St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter
Tel. 012-346 1106/7, Fax: 346 4226. email@example.com
Clergy: Fr. Timothy Lowes, Robin Heath, June de Klerk,
Martzi Eidelberg, Liz Horne - Children's Chaplain.
Welcome to the Advent edition of the Franciscan. One always feels a little out of kilter at this time of year (I guess with Scottish ancestors, for me that would be out of kilt). The snow, the fir trees, the reindeer, the long white beards and warm fur lined clothes are all rather alien. A temporarily homeless family affected by the possible scandal of an unexpected child, displaced because of the actions of an oppressive, occupying state is easier to identify with than the rest of the symbols associated with this season. As our thoughts turn to the large numbers of refugees affected by so many (often religiously based) wars who face the new year with little prospect of peace, goodwill or real charity, it is perhaps a good time to push through the tinsel and examine how our beliefs build a better world (or not). May our celebrations be inclusive and filled with the integrity that comes from catching sight again of the Christ born without wealth or earthly power.
My dear Parishioners
Father Godfrey Roper who works at Irene Homes writes:
"The one thing that the intellectually disabled have taught me is acceptance. They accept me, or anyone else, at face value. The don't want to know how big my house is, what sort of education I have received, what computer equipment I have - they accept me just as I am. And all they ask in return is that I accept them - just as they are. This acceptance is so wonderful when it is applied to change. Change is inevitable - don't look for hidden meanings - accept it whole-heartedly, and life becomes or remains exciting."
For me there is a very close correlation between the acceptance Fr Godfrey talks about and the acceptance God displayed in the Incarnation.
If the Almighty had waited until we (His Creation) were "acceptable" - eternity would've been far too short a period of waiting. If He would only act once we were "proper", there would've been no birth at Bethlehem. "For while we were yet sinners ..."
Our God is a God of unbelievable grace and awesome unconditional generosity, and this is distinctly manifest in the Christ Child.
Interesting that Fr Godfrey's flock ask very little in return for the overwhelming gift of acceptance they so freely bestow on others. What they ask for is simply acceptance.
It is a way that is very simple and very healing - a way that leads into the love of Jesus. And what this way does, is echo God's way at Christmas.
That's my simple message for you this Christmas. Acceptance. Accept one another unconditionally (rich/poor; young/old; High Church/Low Church; whatever the dichotomy), as unconditionally as Fr Godfrey's congregation accept him and each other and as unconditionally as God has loved and accepted us in sending His Precious Christ Child to be a path of salvation at great cost.
Bring no expectance of a heaven unearned
No hunger for a beatitude to be
Until the lesson of my life is earned
Through what Thou didst for me
Bring no assurance of redeemed rest
No imitation of awarded grace
Only contrition cleavingly confessed
To Thy forgiving face
I ask one world of everlasting lost
In all I am, that other world to win
My nothingness must kneel below Thy cross
There let new life begin
Siegfried Sasoon (1886 -1967)
Sent in by Jocelyn Gioia
The constant refrain on radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the Christmas Season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost or have never had. The anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation, the gut wrenching loss of a child, the loneliness of no longer having a beloved spouse to share each day, the loss of a dear family pet - all these can contribute to a feeling of being alone, of 'feeling blue' in the midst of the society around us which seems bent on 'being happy' and 'celebrating'. There are years when we hurt at Christmas time and can't get into the festivities others seem to be able to do.
It's at such times that we need to make the space and take the time to acknowledge our sadness and concern. We need to know that we are not alone.
Welcome to this Blue Christmas ... a time when we can, with others, acknowledge the "blue" feelings we have at Christmas time, the reasons for them, and offer them to God. Soon [in the Northern Hemisphere!] we will experience the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This time has been called the "long dark night of the soul", "the winter of our discontent" in which memories of past experiences and the pain of present experiences can become overwhelming. For some, Christmas Day is the most difficult. For others, Christmas Eve, or New Years Eve, or the beginning of another lonely New Year.
