aid, will speak on ‘THE STRANGER AT OUR GATES;  REFLECTIONS ON MIGRATION BY A NON-SPECIALIST.’ It will be necessary for you to register with her by e-mail on or before Monday, 18th January, please, at phyllwill@gmail.com

With my prayers, love and blessings for this Christmas to all of you,

Gavin

The 8 O’Clock

The 8 O’Clock Communion is an institution in the Anglican fold, offering a sanctuary of quietness and gentility.

There are many diverse practices within the Christian faith, of course there are! You may well expect there to be differences between traditions and denominations, less so, perhaps, between churches of the same institution. Anglican worship has a peculiarly wide-ranging character. In the city of Oxford, for example, a casual observer might stumble upon ecstatic hand waving, plainsong chants and all-age presentations all on the same Sunday!

Styles of worship may also vary in the same church from one service to another, catering for the different needs and demands(!) of worshippers over the years. The 8 O’Clock Communion is an institution in the Anglican fold, offering a sanctuary of quietness and gentility. The 8 O’Clock is traditionally traditional! The Book of Common Prayer has been a staple of this service and, more latterly, Common Worship in traditional language. No hymns are sung, the mass is said and the sermon is short. People are able to do their religion quickly and quietly without any fuss.

Today, the church has reached a life stage that some have described as ‘mission-shaped.’ This is a term that refers to the church becoming more outward-facing, involved in the community around it, going out to share the gospel. Initiatives have started to evolve which intend to bring faith to folk wherever they are at. This conjures up for me an image of a church on wheels – mobile, adaptable, exploratory, never still.

I would like to argue that there is still room for the stationary and sedate nature of an 8 O’clock in most parishes up and down the land. After the excitement and partying of Saturday night comes the Sunday morning certainty that God is present in the dawn of the sabbath day.

One thing is for certain, the Church of England would not be able to survive if it was supported by the 8 O’Clock congregations alone. Only two weeks ago, I was joined by a heavenly throng of just one mortal (but many other heavenly beings)! The early service is not well attended but it does serve an amazing purpose. It “brings to light the things hidden in darkness” (from 1 Corinthians 4). The 8 O’ Clock Eucharist is a jewel in the crown. It shines brightly and that light enables others through prayer, through silence and through the dignity of public worship to come to know God both early in the morning and throughout the centuries.

See you on Sunday… at the 8 O’ Clock, perhaps??

OTHER NEWS

PLEASE BOOK FOR CANDLELIGHT CAROLS AND THE CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICES! Email: vicar@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk We still have places available. Don’t miss out!

UPCOMING SERVICES

Different ways of viewing Midnight Mass

We are sorry to have to cancel Midnight Mass this year. We are wanting to protect our church family and keep the church as Covid-secure as possible. However, you will be able to view Midnight Mass on television or link in to the diocesan service. Just click this link: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19-2/livestream/video-on-demand/

The Crib Service

The knitted Posada figures will be on display in the Threshold of St Michael’s Church from this Sunday. You can also watch a recorded version of the Crib Service on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfkIx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg/videos from this Sunday.

Gavin

“I am the voice…”

Much grieving has taken place this week as the collective of world golfers* say goodbye to Peter Alliss, the voice of golf. Peter Alliss lived quite close to my parents house, in fact, he had an office along the road in Farnham. It was not uncommon to see his Rolls Royce trundle along the road with his unmistakable registration plate – 3putt! My growing-up years were governed by either watching sport or playing sport. School work was not allowed to get in the way of any sporting pursuit. The soundtrack to my young life was composed mainly of the great sports commentators. In fact, I remember Henry Longhurst being labelled as the voice of golf, long before his younger counterpart Peter Alliss replaced his clubs for a microphone.

So, let’s play the soundtrack. We will hear from John Arlott – remember his husky Hampshire lilt? Richie Benaud then became the accepted voice of leather on willow. From Wimbledon, we will hear from the remarkably phlegmatic Dan Maskell. And from the Scottish borders we will listen to the passion that is Bill McLaren. This elite group of observers and narrators would have been described at one point or another as the voice of their sport.

“Whatever else is going on in heaven, the sports coverage must be magnificent.”

The Telegraph, 8th December 2020

In Advent, we also hear some some commentary from the prophets of God such as Isaiah, as well as the fore-runner to Jesus, John the baptiser. The crowds asked, “Who are you?” and he replied, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” Our favoured commentators had a large and interested audience, perhaps even fanatical. But John’s voice was not amplified. It was a lone voice, speaking not to hoards of supporters but to a cynical crowd who distrusted him and distorted his claims.

Ultimately, John’s voice will endure beyond any of this age, this age of communication. What is it about this particular prophetic voice which speaks through the generations? In John, we have a man’s testimony which is so authentic and of God, that he is heard across wilderness lands and across times and seasons. When God speaks through his people, we cannot help but listen. This voice is God’s communication – using people to share the divine plan through vulnerability, awkwardness and faith.

God has given us a voice; it is a gift of communication. How will we use it? To taunt, to entertain, to teach, to curse, to encourage, to testify? Maybe we will use our voice to share something of the awakening of faith which Advent brings. Could we offer a word to share which makes possible the love of Christ in the world, even if it feels like we are speaking into a wilderness – what good might we occasion?

* I wonder what the collective noun for many golfers could be? Answers on a postcard!

OTHER NEWS

Food bank generosity

Thank you to all who shared their supplies with the Community Emergency Foodbank and the Cutteslowe Larder last week. Another wonderful display of compassion. Thank you!

Advent calendar

The daily windows are providing a great deal of interest, I’m so glad that it has struck a chord. You can find the calendar on the St Michael’s website homepage. I couldn’t resist taking this:

Waiting for the call

Christmas services

Preparing for Advent

We are busy trying to plan for Christmas without fully knowing what we will be allowed to do. But before Christmas (which starts on the 25th December – I couldn’t resist that) we make an Advent journey. Last week I appealed through this post for people to share a thought, word or image on the theme of “watching, waiting and wondering.” Unfortunately, I only received 3 responses!! The idea is that your creation will be used as a window in our virtual Advent calendar. I would love to have a large collection of material to share. It can be a photo or a work of art or a reading, anything that loosely fits the theme. We will then have a new window to open each day which will remind us that we are part of a wider community and hopefully will give us a lift this Advent. I look forward to receiving your input. If I don’t receive enough material, I will have to post selected lowlights of the Knight family albums old and new! 

The prospect of Advent, the season of the colour purple, signifies a new year – at least in terms of the Christian lectionary. For those interested in such things, we will be entering into Year B and the gospel writer who takes centre stage will be Mark. St Mark’s gospel is the shortest. He has a literary style which keeps the reader’s attention. He uses words like “immediately,” “and then…” his is a narrative that is full of speed and action. Mark’s storytelling is a controversial subject, particularly in the style of the ending of his gospel. (There are various endings deployed). Does  the short ending give us, Jesus’ followers today, the opportunity to live the resurrected life rather than read about it? Make up your own mind. Why not delve into a commentary. I recommend this slim and inexpensive book by three people that I have known in different aspects of my own ministry: James Woodward, Mark Pryce and Paula Gooder. The blurb says: 

“This book’s unique slant is that it asks readers to use their imagination ‘to bring the Gospel to life.’ It asks readers to visualize themselves in the scenes that Mark describes in order to see Mark’s Gospel in a fresh and exciting way.” 

From all good booksellers

That’s all from me! Remember to send me your Advent calendar contribution, many thanks!


Gavin