Lorraine Faires shares 24 Ideas to prepare you for Christmas 2020
I am sure everyone is bored of hearing how this year is a little different- so instead I am going to focus on our family traditions which stay the same year on year. Instead of a chocolate calendar we have an activity advent – 24 different activities to prepare for our Christmas celebration. Why not join in with ours or make your own?
1. Start a reverse advent calendar. Items for the food bank are a popular one, or you could write a happy thought down each day and “open” them on Christmas morning.
2. Try a Christmas Zumba workout!
3. Make an Origami ornament- share your best effort on our facebook page!
4. Find out about Christmas in another country- why not adopt a new tradition?
5. Make a decoration (We love using salt dough, but snowman toilet rolls or paper snowflakes are also great)
6. Join the St Nicholas Day Lantern Walk (see What’s On page for details)
7. Have a festive indoor picnic
8. Support a local business- if you aren’t buying this year, try sharing on social media or recommending to a friend!
9. Write a letter- to Father Christmas, a friend or a neighbour (everyone loves getting a hand written letter!) Let them know you are thinking of them, even if you can’t visit
10. Enjoy a mince pie or festive bake (make your own if you can)
11. Today is Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day- join in with your best festive outfit!
12. Make a wreath or garland (upcycle your old decorations)
13. Join in with the Christmas Hamper Zoom service (see opposite for details)
14. Make and send a Christmas card to someone who would appreciate it
15. Take a day off from the news and read a Christmassy story
16. Indulge in Christmas tunes and sing along as loud as you can!
17. Make and enjoy some Santa Bread
18. Take a walk around Ash Vale to see all the lights
19. Make a nativity scene from recycling material
20. Zoom in to Carols by Candlelight (see What’s On page)
21. Have a festive hot chocolate (We enjoy adding gingerbread men!)
22. Prepare a Christmas Eve Box- you don’t need to buy new- choose your best PJ’s, a nice bedtime story or film and maybe even a game to play. Add a yummy biscuit or two – it is Christmas!
23. Enjoy a Christmas movie
24. Join in with Christingle for the Children’s Society (see What’s On page for details)
Have a really lovely Christmas and enjoy making some special memories and new traditions this year!
We love our beautiful cover this issue, a Christingle Orange by Dan Austin. We will be celebrating Christingle out in our community on Christmas Eve this year. Please join us! We wish you a peaceful and blessed Christmas.
Enjoy a socially distanced lantern walk from The Chapel on Wharf Rd to St Mary’s and see St Nicholas! (Slots available starting from Chapel 3:30pm — 6:30pm) Please dress for the weather and bring a lantern or torch. Booking is essential. Text / phone 07730 609446
Sun 13th Dec 10am—Service & Christmas Hampers
Zoom church service and the opportunity to donate towards hampers for local people in need. For Zoom details contact firstname.lastname@example.org For hamper donations (to give funds or donate items) please contact us on 07730 609446 or the local Covid Support group.
Sun 20th Dec 6:30pm – Carols by Candlelight
Join us from home on Zoom (if restrictions permit we will also have limited tickets in church, booking essential). For Zoom details & to enquire about tickets please email email@example.com
Thur 24th Dec 4:30pm— Christingle Carol Singing
We can’t gather in church for Christingle, so we will come to you! Look out for carol singers out and about in Ash Vale, and join in with the fun on Zoom. Christingle donations are welcomed for the Children’s Society, and a link will be shared on Facebook & Zoom. At 6pm we will be finishing with everyone bell ringing on their doorsteps too! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for links.
Thur 24th Dec 11:30pm – Midnight Mass
Church Service to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will be on Zoom (and some seating in church if regulations allow). Contact email@example.com
Fri 25th Dec 10am – Christmas Morning Service
This is our main Christmas Day Morning Service on Zoom (and some seating in church if regulations allow). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Gifts to help our neighbours. We would like to encourage everyone to ‘buy local’ in 2020, to donate for Christmas hampers here, and also to support our twinned communities in Uganda with Christmas Trees for Christmas. www.amahaweuganda.org Thank You.
