Archives December 2016

Saltram House – some pictures

All taken on my Huawei P9 Phone

[caption id=”attachment_5739″ align=”alignnone” width=”768″ edf[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5738″ align=”alignnone” width=”1024″ bdr[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5737″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ cof[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5736″ align=”alignnone” width=”1024″ edf[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5735″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ dig[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5733″ align=”alignnone” width=”768″ edf[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5729″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ hdr[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5728″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ hdr[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5726″ align=”alignnone” width=”1024″ dig[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5725″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ mde[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5724″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ cof[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5723″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ cof[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5722″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ dig[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5721″ align=”alignnone” width=”578″ sdr[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_5720″ align=”alignnone” width=”1024″ sdr[/caption

iPlayerGUI Version 2 – a nicer way to download and keep BBC TV from iPlayer

I love to use the get_iplayer app to record and keep my favourite Programmes, after all, my licence fee has paid for them.

Unfortunately, it’s interface is text only and that can be a little intimidating for some, so a couple of years ago, I wrote a GUI front end for it in the AutoIT scripting language, and now it was time to update that in a new language – Java.

If you don’t have Java installed, it should offer you the option to do so. Some people don’t like having Java on their PCs, muttering about security, but it is a very secure, sandboxed system.


  1. Download get_iplayer from here and install it.
  2. Download and install my GUI front end from here. Dropbox will say that .exe files can’t be previewed, but that is fine and to be expected, so then select to either “download” or “save to your (own) dropbpox”, if you have one.
  3. When you run the app, simply go to your iPlayer window in your browser and copy the address at the top. This is one:
  4. Go back to my App and paste it into the text box.
  5. If it is a Radio program, select Radio, otherwise the default is a TV programme
  6. Hit Download and a textbox will open up and do the downloading for you. Get_iPlayer has a folder on the Desktop called “iPlayer Recordings” and you will find all your TV programmes and Radio Shows there

I didn’t create get_iplayer, there are cleverer people who have done that, I certainly didn’t make Java, but I make this front end available to the world free-of-charge under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC License. All I ask you for is your prayers for my ministry here in Plymouth, call it PRAYERWARE if you like! I accept no responsibility for it, I made it for my own use and share it with you because I’m nice like that…

Carols in the Pub – A reflection for 2016

Who, I wonder, is hoping for a few presents this year? You do know he’s making a list… and checking it twice – Santa, it appears is signed up to the snooper’s charter!

But the best Christmas present I ever received was the model aeroplane my Dad made for me, out of balsa wood and tissue paper when I was about 7. I loved it, not least because it expressed the profound love that my Dad had for me: I think the best presents are the ones that come with love.

Despite the glossy adverts that come from our biggest retailers which suggest that it’s the gift itself which is the most important thing: it isn’t: really it is the thought that counts – the care and consideration which goes into just the right thing.

This year, the Amazon Ad with a Vicar and an Imam exchanging gifts has trumped all the others.


The best adverts tell stories and this one tells the story of friendship across faiths, of problems shared, of mutual respect and understanding. It’s a story of a shared humanity which underpins our glorious diversity, that flows on despite all the discord and conflicts which have made this year so difficult for so many.

Presents which express love, change lives. For me, they remind me of the greatest present of all: born on Christmas Day.

And God still reaches out to us across the centuries in this Christ-child. A gift which expresses God’s love of us poured out in human form: peace and unity in a small bundle.

So, why not welcome him this season, and be transformed this Christmas; as you express your love in gifts given and gifts received and gifts left by Santa Claus this year, may you see the gift given to all of us, wrapped in human flesh: Jesus Christ – God stepped into this earth for you, and for me, and for the whole world.

Merry Christmas everyone, and prayers for a blessed 2017, and may I give to you now, God’s blessing:

May the eagerness of the shepherds,
the joy of the angels,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Mary and Joseph,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
+Father, Son & Holy Spirit
be poured out upon you and those whom you love
this night, this Christmastide and Always.

