The Franciscan

 


Advent

December 2001

St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter

 

Contents

 

Letter from Fr Timothy

Words from Mother Teresa

The meaning of Christmas

‘Twas the Beginning of Advent

Finding God in a garden

Letter from Ed and Gloria

Hi and bye from the Children’s Church

Who says Christians aren’t funny?

Thoughts and ideas about Advent 

 


St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church, 373 Milner Street, Waterkloof, 0181

Tel. 012-346 1106/7, Fax: 346 4226.  mail@st-francis.co.za  

http://www.st-francis.co.za/

Clergy:  Fr. Timothy Lowes, Robin Heath, June de Klerk, Martzi Eidelberg,

Liz Horne - Children's Chaplain.

Editor:    Mark Napier.

Typing:   Christine Lawrie.  Production: Anne Allison. 

Collation:  Amy Macnamara


 

 

Letter from Fr Timothy

 

My Dear People

 

Our God is a God who comes to us.

 

By the time you read this we will be well into the season of Advent.  The word means “coming” from the Latin ADVENTUS, and during the season of Advent we look forward to the coming of God in Christ in a very special way.  What this means for us as a people of faith, is that Advent ought to be a time of preparation as we not only look forward to God’s coming, but prepare to welcome God into our lives.

 

I would like us to focus on this process of PREPARATION, for it has huge implications for who we are in Christ and where God wants us to be.  In other words, how do we become an “advent people”?

 

Firstly, it is not so much a question of us preparing to meet the Lord, but rather a matter of Being Prepared i.e. “being” is a passive verb and highlights the fact that God prepares us.  For you see, God is not only preparing Bethlehem for the birth of His Son … He is also preparing us for His presence in our lives.  God is preparing the way … in YOU.  All we can do is to be open to His “Coming Presence”.

 

Secondly, we prepare, we become an ‘advent people’ by Receiving God’s Love.  Too many people (in spite of professing a Christian faith) are incapable of fully receiving God’s love for themselves.  It’s an elusive thing that somehow is beyond their reach – though definitely something others can freely receive.  “I am undeserving” or “I am unworthy”, seems to be the battle-cry of so many Christians.  According to Isaiah this is true, for he says “all we like sheep have gone astray…”, but the fact is God’s very Own Presence in the Babe of Bethlehem tells a different story.  It tells of a God who wants His people to know that they are loved with a love that is both indescribable and unfathomable.

 

The Advent story tells of an unconditional love that has conquered evil and separation.  It shouts of reconciliation and restitution.  Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-11530 puts it all in perspective for us:

 

            Jesus,

            what made you so small?

            Love!

 

Embrace that love this advent.  It is for YOU!  Know beyond a shadow of a doubt this season that you are the special object of God’s love and grace.  It will set you free to become an “advent person”, to live as “advent people”.

 

Closely linked to this is my third point.  We become “advent people” by becoming a Forgiving People.  None of us can live without forgiveness.  Often, however, the very first step to believing in the forgiveness of God (and the acceptance of this overwhelming Well of Love) – or one another – is to forgive OURSELVES (warts and all).  This is the hardest bit, for it represents a form of confession from self-blame to forgiving and accepting oneself.  Forgiving yourself is a grace, which comes from believing that you are forgiven by God.  Jesus spoke repeatedly about the forgiveness of God and Himself offered the gift of that forgiveness and unconditional love.

 

“What the world needs first of all, and most of all, from the Church, is comfort, help in lifting and understanding its pain, its wounds, its anxieties, its raging restlessness, its temptations, its infidelities and its sin.  Like the prodigal son, it needs first of all to be surprised by unconditional love.  Some time later, and there will be a time for that, it will want some challenge.  And our comfort must be offered not on the basis of human optimism, human forgiveness, and human potential;  in some respects, the world already understands more deeply than we do.  No, the comfort we offer is that which we ourselves will first feel when we begin to realise how wide, all-embracing and all-forgiving is the heart of God.”

                      Ronald Rolheiser, Give Comfort to My People

 

 

This is the truth I would encourage us all to claim for ourselves at this Advent season.  That we are God’s beloved.  Life, says Henri Nouwen, is most of all about saying “YES” to the One who call us the Beloved.  You see, once we can believe and trust unreservedly that we are loved, we are free to abandon every false way of obtaining love, e.g. people’s opinions, human glory, material security, great notoriety, or any of those false ‘gods’ that ultimately are never satisfied or never satisfy. 

