The message for our
Homebased Congregations in Leigh
Happy New Year to our homebased congregations spanning across the 3 Leigh churches. How was your Christmas? Did you enjoy Christmas Bake Off on the TV? If you could face the beauty and the bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors, what a treat to watch, To Walk Invisible, was, the BBC’s homage to The Bronte sisters. I’m re-reading Jane Eyre, with a whole new appreciation.
Spiritually, speaking with Christmas past, we move into the light filled season of Epiphany – meaning“manifestation”. The traditional observations begin with the celebration of the visit of wise men from the East. It then explores other ways in which Christ reveals himself to be the Son of God: the celebration of the baptism of Christ by John, when the voice from heaven declares Jesus to be God’s beloved Son; and Jesus’s first miracle, when he turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. The end of the season is marked by the Feast of the Presentation on the 2nd February. His parents, according to the Law of Israel, bring Jesus to the Temple where he is recognized by Anna and Simeon, who declares him to be ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people Israel.’
Anna is a widow of 84 and Simeon has been promised that he will not die until he has seen the Lord’s Christ. It’s a story where it’s the older people who get it and recognise Jesus for who and what he is and will become. They recognise the Christ Child and stand for those who have devoted their whole lives to watching and waiting for the presence of God.
So in terms of spiritual resources this month, I am offering you a poem by Kathleen Raine called Winter Paradise, which explores this idea of watching and waiting, or I suppose the technical word would be contemplating. You will see that it begins with a clear and positive statement about inhabiting older age. Instead of being seen as a constriction, it is a time away from so many timetables that is “free from time.” From this reflective space, the narrator watches the movement of clouds across the windy sky, the birds that gather and leaves left over from autumn – the manse garden is still full of those!
The scene is described as a “winter paradise,” referring not only to the state of the garden, but to a time of life and thoughtfulness that is only achieved in older life. The poem goes on to say that, “each blade of grass is signed with the mystery,” for me, acknowledging the benevolent presence of God, which is then expounded, as in a Psalm. The final line echoes Paul’s description of God as found in Acts 17: 28. God is “the one in whom we live and move and have our being.”
So having heard about it, here is the poem, which I hope you will enjoy and gain sustenance from.
Now I am old and free from time
How spacious life,
Unbeginning and unending sky where the wind blows
The ever moving clouds and clouds of starling on the wing,
Chaffinch and apple leaf across my lawn,
With its own birds and daises
And all the near and far that eye can see,
Each blade of grass signed with the mystery
Across whose face unchanging and everchanging pass
Summer and winter, day and night.
Great countenance of the unknown known
You have looked upon me all my days,
More loved that lover’s face,
More merciful than the heart, more wise
Than spoken word, unspoken theme
Simple as earth in whom we live and move.
May God bless you richly in 2017, and please remember your vital prayer ministry by praying for our young people as they go back to school particularly those who have mock exams; the doctors and nurses in our hard pressed NHS and The Queen, as she recovers from her period of ill health over Christmas. Please particularly hold us in your prayers on the 28th January, when Wesley is rededicated following it’s period of refurbishment.
Peace Rev Julia 2017