All events are subject to change due to Covid-19 safety rules. Please keep in touch via our mailing list for weekly notices by email email@example.com or keep an eye on Facebook @StMarysAshVale St Mary’s Church, Ash Vale, GU12 5JE
Sift flour with spices. In another bowl beat butter with sugar till light and fluffy. Add the citrus rinds and gradually add beaten egg. Fold flour and spice mix in alternately to the fruit and nuts. Finally add Brandy.
Pour mixture into cake tin and make a slight well in the centre. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 145’C for about 3 and a half hours. After cooking turn off oven and leave tin, in the oven to cool.
Once fully cooled, prick cake with a skewer and add 2 tablespoons of Brandy/Rum of your choice, wrap in brown paper and tinfoil and a couple of days before Christmas cover with marzipan and Royal Icing.
Sunday services 10am: Weekly church service (in person or on Zoom) at St Mary’s. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the link or text 07730609446 (zoom only during lockdown)
Monday Coffee Zoom 11am: Join the #ChapelKids and #LittleLambsLibrary parents & carers for a coffee chat online via zoom. No agenda just a chance to chat, offload, and share a laugh. Text Alex for the link 07730 609446 All welcome.
Wednesday Toddlers 11:30am: #ChapelKids & #LittleLambsLibrary are getting together outdoors (with social distancing) weather permitting, and on zoom if wet. You can also join our Facebook Messenger chat to keep in touch and find others to meet up with. Contact Alex on 07730 609446 for details (zoom only during lockdown).
Wednesday Evensong 8pm on Zoom, contact email@example.com for details and zoom links.
Wednesday Chapel Craft 8pm-10pm at The Chapel on Wharf Rd or via Zoom, contact Kirsty for details. Kirsty.firstname.lastname@example.org (zoom only during lockdown)
San Rocco Chapel Art Club meets on Zoom on Thursdays. Contact Rev Neil for the link. email@example.com
Thursdays 10:30am-12:00 Baby Plus at St Paul’s Tongham with Claire via zoom online. Singing, chat and activity ideas. For details contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday Café at St Mary’s 10:30am Please let us know you are coming so we can put out enough seats email@example.com (Closed during lockdown but get in touch and we will let you know when we re-open)
Thursday Alpha Course at St Mary’s: An opportunity to explore the Christian faith in a small group, and ask questions! Contact Jackie for details 07863 311165 (via zoom only during lockdown)
Film Fridays at The Chapel 6.30pm — contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details & booking — numbers are limited so booking is essential. (Closed during lockdown but join the email list for news once we reopen)
With the whole world groaning under the strain of coronavirus , on top of climate change and other issues, it feels right to make every penny of our Christmas spending really count this year. Here are some ideas!
Buy local—it goes without saying, our lovely local shops and entrepreneurs need us more than ever this year! The big chains have big reserves, small businesses do not. So when you’re browsing, please start with local shops and local online sellers first. Give a voucher, buy a gift, book a treatment… supporting them now means they will still be here in 2021, what a splendid gift!
Donate for Christmas Hampers—Our local Covid Support group are partnering with St Mary’s doing food parcels, and this Christmas they will also be delivering hampers to local people in need. Keep an eye out for the special offers and see what you can donate! Donations needed by Sunday 13th Dec please. You can also donate online via give a little. Thank you https://givealittle.co/campaigns/7a47190c-ad4e-4cf9-8662-da844101a41c
Give a Christmas Tree in Uganda!
St Mary’s works closely with the charity Amaha We Uganda, supporting our brothers and sisters there to sow seeds of hope, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.
One of the big problems lately has been soil erosion. It has wiped out crops, destroyed homes and obliterated livelihoods. Re-foresting is crucial and so the AWU team are very busy setting up tree nurseries! Did you sponsor a tree last year—it’s now growing in Uganda! Please support this amazing work and why not ‘buy a tree’ in Uganda for a loved one as a present? We will send you a Gift Certificate by email that you can personalise and email (or print and post) to give to your loved ones. Donate online and simply email alex@amahaweuganda with your donation reference for your certificate.