 

With Jesus a new humanity was born.  God became a child so that we may know He is not far away.  The Word became flesh.  God entered human history.

 

I wonder, do we understand the awesome depth of it all – I fear not?

 

May you receive the reality of the God’s unconditional love for you this Advent Season.  May you live with the ‘advent awareness” that God is always ready to forgive and has come to us with His saving grace that we might be free, and as we are freed we will reflect the HOPE that Advent always proclaims.

 

May we receive this Wonderful God, this Saviour, this Prince of Peace with open hearts and minds – i.e. may we truly be an “advent people” as we profess Jesus as Saviour.

 

Christmas means:

He has come.

He has made the night clear.

He has made the night of our darkness,

the night of our lack of understanding,

the cruel night

of our fears

and our hopelessness

into Christmas, the holy night

 

In the Word made flesh,

God has sent his last Word,

his most profound Word,

his most beautiful Word,

into the world.

And that Word means:

I love you,

world and humanity.

Light the Candles!

They have more right here

than darkness.

Karl Rahner

 

I can say it no more profoundly than this.  May you all have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Fr Timothy

 

Words from Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway…

If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway...

If you are successful, You will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway...

If you are honest and frank, People may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway...

What you spend years building, Someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway...

If you find serenity and happiness, Others may be jealous;

Be happy anyway...

The good you do today, People will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway...

Give the world the best you have, And it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you've got anyway...

You see, in the final analysis, It is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway...

Sent in by Heather Napier from a sermon by Fr Timothy

The Meaning of Christmas                                  By Helge Peterson

 


C -  is for Christ who was born on this day, and placed in a manger to sleep in the hay.

H- for the Heavenly Host that did sing, to the glory of God, and the Babe who is king.

R- means He's risen, that we might be free, for from manger to cross was his destiny.

I- For the Infinite, All Powerful One, who so loved the world that He sent us His son.

S- for the Shepherds tending flocks there that night most blessed of men to behold such a sight.

T- for the Twinkle of that star shining bright, to proclaim the Lord's birth, and to guide by it's light.

M- is for Mercy for those here on earth, this is God's promise, fulfilled by Christ's birth.

A- for Almighty, omnipotent Child, with power unrestrained, yet ever so mild.

S- for our Saviour, our Lord and our King, who's birth, life and death, our salvation did bring.

 



 

 

 

Twas the Beginning of Advent

by Todd Jenkins

 

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church

Our hope was all dying – we'd given up on the search.

It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited,

But after 2,000 plus years we were no longer excited.

 

Oh, we knew what was coming-- no doubt about that.

And that was the trouble-- it was all "old hat."

November brought the first of an unending series of pains

With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

 

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys.

Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys.

Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt

From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

 

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings

Were all so consumed with the desire for "things!"

It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason

For the origin of this whole holy-day season.

 

A baby, it seems, once had been born

In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn.

But what does that mean for folks like us,

Who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

 

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,

Of hoping and praying, and anticipating?

Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?

Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

 

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?

Can we find him again after all of these years?

Will this year be different from all the rest?

Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

 

So many questions, unanswered thus far,

As wisemen seeking the home of the star.

Where do we begin – how do we start

To make for the child a place in our heart?

 

Perhaps we begin by letting go

Of our limits on hope, and of the stuff that we know.

Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss,

Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

 

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,

To see the king coming in our own neighbours' cries.

We look without seeking what we think we've earned,

But rather we're looking for relationships spurned.

 

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life

For brother and sister, for husband and wife.

The Christ-child comes not by our skill,

But rather he comes by his own Father's will.

 

We can't make him come with parties and bright trees,

But only by getting down on our knees.

He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction,

Coming in spite of, not by our restriction.

 

His coming will happen – of this there's no doubt.

The question is whether we'll be in or out.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

 

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.

A baby to love, to feed and to teach.

He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son.

How far will we follow this radical one?

 

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are.

He'll lead us to follow a single bright star.

But that will come later if we're still around.

The question for now: Is the child to be found?

 

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls? 

Can we find solitude in our holy halls?

Can we keep alert, keep hope, stay awake?

Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake?

 

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,

He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!

As Advent begins all these questions make plea.

The only true answer: We will see, we will see.  

 

 

FINDING GOD IN A GARDEN

 

Those of us who have been privileged to experience the flowers of Namaqua-land, in one of those seasons of overwhelming beauty, can never again doubt the wonder of our God and His Creation;  the intricacy, perfection and variety of the myriads of unique flowers, and the miracle of life bursting out from a dormant desert; the effect of sun and cloud cover and the activity of birds and bees in response to bursting blossoms.  If one is not already an unquestioning believer – instant conversion!

 

The wisdom of the architect of St Francis Church is apparent in the situation of the Garden of Remembrance so that a wall of glass enables us to be aware of this same glory of Creation while we worship Him.

 

It is with great appreciation that we pay tribute to and give thanks for the contribution of Stella Butler, who through her love of our LORD tends this beautiful garden with tireless devotion;  we are truly lifted up by what she, and others, contribute to our awareness of the beauty of our surroundings.

 

It will come as no surprise then, that Stella’s maiden name is GODDEN;  GOD is truly in this garDEN!

 

Sid Saks

 

60 Conway Road

Sunnyridge

EAST LONDON 5201

22 November 2001

Fr Timothy Lowes and St Franciscans

 

Dear Tim and friends at St Francis

We are overwhelmed by the kindness of the people at St Francis in providing us with such a splendid farewell gift.  Thank you so much – we do appreciate your love.  We are going to order new chalbs from Birches in Grahamstown with part of your gift, so St Francis will play an ongoing role in our ministry.  The remainder of the gift will be used to buy something special that will remind us of your generosity and the rich experience we had over the years at St Francis.  We shall advise you as soon and we have found something suitable.  Sunday 11 November was very special to us as it gave us the opportunity to celebrate and preach at our final service and greet many of you for the last time in our official capacity as clergy serving at St Francis.


The people of All Saints East London have been very kind and considerate.  One of the ladies who had come to stock our pantry greeted us with “welcome home”.  We are getting there – there are now more empty boxes than packed ones and most of the rooms are relatively uncluttered.  We were hoping to lie low on the first Sunday – our furniture had been delivered on the previous Friday – but this wasn’t to be!  The Bishop of Grahamstown was visiting the parish, and we felt we should attend the service.  He was extremely gracious and called us up to the front and, in introducing us, said, “do you see these people, well they are here but they are not here – please give them a chance to settle in.”

 

Once again, friends, thank you for your practical thoughtfulness.  We pray that God will continue to use St Francis in the extension of His kingdom, and that He will bless you all richly.

 

Sincere regards

 

Ed & Gloria

 

 

HI AND BYE

FROM THE CHILDREN’S CHURCH

 

I cannot believe how quickly this year has come to an end.  It feels like just the other day that we were welcoming everybody back at the beginning of the new year.

 

I wish that I could highlight just one or two really great moments, but that is impossible.  We have done so much this year.  I’m sure that anyone who went into the hall during the year noticed some of our children’s amazing hand work, or saw the train of photos.  Our moms and dads all got to something to take home on their “Special days”, and now during November we have had great fun making Christmas cards for our Policemen and women and decorations for the Princess Christian Home.

 

One of the many special moments this year was listening to (and watching) the prayers that the children say during our “service” on a Sunday morning.

 

We have also had the privilege of raising over R2000.00 for the Avril Elizabeth Home, who we chose to be the recipient of our collections this year.  A HUGE thank you to all the children for breaking our target not once but twice.

 

But none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for some of the most dedicated people I know, my team of Children’s Church teachers and assistants and they are (in no specific order): Leeanne v/d Walt, Pam Smith, Bronwyn Smith, Monica Smith, Annemarie Smith, Toine v/d Oever, Tania Ferreira, Wesley Hill, John Evans, Linda Lewis, Tlhabi Tlailane, Evodia Tlailane, and Lois and Luke Winter.  To each and everyone of you I want to say THANK YOU a thousand times.  You have made this year the success that I think it has been.  All your hard work and time spent in planning and preparing your lessons to make them interesting and fun has paid off.  To those of you are taking some time off to refill and refresh yourselves, we will miss you and know that there will always be a space for you with us.  (And to anyone who is interested in becoming involved in this ministry please contact me.)

