Archives December 2007

Christmas Day Cooldown

I think it must be a more common phenomenon than we readily admit to, but everything this season gets focussed on the Midnight Mass and the services that precede it than Christmas Day itself: we get to the feast of the Nativity with such a sense of relief  (and a half-a-regular congregation) that half of the necessary gets forgotton and we find ourselves scrabbling to get it complete.

To summarise Christmas Eve:

  • Christingle Preparation was fantastic: a shedload of people turned up to make the Christingle Kits, complete with table grace for the following day. Many hands do indeed make light work and it went quickly: 150 bagged kits ready for the off. This time we didn’t cut into the Oranges so they were intact (and it was therefore much less messy) and we used birthday candles. Raisins and Asda Smartprice Dolly Mixtures were the sweeties of choice.
  • Christingle itself filled the Church almost to capacity: about 170 people: children sat in the chancel, adults everywhere. Started the service with the Tom and Jerry cartoon Twas the Night Before Christmas which set the mood perfectly: “Christmas starts… now!” Most of it went to plan, the only disruptive children were ones known to me, and the feedback was positive. I wasn’t so on the ball as in previous years, but I’m always so self-critical. The Church looked fabulous with all kinds of candles and twinkly lights and the sight of 60 kids singing Away in a Manger in the dark was awe-inspiring. No Christingle-related conflagrations and all happy.
  • Vigil Mass saw about a dozen people gather to hear Mother M celebration. It keeps reminding me how effectivge and useful a Vigil is. I shall keep it up. I was stuck with proclaiming the dullest Gospel of the Year: Matthew 1:1-17. Should have used the video which we created at Walsingham. Didn’t think about it. This is the video:

  • Midnight Mass used two videos illustrated earlier. A couple of AV glitches but minor. About 70 people at Mass. Didn’t set chasuble on fire whilst putting bambino in crib, didn’t get the end of the Gospel right (it should have been the last verse of While Shepherds Watched… but the words didn’t come on screen) but virtually all came up to receive or for a blessing: a dramatic change to last year. The incense worked a treat, with one of our young thurifers, and the music went largely well. Mother M preached well also, and there was a sense of stillness… very atmospheric.
  • Christmas Day, therefore was a heap of unplannedness: I messed up the entrance antiphon, forgot the Advent Wreath until the notices, forgot the Carol books (and the Advent Wreath books), and had decided not to use slides so hymns had waaaaaay to many verses – until I cut them out. Oh, and horror of horrors, we forgot to organise a collection so had to announce a retiring collection. However, there were about 35 adults and 10 kids there.  A decent glass of sherry (fino for Mother M and myself) afterwards, well deserved and despite the ramshackleness of it all, it was friendly, intimate, lovely.


I think that it is because we put so much energy into Midnight, that the day is a bit of an anticlimax, and as we all have other things to think about: family, presents, dinner etc. we neglect our worship. The mass was none the less authentic and no less reverent, but it lacked the preparedness that I want to bring to the liturgy. My fault, I suppose for taking my eye off the ball after the late night (and with an 8-year old, the ineveitable early start).

Still, 10am Masses each day for St. Stephen (26th) St. John (27th) Holy Innocents (28th) and Thomas of Canterbury (29th). Someone has to keep them, and it provides an oasis of calm in the midst of a hectic week for many.

Fr. S


Slightly improved for the big screen, this meditation was used for the Communion Antiphon during Midnight Mass, 2007.

I did not create the brilliantly subversive flash animation nor did I write Lana Martin’s excellent “We are joined by Angels” but I take responsibility for marrying them together in this subversive communion video.


Poem by UA Fanthorpe which inspired this short post communion meditation used at Midnight Mass, 2007

Music: Time Passes by Wim Martins from the Soundtrack to The Belly of an Architect

The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us…

I do a lot of preaching in this season: mainly amongst young people and mainly without a script, which is why so little of it appears documented here.

The core of my argument is the line from John: “and the word became flesh and dwelt among us” – for the Incarnation is at the heart of Christianity, the awesome idea that God should choose to break through into our lives and our existance and come along side us: to sit down (as I did earlier last week) cross-legged amongst the Year 1 children in Infant School, to be one of them.