O Antiphons


It is especially in the final week of Advent that our attention is fixed on the messianic promises proclaimed by the ancient prophets of Israel.  A distinctive feature of the Liturgy of the Hours in this week preceding the Christmas vigil is the antiphon sung at Vespers (evening prayer) before and after the recitation of the Magnificat.  Originally incorporated into the monastic office in the Middle Ages, these antiphons, often called the “Greater Antiphons” or the “O Antiphons”, are also echoed in the daily lectionary as the verse for the gospel acclamation during this week.  They add a mood of eager expectation to the liturgy that builds throughout these seven days and climaxes at Christmas.


The O Antiphons have been described as “a unique work of art and a special ornament of the pre-Christmas liturgy, filled with the Spirit of the Word of God”.  They “create a poetry that fills the liturgy with its splendour”, and their composer shows “a magnificent command of the Bible’s wealth of motifs”.  The antiphons are, in fact, a collage of Old Testament types of Christ.  Their predominant theme is messianic,  stressing the hope of the Saviour’s coming.  Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah.  The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem.

In their structure, each of the seven antiphons follows the same pattern, resembling a traditional liturgical prayer.  Each O Antiphon begins with an invocation of the expected Messiah, followed by praise of him under one of his particular titles.  Each ends with a petition for God’s people, relevant to the title by which he is addressed, and the cry for him to “Come”.

The seven titles attributed to Jesus in the antiphons are

Wisdom (Sapientia in Latin),


Ruler of the House of Israel (Adonai),


Root of Jesse (Radix),


Key of David (Clavis),


Rising Dawn (Oriens),


King of the Gentiles (Rex)


and Emmanuel.


In Latin the initials of the titles make an acrostic which, when read backwards. means: “Tomorrow I will be there” (“Ero cras”).  To the medieval mind this was clearly a reference to the approaching Christmas vigil.

Today the O Antiphons are most familiar to us in the hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel”.  Each verse of the hymn parallels one of the antiphons. In addition to their use in the Liturgy of the Hours and the gospel acclamation, they have been popularly incorporated into church devotions and family prayer.  An Advent prayer service for use at home, in school, or in the events of parish life can be built around the singing or recitation of the antiphons, accompanied by the related Scripture readings and prayers.  They can be prayed at family dinner times or with the lighting of the Advent wreath, with a short explanation of their biblical background.   The titles can also be depicted by simple symbols – for example, on banners and posters or in bulletin illustrations – to help us to reflect on these Advent themes.

Christingle 2016

This is the Prezi which supports this Christingle. You can copy, edit and modify it to suit your needs. The Well-good Nativity is from the Bible Society. Download here.

Access the Prezi hereprezi_horizontal

Christingle Kits and Grace, Candles & Tapers, Fire Extinguishers and Water Buckets in Chancel. Voile covers the big nativity
People gather in Nave; while

  • Music
  • CJMs “Heaven’s Final Word”
  • Children’s Version of the Nativity
  • Tom & Jerry’s “Twas the Night before Christmas”


(coming in from the back) 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1…

Christmas starts… now!
Welcome to our Christingle Service

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

The Lord Be With You
And also with you

Now I won’t want to keep you long tonight as I know you all have to get back to your beds because some of you may be expecting something or someone later to call… but first

O Come All Ye Faithful (vs 1-3) ( Number 12 on Carol Sheets)

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him,
born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

God of God,
Light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
very God,
begotten, not created:

Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
‘Glory to God
in the highest:’

And if you want to sing the last verse you will need to come to either:

Midnight Mass 11.30pm S. Mary’s Bickleigh
Mass of the Day tomorrow 10am S Edward Shaugh Prior

This is certainly an exciting time: and as we get all figitty with the sheer fun of seeing all our relatives, eating lots of scrummy food and may (if we’ve been good) opening the odd present or two! Sometimes, we can miss the reason for the season: sometimes amid the hustle and bustle, the noise, we can lose sight of the stillness, the pause.

God plan has been coming some time. A baby takes time to grow in their Mummy’s tummy and in the same way, Jesus grew inside Mary, slowly and over the past few weeks and months we have been looking forward to this wonderful thing which the prophets of old (like Isaiah) foretold.

Until God chooses to step into this world and become one of us,


God is here to be a part of our lives, not remote and distant, but here in time and history and to be present today in the Church, in his word and in his holy sacraments.

At the heart of Christmas (as you can see here) is the truth that, long predicted, long expected, A child is born, a son is given and his name will be Jesus – God saves!

Let us now sing The First Noel (Vs 1+6) as we get ready to hear this wonderful story…

The First Noel (Vs 1+6) (Number 5)

The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay:
In fields where they lay a-keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.


Every time you say the following words, I need you to join in by doing these actions and sounds:

Well good: Thumbs up say “Well Good!”

Shepherds: Hands out and bent forward, say ‘Baa’

Wise men: Stroke chin wisely and say ‘hmmm’

Mary: Hands up and shout ‘Mummy’

Joseph: Hands up and shout ‘Daddy’

Angel: Wave hands above head and sing a holy ‘ahhh’

So now we come to tell, our Tale… The Well Good Story of Christmas

Our story starts a really, really long time ago.
It was a time before

  • Toys
  • Trees
  • Birds
  • And animals…

Our story starts before humans like you and me…

Before shepherds Before wise men

Our story begins so long ago, it was even before Bruce Forsyth
A time before everything

God made the world.

And it was well good!

But.. .the humans he made, like you and like me,
said mean things and were really quite nasty.

In fact the humans didn’t listen to God.

They’d hurt each other and wouldn’t make amends

So God and humans could no longer be friends.

But to be friends again, God had a plan.

And his plan was to send a very special young man.

Many years later, there was a young lady called Mary.

From the Bible I mean Not the baker off the telly!

This one day, or maybe even night

an angel appeared suddenly

and gave Mary quite a fright.

The angel said:

I bring good news

It’s well good – honest!

There’ll be a baby born

Just as God promised

So Mary was going to have a baby,

just as God promised.

And the baby would be called, Jesus.

There was a man called Joseph and he was going to marry Mary.

But Joseph noticed, she had a bit of a belly.

He saw her big belly bump, and wondered how’d it got there.

And so he scratched his head and twizzled his hair.

But one night, when Joseph was sleeping, an angel came to visit.

The angel said:

Mary will give birth through the spirit.

I bring good news

It’s well good – honest

There’ll be a baby born

Just as God promised


So Mary and Joseph – both of them!
Set off together on a journey, all the way to Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem Mary was ready to give birth to the baby who’ll be King

But guess what? There was no room for them at the inn!

Don’t be afraid

Don’t get uptight

Relax, take a breather

You’ll be all right!


So they managed to find somewhere to stay, in a stable,
In a place full of hay.

They stayed in the place where animals get fed.

And it was there that baby Jesus was born, with straw for a bed.

Now, in a field nearby, there were some shepherds.

They were just minding their own business,

Maybe cleaning their shoes

Maybe trying to scrape off the smelly sheep poos!

[React to a bad smell

But all of a sudden, something really weird happened.

Out of nowhere, an angel appeared!

Don’t be afraid
That’s what I say

Say hi to the baby

In a manger full of hay.


Then as the angel said that, something even weirder happened!

Suddenly, loads of angels appeared! And I mean LOADS!

We bring good news, they said

It’s well good – honest!

There’ll be a baby born

Just as God promised

So the shepherds, having listened to what the angels said,

hurried off to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.

And they found him there, lying in a manger of straw in a stable.

let us sing While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.

While Shepherds Watched their flocks (Number 7)

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.

‘Fear not,’ said he (for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind);
‘glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.

‘To you in David’s town this day
is born of David’s line
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
and this shall be the sign:

‘The heavenly babe you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
and in a manger laid.’

Thus spake the seraph; and forthwith
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song;

‘All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
good will henceforth from heaven to men
begin and never cease.’

There were also some wise people in the story.
They had been travelling a very long way.

But they didn’t use Google maps, or a sat nav – they followed a star!

They went to the King, King Herod,

and asked where baby Jesus was as they had seen his star.

So King Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem,

which wasn’t all that far.

Then the wise men found Jesus

Next to animals with fur

And they brought him some Gold

Frankincense and Myrrh.

And the wise men bowed down and worshipped him.

The wise men remembered that King Herod

wanted them to report back to him.

But Herod wasn’t very nice,

and so they were warned in a dream

not to go back to him!

Don’t be afraid

Hear what I say!

Just don’t visit Herod

Go home another way.

Herod searched high

And Herod searched low,

but where was Jesus?