Have you noticed? Whenever you turn on the television or radio lately, without a doubt you will hear someone talking about ‘Christmas is cancelled’, ‘Covid stole Christmas’, ‘Christmas is on hold’ or even coming up with 101 ways to ‘save Christmas’. The media is fixated on the issue. However, it seems to me that the real damage being done to “Christmas” in 2020 is to that commercial ideal of Christmas ‘with all the trimmings’. The culture of excess, over consumption, endless novelty and waste is being challenged this year. Faced with financial uncertainty many of us are reflecting on what the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas is, and it is about Christmas that is really important.
Well, the good news is that the real Christmas doesn’t need saving – in fact, its here to save us! The birth of our saviour Jesus Christ is a gift from God and cannot be taken away. Every Sunday throughout the year at St Mary’s we remember that God came to be among his people, in order to save us. He came in the form of a man – Jesus Christ – to show us the way. God has not abandoned his people. That baby in the manger, the same saviour who died on a cross for us and was raised from the dead, is more than capable of visiting us in a pandemic. No virus, no government regulations, no gates, shields, doors or barriers can come between us and Him.
The truth is, that the first Christmas was far from jolly. It came at one of the worst times in history for God’s people. They were occupied by a foreign force, suffering under corrupt government and looking for a saviour to bring justice and peace. The amazing thing is that God appeared, as a baby, and the first people to hear about it from the angel host were not the kings and leaders of the day, but instead a bunch of poor shepherds our in the fields watching their flock. God sent an angel choir to some of the poorest, humblest people in the community, and told them the good news before anyone else. Speaking of humble, the other central figures in the story of Jesus’s birth were similarly low in the social pecking order. Mary the mother of Jesus was a young girl, not yet married when the angel appeared to her to tell her she had been chosen to bear God’s son. Her response to the news though is pure joy, and the Magnificat, her joyful song, is one of the most beautiful passages in the whole of scripture.
Luke 1:46-56 Mary’s Song (New International Version)
And Mary said:“ My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Paintings by Sandro Botticelli “Mystical Christmas” and “Madonna Magnificat”
Two paintings that I love by Botticelli. The first shows the angels singing and dancing around the baby Jesus and his mum Mary. I particularly like the angels on the roof dressed in white red and green symbolising Grace, Truth and Justice in juxtaposition with the two devils hiding under the rocks at the bottom. In the next painting called “Madonna Magnificat” we picture Mary writing her song of praise helped by the angels in attendance while baby Jesus sits on her lap holding a pomegranate a symbol of eternal life. Notice how beautifully Botticelli paints the hands that move along the bottom of this masterpiece.
We may not be able to do all the usual things we would normally do this Christmas, but in our households and bubbles we can celebrate God, who is unlimited and all powerful. One of His many gifts to us is our creativity and this year we all have the opportunity to be creative. We can send messages of love and hope to our loved ones in so many ways now using the internet, phones and cards. We can’t gather for a big Christingle service but we can bring joy to one another by singing carols outside, sharing what we have, and ringing bells on our doorsteps at 6pm on Christmas eve as an act of solidarity, love and hope. Even if you haven’t got a bell, shake your keys, ring the doorbell, or make a joyful noise in whatever way you choose. Let’s join with the angel song and celebrate what really matters.
“All Glory be to God on high , and to the earth be peace;
goodwill henceforth from heav’n to men begin and never cease.”
We were recently delighted to learn that St. Mary’s church has been confirmed as a Bronze Award winner under the A Rocha Eco Church scheme. This is a Christian charity with a remit to mobilise Christians and Churches to care for the environment. https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/
Looking forward to 2021, there are positive things that could be done to improve our eco-credentials still further, and potentially to earn a Silver Award. Here are a few ideas that we would encourage everyone at Church and the wider community in Ash Vale to consider:
· When Covid restrictions are finally lifted and services in Church resume (yes it will happen one day!), why not try walking, cycling or car sharing to get to Church?
· Consider how you could reduce waste by making small changes to your lifestyle in line with the principles of “reduce”, “re-use” and “recycle”.
· Take the time to check the source of items in your shopping trolley and commit to increase your use of Fairtrade & ethically sourced goods.
· If you are thinking of replacing your car next year, have a look at the new options for cleaner electric or hybrid vehicles.
· Calculate your personal/household carbon footprint using one of the available online tools (e.g. www.carbonfootprint.com).
· Commit to offset your own carbon footprint by making a donation to one of many environmental projects, such as the tree nurseries being set up by Amaha We Uganda (www.amahaweuganda.org).
