Extremism seems to be on the rise at the moment, not only on the fringes but in the
mainstream of life. We read of Western teens being radicalised by the hate-preachers of
‘daesh’ on the internet; we have seen a young MP and mother brutally murdered by a right-
wing extremist. Many of us were shocked by the tone of the US presidential campaign and
the language directed at women, immigrants and minority groups, including the president
elect ridiculing a disabled reporter.

Religious extremists, political extremists of the right and the left, nationalists, all seem to

have been on the rise in 2016, and 2017 seems to promise more of the same. How should the
Church of Christ; how should disciples and followers of Jesus whose was birth as the Prince
of Peace we are about to celebrate, respond?

As I have prayed about the world today and the direction it is taking, as I have
Continues over page
reflected on the Bible, especially on Jesus’ words in the Gospels, it struck me that Christians
need to be extremists too! But extremists in the same sense that Jesus was an extremist.

We need to be extreme in forgiving others, extreme in praying for our enemies and in doing
good to those who hate us. The Church needs to be radical in its welcome to all whoever they
may be, and we must try to be extreme in loving our neighbour, remembering that Jesus
defined our neighbour as any person we are able to help.

As religion and politics divides, so the Church of Christ must reach across the divide and
declare that we are all made in God’s image, and that God’s love in Christ is universal.

Jesus came to our broken and hurting world 2000 years ago to call us to the Father’s love and
to unite us as one family of God. He came to a divided and unjust world and He did not
come in wealth and privilege. Someone once said that anyone, anyone at all can enter a
stable, shepherds are welcome but kings may have to remove their crowns to get through the
door.

Every year we tell the story of Jesus, born for us, reaching out to us, loving us despite our
problems and our mistakes. He reminds us that we too are called to be children of His
Father. If we want to know what it means to be a son or a daughter of God we look at Jesus,
we make Him our model. We try to love as He loved and when we fail, we ask our Father for
forgiveness and for the grace to start again.

When Jesus was born into our world 2000 years ago, the reception He received was less than
friendly. The people of Bethlehem found no room for Him and Herod tried to kill Him; most
simply ignored Him. But as the Christmas Gospel puts it:

To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God,
who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the
Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a Father’s
only Son, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:12-14)

May God bless us this Christmas time, and may the light of Christ shine in us and through
us as we enter the New Year.

Tim
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Prayer for the month
Thought for the month
Below you will find extracts from this month's Parish Magazine
First Words...,  A Prayer for the Month & A Thought for the Month
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Possibly the shortest prayer in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22. It is one word long,
Maranatha, and is written in Aramaic, not the usual Greek of the New Testament. Aramaic
was the language spoken by Jesus and the disciples in their daily routine; Hebrew would
have been used mainly in the Synagogue and the Temple.

This prayer though one word long in Aramaic is translated as two English words, ‘Come
Lord’, and it expresses the early Church’s eager longing for Jesus to return as Lord and King
and Judge.

For me
Maranatha is the prayer of the Advent season. We focus on Jesus arrival (that’s what
the word ‘advent’ means), His first advent 2000 years ago as the baby of Bethlehem, and His
promised return when He will bring God’s healing and justice to our world and to us.

Maranatha is a prayer of hope. It is hope for justice in a world where far too often evil
flourishes and the wicked go unpunished. It is hope of healing (Revelation 22:1-2), God
promises that in His kingdom every tear will be wiped away and every broken heart will be
mended (Revelation 21:3-4).

When I pray ‘
Maranatha’ I am not only asking God to make this world whole; I am praying
that He will transform me and make me the person that He calls me to be.

Christians are people of hope. Our hope is not some vague wish that things can be better
somehow. Christian hope is placed in God and so it is also trust. We place our hope in God
who has revealed the height and depth of His love of us in Christ. Because our hope is in
Christ it is a firm and solid hope, not a mere wish.

In the early church, when Christians faced ridicule and opposition, when life was harsh,
when the whole world seemed to be against them and when they had no one and nothing
else to hope in, they turned to Christ. They placed themselves and their futures in His hands
and they prayed ‘Come Lord’.’

Come Lord Jesus, come with mercy, come with healing, come with justice, come Lord Jesus
Maranatha, Amen.

Tim
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  • Forthcoming Events page has been updated for Winter
  • First Words, Prayer for the Month and Thought for the Month have been
    updated for December 2016 and January 2017 - see below
  • Bishop's Letter is on hold for a while - interim there will be items from the Diocese of
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  • Parish Magazine the December issue is now available On-Line. News and Views
    From St Mary's Church Ecclesfield The oldest issue available is February 2011.
  • Listen again to recently recorded Sunday Sermons -  Listen Again
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  • The  Diary and Rotas  page now has on-line features and will always be 'up-to-date'
  • Don't forget to check the Weekly Notices page for service times and the latest news.
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The focus of December in Church is Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus 2000
years ago, when God reached out to us, as one of us, to bring us home. Christmas is a time

to celebrate with family and friends; it is a time to be generous in giving and gracious in
receiving. It is also a time to turn to the God who turns to us in Jesus. Without Jesus our
Christmas celebrations lose their focus and their heart.

The best Christmas keeps Jesus at the centre.

It is a great privilege for us to welcome groups from the community as we host carol

services and Christmas celebrations, and, later in December, when we welcome many of
our neighbours into their parish church to celebrate Christmas.

This year our Christmas preparations begin a little early as Advent Sunday falls on the

27th November. In the morning we light the first of the candles in our Advent Wreath
and begin the count-down which ends on Christmas Day when we light the last candle to
celebrate Jesus’ birthday (we will probably sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus as well!).

On Monday 5th December we will be pleased to welcome Ecclesfield High School into
Church for their Carol Concert. On Sunday 11th December at 2pm we will have

Christmas Crafts in Church aimed at Primary School aged children; later at 6pm there will
be carols around the Christmas Tree (weather permitting - in case of rain or snow we will
move into Church).

On Sunday 18th December at 4pm we will be holding our Christingle service and raise

funds to support the work of the Children’s Society.

On the evening of the 21st December at 7pm Jeni will be leading us in a “Service of the
Longest Night”.

On Christmas Eve, Saturday 24th December at 4pm we have the Crib Service, to which all
are welcome, but the focus is on families with younger children, and at 6.30pm we are
holding the traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by candlelight (do arrive early)
this is an opportunity to come to your beautiful and ancient parish church to sing your
favourite carols. Is there a better way to kick off your Christmas celebrations? On the
morning of Christmas Day there will be an all age Communion service.

Remember if you take Christ from Christmas all you are left with is

m and s’ and M&S won’t save you!

Tim
If you can't join us over Christmas you can find local services and events at:
#JoyToTheWorld - A Christmas Near You