I was therefore highly struck by this painting:


The Incarnation always serves to challenge us, and to place before us the surprising and the unconventional. Not just my feet, but my head and my hands also!

Next Blesséd Events


Time to put these in your diaries:

Sunday January 20th – Stations of the Spirit, St Cuthberts Church, Tangier Road, Copnor, Portsmouth.

To mark the reopening of this Church we will be offering the challenging and thought-provoking journey at the meeting place of Tracey Emin and Galatians 5, using MP3 players and powerful, prayerful meditations to consider the work of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in our lives.

Palm Sunday 16th March – Blesséd Holy Week St Mary the Virgin, Rowner, Gosport

A new mass of Holy Week, exploring the most important week of the Christian Calendar in radical and challenging ways.

Holy Week 17th – 20th March Multimedia Stations of the Cross – St Thomas the Apostle, Elson

One of Blesséd’s most powerful works, the Multimedia Stations of the Cross began as an installation at Walsingham, and has been repeated in numerous dioceses across the country. This powerful MP3 player-guided individual meditation offers a true multisensual engagement with the Via Dolorosa and will be run for the whole of Holy Week. Booking on 07976 802123 is advised if bringing large groups to experience this.

Sermon: Mother’s Union Deanery Advent Service

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Christmas is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We know it’s coming because the lights are already up, the trees are in, and because five doors on the advent calendar have been opened, and the chocolate quickly consumed.

We know it’s coming because the prophets of anxiety are predicting a difficult time for the shoppers and retailers of our over-stretched, debt-ridden land. We feel the imminence of Christmas in the mincemeat sensations of excitement and dread; of wishing it would never end and wanting it over with now. Of the need to be at home – with family and friends – and the desire to escape it all and get as far away as possible.

As the Grinch – in Dr Seuss’ story – says: ‘Christmas! It’s practically here!’ …Then he growled with his fingers nervously drumming, ‘I must find a way to keep Christmas from coming!’

Advent means the arrival – or coming – of an important person or thing. But break it down into its compound words: ‘ad’ and ‘vent’ and it looks alarmingly like something to do with advertising and windows – it sounds like a big commercial wind. Which of course it is. And has been, and probably always will be. Which is why Grinch-like, seasonal rants about the commercial aspect of Christmas will do nothing to change it.

It’s easy to see that Christmas really ‘doesn’t come from a store’ – easy to guess that ‘it means a little bit more’. In our seasonal preparations, we can mask the awe-inspiring idea that the omnipotent and all-powerful God, the creator of the universe and the source of all being should choose to come down and be one like us. Not a chocolate box image or a commercial enterprise, but a man. A man who would experience the vulnerability of human kind: homeless, forced to flee to another country for his life, to face hunger and privation and ultimately to be condemned and to die.

Advent is therefore a time of expectancy, a time for watching for the dawn to break from on high. A time when the world’s need for Christ becomes clear. Amid our anxieties of debt and society, the need for a saviour has never been more expectant.

Isaiah, a prophet who lived long before Christ, framed our need in this way: ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.’ There was an ache for a saviour long before one appeared. As to what this saviour is for – Isaiah put it in these startling terms: ‘for those living in darkness, a light has come,’ and later ‘he will be pierced for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed.’

For Isaiah it took 600 years and a thousand advent calendar windows before the double doors opened on the baby in the manger he predicted would be ‘the saviour of the world.’ That’s a kind of patience – a kind of expectation and waiting – that’s hard to grasp. In theory, for us, the waiting is over. The baby – whether we like it or not – is here – Immanuel or God with us.

As the Grinch discovered, we can’t stop Christmas from coming, as Dr Seuss said ‘Somehow or other, it came just the same!’

The challenge for us this advent is finding the space to think about why it came at all in the first place. As we sing hymns of great portent, and hear the promise of Scripture, we have the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of the incarnation, the challenge of the birth of God on earth, the implications of the coming of the Messiah.

The cry for action, for justice, for mission to communities where the name of Christ is barely known is real for all of us, and as we turn to the horizon to see the unstoppable dawn, we know that in our midst, the Lord Jesus, our God, is already here.