The national Church has a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. St.Mary’s carbon footprint has recently been calculated and a baseline has been set or 2018 which was 22.66 tCO2. Of this, 16.94 tCO2 is attributable to gas and electricity usage, based on actual meter readings. The remainder is due to a range of factors including car use by people attending church services, food served in church and use of paper, etc. These contributions are hard to capture precisely but have been estimated using information from St. Mary’s Annual Report. As some improvements were made to the heating system at the end of 2018, and 2019 was a warm year, encouragingly, we have seen an improvement. 2019 has been calculated at 18.02 tCO2, of which 11.46 tCO2 is attributable to gas and electricity use.
I was recently asked how many trees would need to be planted to offset our carbon footprint. Not knowing the answer, I reckoned a quick online search would yield the required information but as is often the case, it proved to be a little more complicated. First, I discovered the amount of CO2 absorbed by a tree depends on multiple factors such as species, climate, rainfall and elevation, and secondly opinions vary on the number of years that should be used in calculations. After reviewing several references I am assuming 8kg/year for a “typical” tree over 20 years, one tree will offset 160kg of CO2, and six trees will offset 1 tonne (tCO2). For St.Mary’s church, this gives a target of 108 trees to offset our 2019 carbon footprint.
Let’s work together on this on our journey towards a Carbon Neutral future.
The pandemic that has dominated our lives for most of this year has challenged many people to re-evaluate their priorities. This has not been exclusively negative – it has, at times, enabled us to catch a glimpse of what could be, perhaps even what should be, in a re-imagined world. Whether you have had to respond to loss or hardship, or have perhaps simply had more enforced time for reflection, are there things that you view differently now than you did at the start of the year?
As we approach Christmas, what do you hope for? What do you fear? Amidst the uncertainties that surround our plans, could this be a long-awaited opportunity to understand anew what Christmas is all about? All around us, there is talk of “saving Christmas” – but the Bible makes clear that we have got this all wrong, for Christmas is all about the dawning of God’s great plan to save us!
These two readings from the Christmas story make this clear to us, both in messages brought by angels. Through their familiar words we hear of the identity and the life-purpose of the child Jesus who was about to be born that first Christmas.
What does the angel tell Joseph will be Jesus’ purpose in life (Matthew 1:21)? And how do the angels describe the role he will have to the terrified shepherds in that awesome encounter on the night of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:11)? As Matthew makes clear to us, the meaning of the name “Jesus” is “the one who saves”! This is really what we celebrate at Christmas – that we have a Saviour, one who was born for the sole purpose of rescuing us!
A few lines earlier in the book of Luke, we read that this was part of God’s plan from long ago as he had been telling his people through the Old Testament prophets: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Saviour from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” (Luke 1:68-70).
What does the idea of Jesus as a Saviour mean to you? From the beginning of time, God has been revealing himself to humanity, desiring all people to live in relationship with him, wanting to pour out his love on them, and showing us how to live in ways that bring about good. We too are invited to know this revelation, love and way of life. However, since the beginning of time, we have thought we knew best, have preferred our own ways and independence from God – even chosen to follow other “gods”. We see the results of these choices in the world around us, with our news pages dominated by stories of hate, injustice, violence, envy and broken relationships. As we turn our gaze away from our screens and inwards towards ourselves, we see that our lives are also far from perfect – and yet we know in our hearts that another way must be possible.
Christmas reminds us of the invitation to choose a different life, to seek the forgiveness and empowerment that comes from following Jesus, the One who came to make it possible. We do not have to be stuck in the world as we see it, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) has come save us into a different life with different priorities, to enable us to have peace with God and with one another.
Amazingly, this invitation extends to us all, however we see ourselves. It does not depend on anything we have done, or not done, but on the love that God has for each one of us. This is why the angels call Jesus the Saviour – for he came for the sole purpose of bringing us back to God and each other. As the apostle Paul tells Titus, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy…” (Titus 3:5)
So, whatever restrictions and compromises we may face over the coming weeks, what a relief that we don’t have to worry about “saving Christmas” – Jesus has already done it all!