We invite you to reflect on the pain, the loneliness, the sadness you may feel and offer it to the Christ Child. We pray that you will find hope and comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
Isaiah 40: "Comfort, comfort my people" says your God. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed … Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. … Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
Candle Lighting Litany Of Remembrance
We light this Advent candle to remember those persons who have been loved and lost. We pause to remember their name, their face, their voice. We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us this season which anticipates Christmas.
May God's eternal love surround them.
We light this second candle to redeem the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. As we gather up the pain of the past, we offer it to You, O God, asking that into our open hands, You will place the gift of peace.
Refresh, restore, renew us, o God, and lead us into your future.
We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmas time. We pause and remember the past weeks, months and for some of us, years of down times. We remember the poignancy of memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurts, the pain of reflecting on our own mortality.
Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness.
This fourth candle is lit to remember our faith and the gift of hope which God offers to us in the Christmas story. We remember that God who shares our life, promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering.
Let us remember the one who shows the way and who goes with us into our tomorrows.
For the full service, see
A special friend is a rare find
Someone who shares your joy and happiness
Someone who cares enough
To show love and kindness,
Someone who is a comfort
To spend time with,
Someone who is honest and thoughtful,
A special friend is a wonderful gift …
Someone who offers understanding
When life is difficult,
Someone whose smile is enough
To brighten any day,
Someone who accepts you
And is glad that you are you,
Someone who forgets mistakes
And is gentle and trusting.
You are this special friend to me,
Our times together are treasured in my heart,
And at Christmas
A special time of year,
I wish you love, laughter, and all of life’s
Most beautiful things,
I wish you health and cheer,
And more of everything
That makes you happy,
And I wish that we would
Always be special friends.
Henri J.M. Nouwen
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"
Last year during one of the Advent services, Father Timothy showed us how to make a Christingle. Afterwards I overheard some people saying they had never heard of a Christingle before. So in this article I would like to give a little more background about the customs surrounding it and the purpose for which it was used.
The meaning of the word Christingle is ‘Christ-light’ and the various materials used have specific symbolic meaning. They are made as follows.
Take an orange, (or another round fruit like a small melon for instance, as oranges are not generally available around this time in South Africa) and carefully make a hole in the top for a candlestick. The round fruit represents the world, and the candle symbolizes Jesus as the light of the world. Then fasten a red piece of ribbon or strip of red crepe paper around the fruit and fasten it with a pin. The ribbon represents the blood of Christ, which is shed for the world. Then take four cocktail sticks on which you skewer fruits such as raisins, glacé cherries or other dried fruit and unshelled peanuts. Stick these into the round fruit. The cocktail sticks represent the four seasons and the pieces of fruit and nuts symbolize the fruit of the earth. The Christingle is now ready for the Christingle service.
This service is very old, but nobody quite knows where the custom originated or with whom. In Wales there are records of a ‘calenig’ service and in the Moravian Church, Christingle services have been held for over 200 years. However they do not claim that the service started with them. The intention of the Christingle service is to collect funds to help the poor. Participants in the service are to collect money beforehand and to hand this over at the beginning of the service, after which they receive a Christingle. When all have received one, carols are sung by candlelight. Anne Marie Smith
(Source: The Lion Christmas Book, compiled by Mary Batchelor, 1984. Lion Publishing)
What do elves learn in school?
What was so good about the neurotic doll the girl was given for Christmas?
It was already wound up.
Mom, can I have a dog for Christmas?
No, you can have turkey like everyone else.
What nationality is Santa Claus?
What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmastime?
What kind of bird can write?
Why did Santa spell Christmas N-O-E?
Because the angel had said,"No L!"
Who is never hungry at Christmas?
The turkey, he is always stuffed.
What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic.
Judge: "What are you charged with?"
Prisoner: "Doing my Christmas shopping early."
Judge: "That's not an offence. How early were you doing this shopping?"
Prisoner: "Before the store opened."
What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a detective ?
What do monkeys sing at Christmas?
Jungle bells, jungle bells...
What do snowmen eat for breakfast?
What's the best thing to put into a Christmas cake?
Why does Santa's sled get such good mileage?
Because it has long-distance runners on each side.
Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
because every buck is dear to him.
