All Saints' Day
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
First thing I want to do is to say how proud I am of all of you. In our ordination vows we are called to be watchful for the ways God’s Kingdom breaks into this world and is revealed among us. I saw God’s Kingdom breaking into Almondbury this week through your generosity, and your work with others to provide lunches for children in our community. You made our Harvest truly a harvest of goodness, of blessing. I am not surprised because this is what I have seen throughout the past nine months, people caring for each other, people supporting each other in practical ways and also through constant prayer. I continue to be in awe of all of you and feel so privileged to be part of this loving community.
And I’m not afraid as the news gets worse, and the days get darker. We have seen again and again how the Holy Spirit is working in our community, is working through us. This is going to be a very different Advent and Christmas season, and some of the differences will be hard to bear, but I think God has quite a few gifts in store for us. This whole experience has forced us to focus, and think of how good it will be to trim our Christmas season with those things that are actually important to us, rather than the things we have always felt we had to do. We may have more time to contemplate how the birth of this child changed everything on heaven and on earth. And this may help us to consider what really knowing this means in our lives. We are being forced to ‘declutter’ our Christmas, I wonder what we will find.
But its not Christmas yet, and is not even by American standards time to listen to Christmas music. In America it’s the tradition that you can’t listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, so you have to wait until the fourth Friday in November before you can finally dig out some old Bing Crosby or my family’s favorite Tennesse Ernie Ford’s Christmas Special Album (I never heard of Kings College’s Carols until I came over to England in 1988!). Well, okay I’ll confess to you all, I’m already listening to John Rutter’s Christmas album…but hey, I live in England now, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it at all! Because God gives us many good and beautiful things to help us in dark times. Music, poetry, long walks, family conversations (by whatever means - virtual or in person), and of course praying, worshipping together, just sitting with God and so much more.
One these beautiful things are the Psalms. I’ve been finding that the Psalms are a real treasure. Whatever we’ve been thinking about, feeling, suffering, enjoying…well there is pretty much a psalm for it. I’ve been especially fond lately of reading Psalm 139. I read it in the King James version because I like the language, but any version you like will do. My favorite part is “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me” and a bit later “If take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me”. It is a psalm that is so emphatic about the fact that God is with us, has always been with us, will always be with us, in darkness, in light, in our shame, in our glory. I really need to hear this right now. And another favorite lately is Psalm 143. I especially like the verse: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee”. I like to think of this each morning when I wake. God gives us many gifts, perhaps the Psalms are a gift you would like to open this advent and Christmas season - I can assure you there is one that will speak to you.
With all God’s blessings upon you
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas