The Rectory Bulletin
Christmas

Pondering

Thu 31st Dec 2020

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) - Here is a good model of what to do when we are faced with some act of God, some words of God which make little sense. We chew it over in the secret of our heart, and pray for understanding. How quick we can be to dismiss things which initially make little sense! Better to follow Mary and slowly ponder.

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Christmas

To You

Wed 30th Dec 2020

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10–12) - The birth at Bethlehem was not simply a remote event, a quirk of history. Its consequences extended to shepherds on a remote hillside and wise men in a far away country. It was a fulfilment of prophecies a millennium old, and affects us two millennia on.

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Church History

Nicholas Hereford

Tue 29th Dec 2020

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13) - We don’t know precisely when he was born, but he was ordained in 1370 after the death of his wife, and soon became a Fellow of Queen’s College in Oxford. There he became a friend of Wycliffe, the great rebellious translator of the Bible into English, whose words lie behind so much of the King James Version.

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Christmas

Emptied Himself

Mon 28th Dec 2020

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5) - God’s work of salvation is not one which is cheap, and the price falls squarely upon Christ. That is why we bow at his name.

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Sundays

Why Christmas?

Sun 27th Dec 2020

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4–7) - As you lift up your heart to rejoice at the birth of Jesus, lift up your voice and cry out “Abba! Father!”. Mary may have given birth to a single son, but through that one son heaven is populated with millions more.

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The Forgotten Witness

Sat 26th Dec 2020

“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. (Acts 7:56) - The first martyr was not an apostle. They may have had the formal preaching role, but it was Stephen whose witness to the faith cost the first Christian life. Never leave Christianity to church leaders. God delights to use all his children.

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Christmas

Cancelled?

Fri 25th Dec 2020

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6–7) - Christmas has not been cancelled. It might be subdued or even chaotic, but the Bethlehem outhouse reminds us that Jesus came into the midst of frustrated plans and family turmoil. The name of Christ - Immanuel - reminds us that God is with us, whatever the circumstances.

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Advent

Immanuel

Thu 24th Dec 2020

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) - Here we have one who will be born of a virgin, a sign which “the Lord himself” will give. This son will bear the name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. A rich prophecy indeed.

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Advent

Unto us a Child is Born

Wed 23rd Dec 2020

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder (Isaiah 9:6) - From the eight century BC, Isaiah speaks forth a great prophecy of the hope to come. The kingdom of Judah is under great stress, neighbouring nations are laying siege, and in the midst of all this turmoil the great prophet speaks of a future. A future which, for those who heard him, would sound entirely counter to their expectations.

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Church History

Francis and the Crib

Tue 22nd Dec 2020

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) - On Christmas Eve 1223, the villagers of Greccio were invited to a service by Francis of Assisi. He had settled in the area with some of his followers, and had planned something for the locals. As the villagers climbed up the snaking paths, they came to one of the many caves which dotted the hills and discovered what Francis had planned.

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O Bethlehem

Mon 21st Dec 2020

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2) - Then there is an intriguing twist. The coming forth of this ruler is “from of old, from ancient days”. In other words, this will be the fulfilment of a plan long in the making. Something set in motion in “ancient day”, from time immemorial.

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Sundays

Why Bother with the Virgin Birth?

Sun 20th Dec 2020

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:30-34) - If, however, the Gospels are correct and Jesus was born of a virgin. If the New Testament is right, and Jesus is fully divine as well as fully human. Well, everything changes. We truly have “God with us”.

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Acts 8

The Unexpected Mission

Sat 19th Dec 2020

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:3–4) - In today’s church there is a desire for project managers, budgets and projections. It is good to be reminded that what might look like unexpected consequences to us are, in fact, the very plans of God. We might be surprised - he isn’t.

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Carol Story

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Fri 18th Dec 2020

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14) - In 1739, Charles Wesley would have had the satisfaction of seeing his Christmas hymn published in Hymns and Sacred Poems. That year had also seen a thirty-two year old Charles and his brother John take to preaching in the fields to great numbers. Hymns were a great way of teaching the masses, and so Charles had taken to the task with great vigour.

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Acts 8

Ravaging and Lamentation

Thu 17th Dec 2020

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:2–3) - The pages of Christian history are filled with those who once opposed God. The grace of God is that these very people often become the church’s greatest leaders. In the economy of God, your past needn’t dictate your future.