To all the children, I hope that this year was as much fun for you as it was for me and that I’ll see you all back at children’s church next year.  Enjoy your holidays, and remember that Christmas is not just about all the extra goodies that we get, but that it is about remembering when Jesus came to earth as a baby, to be with us and teach us about how much God loves us and how much we should love Him.

 

See you all next year.

 

Loads of love

Liz

 

 

Who says Christians aren’t funny?

 

1.  Church parking lot sign .... FOR MEMBERS ONLY !  TRESPASSERS WILL BE BAPTISED !!

 

2.  “FREE TRIP TO HEAVEN" Details inside

 

3.  "Searching for a new look ?" Have your faith lifted here

 

4.  A singing group called "The Resurrection" was scheduled to sing at a church.  When a big snowstorm postponed the performance, the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, "Resurrection Postponed"

 

5.  God so loved the world that he did not send a Committee

 

6. Come in and pray today, beat the Christmas Rush !!!

 

7. "Sign broken. Message inside this Sunday"

 

8. "FIGHT TRUTH DECAY - STUDY THE BIBLE DAILY"

 

9. "How will you spend eternity - Smoking or Non-Smoking?"

 

10. "Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world"

 

11. "It is unlikely that there will be a reduction in the wages of sin"

 

12. "If you are headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-Turns"

 

13. "If you don't like the way you were born, try being born again"

 

14. "Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon"

 

15. "Forbidden fruit creates many jams"

 

16. "IN THE DARK? FOLLOW THE SON"

 

17. "If you can't sleep don't count sheep, talk to the Shepherd"

 

 

Thoughts and ideas about Advent

from the King of Peace Episcopal Church, Kingsland, Georgia

 

Christmas has increasingly become a holiday cut off from its purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, important for Christians to recapture the season of Advent as a time for preparing for Christmas.

Advent begins the church year, starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since at least the last half of the 6th century. Advent is a time for self-examination and asking for forgiveness as the church is preparing for Christ’s Second Coming even as it prepares for Christmas. This is why the colour of the season is purple (or sometimes blue), which is used for marking Lent, the season of self-examination preceding Easter. The third week in Advent is set aside as more celebratory than the others. Rose is the colour of this week rather than purple to mark the week, which is why a rose candle is used in Advent wreaths.

 

An Advent Calendar

Another way to mark the days in Advent is to use an Advent calendar. These calendars usually have a door to open each night to reveal a picture or an object (such as a small toy or candy). The days of Advent vary each year, so store-bought Advent calendars usually have 24 doors, one for each day in December leading up to Christmas. Opening an Advent calendar may follow the Advent Wreath service to more closely tie the service itself to the countdown of days.

The Advent Wreath

The circle of the wreath and the evergreens that make it up both signify God’s endless mercy and undying love. Three purple candles and one rose-colored (pink) candle are evenly spaced around the wreath. There is one larger white candle in the center of the wreath. The wreath can be as simple as four candle holders with greenery laid around them to form a circle. However, some traditions attach meanings to using different greens, each signifying another aspect of the season. These include:

 

Ivy—to remind us of the human spirit clinging to God’s strength.

Cedar—to remind us of eternal life available to all through Christ.

Holly—to remind us of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Bay—to remind us of victory over sin and death.

 

Each week, an additional candle is lit. As the light grows brighter, we are reminded that the Light of the World will soon arrive in glory. The central white candle is to be larger (often thicker) than the four in the wreath. This relatively recent addition to the Advent wreath signifies the Light of Christ and is first lit on Christmas Eve and relit burned on Christmas Day.

 

A Nativity Scene

A nativity scene (sometimes called a crèche), is yet another way to highlight the season of Advent. Instead of putting out the whole set at once, try building the scene slowly. Begin with the manger the first week. Add a few animals the second week. Then add Mary and Joseph on the third week. On Christmas Eve add the baby Jesus and any additional figures. The wise men and camels don’t arrive until Epiphany (January 6). This increases the feeling of anticipation that is Advent.