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
During the snowy winter of 1981/82 here in Ash/Ash Vale, along with everywhere else in Southern England, we awoke one day to find there had been a huge snowfall overnight and everyone was totally ‘snowed in’! There was no way in, or out of Ash & Ash Vale, all roads were impassable until the snowploughs reached us with grit etc. For that day we were all ‘cut-off’! Those who did try to drive to work, found the roads where impassable & had to return home. This was a day I shall never forget!
What a wonderful day of fun and laughter the day turned out to be! Everyone (young or older, with or without children) made for the ranges! We all took everything we could find to have fun! We wore our boots, wellies, thick coats, gloves, mittens, and hats to keep our ears warm. Sledges, toboggans, tin trays, and even ski’s were the ‘order of the day’! . There were numerous snowball fights (between children & children, plus adults and adults!), several snow-men (or “snow-people” to be politically correct these days!) were built and children just enjoyed rolling in the snow, especially down the butts (but no damage was done, the snow was so thick)! Everyone mixed in with the fun, regardless of their age.
A couple of the menfolk built a fire (in a sheltered snow-hole) and managed to get a decent fire going. They then found sticks/branches, planted them in the snow with a line of string attached to make a ‘drying line’ for drying gloves!
As the kiddies (& adults) gloves became soaked through, they would take them to the fire, take them off and they were ‘pegged’ onto the line to dry out! In exchange they received another ‘dry’ish pair of gloves, any gloves that fitted!
I am certain no child (or adult) went home that day with their own gloves, but no-one cared! It was a day nobody who was involved in will ever forget and will probably not happen again? The ‘Community Spirit’ was definitely shown on that day.
Christmas Eve in 1972 was a Sunday. This is why the Sunday School at the Ash Vale Methodist Church planned a special Christmas procession on that Sunday morning. The idea of Mary and Joseph accompanied by a group of shepherds and the three Wise Men travelling to Bethlehem, appealed to the children and so a plan was hatched to produce something the people of Ash would remember and talk about for years to come.
I, as a new Sunday School Teacher, was one of the team elected to ensure the planned procession took place. My daughter, a newly recruited pupil at the Sunday School was also excited to help.
Many suggestions were considered and rejected. The shepherds should have some sheep and if possible lambs with them. Wasn’t a new born lamb one of the gifts presented to the Baby Jesus ? Enquiries were made but it transpired that sheep, and especially lambs, were not available, so this suggestion had to be shelved.
However, someone was found who could walk with the children whilst playing an accordion. For the next five weeks he, and the children practised their Christmas Carols.
We found an animal refuge that was prepared to lend us a Donkey for the day and they would deliver and collect the Donkey to meet our timing.
So on that Sunday Morning a transporter was met by forty, or so, Sunday School Children at the end of Wharf Road and a Donkey was off loaded.
Now every donkey I had ever seen, and certainly all the pictures I had seen in the Children’s Bible were of a creature that was about half the size of a small pony In the Children’s Bible, Mary was the only rider and she overflowed on all sides of the steed. The donkey that lumbered out of the transporter was huge. About five feet tall with enough space on his back to accommodate the whole Sunday School. We opted for Mary and Joseph together with three companions to ride and the rest of the ‘tribe’ to follow singing Christmas Carols.
Arriving at the Church we were met by the Minister, Bernard, who had thoughtfully brought a bucket and spade with him, in case of accidents. The idea was that the Children should celebrate Christmas and still be there when worshippers arrived for the morning service at 11.00 o’clock. And of course so would Mary, Joseph, the three Kings, Shepherds and, the Donkey.
Entry into the Church was simple enough, the doors were wide enough and it just needed a turn to the right and all would be well. This was when Neddy displayed his thespian independence. As soon as his front half was in, he stopped. He became rooted to the spot. I experienced my first example of an immovable object. We pushed, we pulled we pushed again, we offered carrots and pulled but to no avail. Neddy was not going in any further. But our attempts to put him in reverse were also no good. He had decided that he was there and was going to stay there. Front legs, head and shoulders in the Church and rear quarters firmly filling the doorway. Then, oh catastrophe, the congregation started to arrive. No way to get past this impenetrable blockage so they had to use Minister’s door and so were able to take part in the Service. Bernard was very amused but we faced to problem of getting Neddy out when his transport arrived to take him home.