Why is Christmas just like a day at the office ?
You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.
What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
It's Christmas, Eve!
What did the ghosts say to Santa Claus?
We'll have a boo Christmas without you.
If Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus had a child, what would he be called? A subordinate clause.
Why does Santa have 3 gardens?
So he can ho-ho-ho.
Why was Santa's little helper depressed?
Because he had low elf esteem.
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite.
The 3 stages of man: 1) He believes in Santa Claus. 2) He doesn't believe in Santa Claus. 3) He is Santa Claus.
When I was a child growing up in Holland, we used to have a coal-heater to heat our living room. The most important thing always was that the coal-heater needed to be kept burning, because if it went out, it was a huge task to clean the whole heater out and then light it again. Every evening before going to bed, my parents would put a good amount of coal in it and almost close the air-vents, so that it would burn slowly during the night and have enough fuel so as to not go out. In the morning the embers would be stirred up with a poker before new coal was added to keep it burning.
Maybe you wonder why I talk about coal heaters in the middle of summer, when it is as hot as blazes, so let me try to explain. The main reason for the story is that it enables me to explain what embers are, as I want to stir up some embers.
On its annual liturgical calendar the church has four days that are marked as “Ember Days”. These are the Third Sunday in Advent, the Second Sunday in Lent, Trinity Sunday and the Twenty-sixth Sunday of the year. These Sundays are intended to be days on which prayer is offered for those to be ordained, for vocations to the ordained ministry, for theological colleges and those preparing for ordination and for all serving in the ordained ministry.
The term “Ember Days” is actually not derived from the embers that result when coal is burned, but has another origin. Ymbrendag in old English means ‘anniversary day’ or ‘calendar’ day, set apart for fasting and prayer.
What has intrigued me for some time already is that these Ember Days are never mentioned, and that we seldom if ever pray for the above-mentioned categories of persons. Sometimes prayers are offered for the clergy of the parish, but in the almost 20 years that I have attended the Anglican church, I have never even heard the Ember days mentioned, let alone observed.
This has left me wondering what would happen if we did start observing them. Would we then maybe see more priests and deacons getting ordained to fill all the vacancies in the various parishes? Is it so that we “do not have, because we do not ask God”? (James 4:2b).
I believe that the time has come for us to do some serious and sincere seeking of God’s will, because if we don’t, we might end up with embers that are no longer burning, but have in fact turned into cinders. If we do not pray for people, both men and women, to hear God’s call and enter the ordained ministry, we will end up without spiritual leaders altogether.
For further information about Ember Days and what to pray, please look on page 331 and 332 of An Anglican Prayer Book.
1. Be especially patient with your humans during this time. They may appear to be more stressed-out than usual and they will appreciate long comforting dog leans.
2. They may come home with large bags of things they call gifts. Do not assume that all the gifts are yours.
3. Be tolerant if your humans put decorations on you. They seem to get some special kind of pleasure out of seeing how you look with fake antlers.
4. They may bring a large tree into the house and set it up in a prominent place and cover it with lights and decorations. Bizarre as this may seem to you, it is an important ritual for your humans so there are some things you need to know:
- Don't pee on the tree
- Don't drink water in the container that holds the tree
- Mind your tail when you are near the tree
- If there are packages under the tree, even ones that smell interesting or that have your name on them, don't rip them open
- Don't chew on the cord that runs from the funny-looking hole in the wall to the tree
5. Your humans may occasionally invite lots of strangers to come visit during this season. These parties can be lots of fun, but they also call for some discretion on your part:
- Not all strangers appreciate kisses and leans
- Don't eat off the buffet table
- Beg for goodies subtly
- Be pleasant, even if unknowing strangers sit on your sofa
- Don't drink out of glasses that are left within your reach
6. Likewise, your humans may take you visiting. Here your manners will also be important:
- Observe all the rules in #4 for trees that may be in other people's houses. (4a is particularly important)
- Respect the territory of other animals that may live in the house
- Tolerate children
- Turn on your charm big time
7. A big man with a white beard and a very loud laugh may emerge from your fireplace in the middle of the night. DON'T BITE HIM!!