Sometimes things in the Universe line up. Saturn and Jupiter lined up this week for the first time in 800 years, making a very bright star low on the south western horizon. If you were a Persian astronomer two millenia ago you’d have seen something similar in the direction of the Holy Land. We now know the mechanism behind this natural phenomena, but who is to say that these wise men did not? They were more concerned with the timing; why there? why now? What is meant? Somewhere in their writings the connection was made between a “what” and a “who”. They were convinced a great birth was happening in the Kingdom of the Jews, and their belief led them on a long journey to find the Child-King. Herod too was convinced something had changed in his world, and his fear led to violence and slaughter. This is the tension of Christmas; do we respond in faith, or in fear? This year has seen plenty of opportunities for both.
For us, the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter should remind us, and reassure us, that the writers of the Gospels were not making it up when they wrote of a star appearing. Herod really was a brutal despot, Quirinius really was the Roman governor of Syria. And if you visit Bethlehem today, and the ancient Constantinian Church of the Holy Nativity, descend the spiral stairs into the cave upon which the church is built, you can kneel and touch the ornate silver star fixed to the rock floor. The metal star, worn from the fingers and kisses of millions, is inscribed “Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est” – “Here Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary.”
The two great planets of our solar system neither know, nor care, who was born or why. But they are ordered by a greater hand, whose faithfulness is written into the very fabric of time and space. Let us not allow the cloud and murk of the UK in 2020 to obscure their awesome reminder of the greatest Christmas gift of all.
There are unique zoom codes for each service and you may share them freely with friends and family.
Christmas Eve 4pm. Christingle Service. 823 2226 2104 and 609 662. A feast of Carols, and a chance to learn how to make your very own Christingle at home.
Christmas Day 11am. Christmas Communion 819 5724 2067 and 865581. A traditional Christmas communion, with a eucharist and organ voluntary recorded in Checkendon Church.
By order of the Bishop….
The clergy and staff team will be taking a break after Christmas. There’ll be no zoom or live services hosted by the Team on Sunday Dec 27th. Instead, may we direct you to the Dioceses own “Church at Home” offering, or the National Church’s online broadcast. It is a great chance to enjoy something different. Services resume in the Team ministry on January 3rd, (Morning Prayer at 11am, on the “normal” numbers) and my weekly notices on January 5th. If we suffer increased restrictions it may be necessary to suspend live worship – this is a decision that will be taken locally for each church, if possible.
Bless you all for your care and love for one another this year.
Revd Kevin Davies.