From St Edmund’s parish church, December 2016
It is now 30 years since I was ordained a deacon. My curacy was served in Chichester, I was the junior member of five clergy serving in a large and busy parish, we averaged 200 worshippers every Sunday at the main morning service, consequently you didn’t get to know everyone as in a smaller congregation. There are though, always some people who are known to everyone. Dorothy P was one such person, known affectionately among the clergy team as “Dotty P”. She was a person given too many good works, yet she was someone who could easily ‘wind you up’! Virtually every Sunday she would rush around the hall when people were having coffee, push people apart, saying “You don’t mind if I butt in, do you?” Having done so she would then try and sell raffle tickets on behalf of one of her good causes. One day I met her coming out of the Post Office “Sorry Father, I can’t stop to talk to you. I’m off to a committee meeting. I’m on 24 committees, you know” You could not fault Dorothy with her good works, but she wasn’t an easy person to like or love. Her husband had died several years before I joined the parish, though she had a son and a daughter who lived not far from her. On Christmass Day that same year I was ordained Dorothy came to the midmorning service. As everyone was leaving church I asked her who she was going to spend Christmass with. She burst into tears and said “No one.” And off she sped. As mentioned above Dotty P wasn’t easy to like or love, and I wondered what the son and daughter made of their mother, given that neither of them had invited her for Christmass Day.
Of course each one of us is a unique person with eccentricities of character, but how sad that someone who wanted to do so much good was unloved. And what about her friends in church and all those other organisations she belonged to or supported? Why had no one invited her to Christmass lunch?
A few years later after I’d moved on to my own parish I returned for her funeral. The church was packed with about 250 people present representing all those good causes Dotty P had supported, and all I could think of was a very sad little lady who spent at least one Christmass on her own.
Many people have the impression that Christianity is all about being a good person, but it isn’t. It is all about the love of God, who gave him- self totally to the world (His world, not our world) in Jesus. Being a Christian is trying to love God and God’s people because he first loved us. In trying to give ourselves in love we do of course also try to support good works as a sign of love, but love should always come first. If we try to just do good works, then we shall in some way be serving God, but our motivation should be based in the love of God. That is the heart of our message at Christmass; there is a carol, though not often sung, entitled ‘Love came down at Christmas.’ It was written by Cristina Georgina Rossetti, 1830 -94, who also wrote the carol, ‘In the bleak midwinter’, I leave it with you as a thought or prayer for the season.
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign. Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine, worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign? Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine, love to God and all men, love for plea and gift and sign. Father John, Vicar of St Edmund’s
Worship at Christmass at Hunstanton St Edmund & Ringstead St Andrew
Sunday December 18th 4pm Carols, readings, building of the Crib with Christingle at St Andrew’s
Christmass Eve: 4pm Family Crib Service at St Edmund’s & 11pm Midnight Mass at St Edmund’s
Christmass Day: 9am Family Eucharist at St Andrew’s & 10.30am Family Eucharist at St Edmund’s
A happy, blessed and holy Christmass to all
From Father John, Father James and all at the parish churches of St Andrew and St Edmunds