He just didn’t know.

An angel appeared to Mary and Joseph

to warn them to hide from Herod in a different country.

Don’t be afraid

Don’t get uptight

Relax, take a breather

You’ll be alright!

So they escaped to a different country,

until Herod was gone.

And then they were no longer afraid.

They travelled back home, and that’s where they stayed.

So Jesus grew up, from a baby, to a boy, to a man

Jesus grew up to be a carpenter man.

And he did amazing things

He healed the sick, he told great stories.

Was amazing all the time

He also walked on water

and even turned water into wine!

And do you remember that time, long, long ago, when humans like me and you

were mean and not very nice?

When we were nasty to each other

and we wouldn’t make amends?

And when God and humans could no longer be friends?

But then God had a plan to make us friends again?

Well Jesus the baby and Jesus the man;

Was the exact same Jesus and God’s rescue plan.

Jesus lived, then he died, for you and for me,

He did it to make our wrong, history.

To take on all the mean things that we’ve ever done.

But something amazing happened,

because he’s the most powerful one.

He came back to life!

And it’s worth a big high five

Because the well good news is Jesus is alive!

So don’t get scared, or jumpy
And don’t be afraid

‘I will be with you always’ – says Jesus

‘Not for a bit, but always.’


And that’s why Christmas is the well good news, honest!
When Jesus came, just as God promised.


This is a Christingle Service, which means I suppose that we should have some Christingles around here somewhere… Oh yes, you have them in kit form! I hope no-one has opened and eaten the sweets yet…

Because this year, I thought it would be a good idea for us to make our own, and you have the kit here

Can anyone tell me what a Christingle is?

The Christingle was invented by Saint Lucia in Scandanavia to explain symbolically God’s goodness to the world. As this is quite a large crowd, I’m going to scale up my Christingle a little bit, so everyone can see. It features:

An Orange, which represents the World that God made.

Four cocktail sticks, representing the four seasons, the four corners of the earth

… dried fruit, and sweets representing God’s gifts to the world.

A Red Ribbon tied around the Orange, representing the Blood of Christ

A Lighted Candle representing Jesus Christ, shining in the world today

Christingles not only signify the goodness of God to us, but also they can be a focus for Christmas.

If you can, replace the sweeties on the Christingle tonight, there are extra candles in the bags for you and place it alit on your Christmas table, so as you gather as a family, you can be reminded of the place that Jesus Christ has amongst your festivities.


Dear God,
May we whose faces shine from the light of your Christingle Candle be blessed this Christmas, be blessed this year. For family, for friends, for food and for all you do for us, We give you praise! Amen!

Say Grace before your meal, and thank God for bringing you together as a family. On the outside of the bag there is this special grace that you can say together when you have re-lit your Christingle.

If you want to film it and post it to me via the usual social media channels:

Twitter: @frsimon eMail: or Facebook


When you have completed your Christingle…

Candles are lit.

The children will sing the first verse of Away in a Manger in the candlelight and then for the next two verses we will all join in.

Light Christingles LIGHTS OUT

Away in a Manager (Number 6)

(in dark, Children first verse, 2nd/3rd verse, all)

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
and stay by my bedside till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus: I ask thee to stay
close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

Now, tomorrow is the birthday of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and all these candles make it look a bit like a birthday cake.

I don’t know if we have 2016 candles here, but we have quite a lot… What song do we sing at someone’s birthday? Why don’t we all sing “Happy Birthday Dear Jesus” to remind ourselves of why we celebrate Christmas – the birthday of the most special man ever in the history of the world!

Happy Birthday to you

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Jesus,
Happy birthday to you!

Blow Candles Out.


And that’s why we have Christmas and welcome the day
And sing and eat turkey and put on a play
And dress up like angels and get lots of toys
It’s not just because of that sweet baby boy
It’s because of the man he grew up to be
Who changed people’s lives and can change you and me
To live and to love just like God always planned
And turn what is sad into glad again
And turn what is sad


The Lord be with you
And also with you

May the humility of the shepherds,
the faith of the wise men,
the joy of the angels,
and the peace of the Christ Child,
be God’s gift to us and to all people this Christmas
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the +Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you and remain with you, this night and always.


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.