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Strange preparations

Dear all

On putting pen to paper so to speak, as I write, the weather has turned very cold! What a shock to the system after our beautiful autumn and the generally mild temperatures we have enjoyed. The central heating is definitely being turned up a bit! I wonder what this next month of December will bring? It is such a busy time of the year, although I think it’s busy in Capel and Ockley all year round with the amazing range of activities, events and groups that offer such a wide and varied programme. However, as we approach Christmas it always seems there is virtually no time in December before the 25th and so this month we I hope will enjoy the various Christmassy events on offer. The churches in Capel and Ockley will be hosting and supporting much of these so do study the December services and events list in this magazine to find the detail. Everything is also on our Capel and Ockley website too. If you haven’t visited it yet here is the address www.capelandockleychurch.org.uk So if your Christmas has to include donkeys, carols, Christmas trees, excited children, nativities, cribs, Father Christmas, mulled wine and mince pies, indoors or outdoors its happening in one of our villages or churches! That’s without the traditional Christmas worship of course, throughout the month and into the season of Christmas which ends for churches on Candlemas Day when we hold our annual Christingle service in aid of the Children’s society. Always a wonderful occasion! There is something about lighting candles isn’t it that is so wonderful in winter time and we have plenty of that in church!

Last month we marked in a big and rather loud way the end of the First World War on Remembrance Sunday. The church has never been so full and it was so moving to commemorate this special occasion together and for the first time having the two minute silence begun and ended by ex-naval guns organised by Flight Lieutenant Andrew Davidson on behalf of the Military Show. It really brought it home to us just what our men went through on the front line and in battle. It was extremely loud and that was a much reduced charge to its normal firing. Thank you, Andrew and Johnny for organising this for our village commemorations.

As we remember what happened 100 years ago, in a sense this month is a month of remembrance also. We remember something that happened over 2000 years ago and that is the birth of Christ which took place in a small town called Bethlehem. It was in contrast a fairly quiet event in a stable or cave attached to a pub which provided emergency shelter to the Holy family. That is I suppose if you discount the loud and joyful singing of the angels announcing his birth on the hillside to the shepherds; the background sounds of the animals sharing the stable, the exotica of the caravan of camels and wise men seeking and following the star which led them to Bethlehem; what a sight it all must have been, and in any case is any birth of a child ever quiet? Yet it would seem a strange way for God’s Son to be born into his world. Shouldn’t God’s action be impossible to miss, like the way we jumped almost out of our skins when the guns were fired?! Had it all gone horribly wrong?

God’s strange preparations are a tender mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary. Just over 100 years ago on the battle fields in that terrible Great War, on Christmas Eve, hostilities ceased on both sides and French, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. Apparently there were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, carol singing, football games, sharing of food and souvenirs. It has to be said that this was during the early months of the war when both sides were reconsidering their strategies, yet what an extraordinary occurrence this was and is remembered as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the violent events of human history. Ordinary men brought together by the extraordinary remembrance of the birth of Christ and what it had come to mean to them in that life and death situation very far from home. In Advent, those days before Christmas which the church observes, we remember the prophets from centuries ago who foretold that one day there would be a saviour who will bring great change to the world. The Saviour has come and we also look forward to the time when he will truly come again to take the world wholly to himself. Then there could be a really big bang! In the meantime we celebrate and remember that God is with us – Emmanuel – God with us who ultimately will bring peace to the world for all time. Have a peaceful and happy Christmas wherever you are and whatever your Christmas traditions are!

With my love and prayers

Revd Liz

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St John The Baptist Church, Capel is a small friendly village church in the centre of the village. We are part of the Surrey Weald Team of parishes close to the south Surrey border with West Sussex. The other parishes in the team are St Peter’s, Newdigate, and St Mary Magdelene, South Holmwood. Our church offers a variety of worship, both separate and as part of the Weald Team.

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