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Acts 8

The Apostles Stayed

Wed 16th Dec 2020

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1) - As the temperature rose in Jerusalem, two things happened: the church scattered; and the apostles stayed put.

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Church History

Sir John Oldcastle

Tue 15th Dec 2020

On 15th December 1417 Sir John Oldcastle was executed in a predictably brutal manner, burnt as he hung on the gallows. His crime? He was a Lollard. The Bible is, you see, a dangerous book. Those who read it well end up giving their allegiance to a higher King.

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Acts 8

Persecution and Growth

Mon 14th Dec 2020

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:1–5) - Martyrs don’t only bear witness to the persecuting crowds, but also to the church. Their faith can be a great challenge and a great encouragement. It is the ultimate example of steadfastness. It makes you think. Would I be willing …?

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Sundays

The Joyful Christian Life

Sun 13th Dec 2020

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) - Here then is Paul’s recipe for a Christian life. We are to pray, to fan the flame of the Spirit within us, to listen for God’s voice, to abstain from evil and let God work in us.

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Exodus 34

Sin, Guilt and Forgiveness

Sat 12th Dec 2020

"abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7) - Yes, we may be guilty of sin but God himself has given us a way of dealing with it. You can try and minimise it, ignore it or explain it away. Or you can transfer it to Christ. That is the glory of the Gospel.

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Carol Story

Silent Night

Fri 11th Dec 2020

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace! - Fame brings familiarity, and familiarity makes things flat. The words of the carol speak of the great intake of breath before the proclamation of the Gospel in the person of Christ. They are worth re-reading for the sense of calmness before Christ came to turn the world upside-down.

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Exodus 34

… and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …

Thu 10th Dec 2020

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands" - (Exodus 34:6-7) - The still pools of God’s steadfast love await you, the ear of one who is faithful awaits. Reluctance might be in our hearts, but never in God’s.

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Exodus 34

… slow to anger …

Wed 09th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6) - That is the purpose of the patience, it is a merciful slowness to anger. Judgment is coming, but there is time to seek God’s mercy. Judgement is coming, but the judge has provided a way through. Christ awaits, arms outstretched. Will you repent?

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Church History

Richard Baxter

Tue 08th Dec 2020

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12) - If you queue around the Kidderminster ring road, you eventually come across a church with a large statue at the front. This figure, finger pointing to the heavens, is Richard Baxter who died on this day in 1691.

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Exodus 34

a God merciful and gracious

Mon 07th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:5–6) - If you see God as gracious and merciful, you necessarily see yourself as one who is in need of grace and mercy. Grace is undeserved, and so is mercy. That’s what makes them such a magnificently overwhelming gift.

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Sundays

Zoom Out!

Sun 06th Dec 2020

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mark 2-4) - Let me make a plea this Christmas. It’s not the first time I’ve made it, and I’m sure you’ll grow weary of it over the years. Nevertheless, here it is: please zoom out this Christmas! Here is the day to gladden the hearts of those Prophets, Priests and Kings of the Old Testament, the day when there hopes are fulfilled and their words come to pass!

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Exodus 34

The LORD

Sat 05th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD” (Exodus 34:5) - When God proclaims his name to Moses, he begins by repeating what Moses heard at the Burning Bush: “the LORD”. He underlines the fact by repeating the name once again.

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Carol Stories

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Fri 04th Dec 2020

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) - O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel ,that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. - All this, in Advent, reminds us that the story didn’t begin at Bethlehem, but was set in motion long before.

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Exodus 34

The Name of God Proclaimed

Thu 03rd Dec 2020

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:5–7) - As he passes by Moses in glory, he proclaims a name which is longer than that given at the Burning Bush. In proclaiming his name, God is giving us an extended meditation on his name, a longer form of his name.

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Philemon

The Band of Missionaries

Wed 02nd Dec 2020

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philemon 23–25) - As we find again and again, the gospel progresses when there are groups of people who come together to proclaim the glorious message. Some may desert the cause, and some may then be reconciled, but together God will use those who work for the sake of the gospel.

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Church History

Advent

Tue 01st Dec 2020

… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ … (Titus 2:13) - It is the season which prepares us for the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, but also has an eye on his second coming. It’s therefore a time of preparation and, traditionally, fasting.

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