A bit of a shock for Mary but not for Mandela's mum

Ian Dowling shared a thought-provoking Advent prayer with me recently, “Lord prepare me for what you’re preparing for me.” Yes, He has something prepared for me - but I need some help in getting ready for it, whatever it is. Yes, I want to do and experience what You have for me but please sort me out a bit beforehand! I wonder how Mary prepared herself for what God had prepared for her?

It is a prayer we could utter for the church too. “Lord, prepare us for what you’re preparing for us.” This is what is going on in many of us at this time. He is doing work in us (‘cos we are the project) before He entrusts us with what He has prepared for the Leeds Vineyard. Moving to HMC isn’t the project, it’s just part of the preparation!

This Sunday I will have quite a lot to say about this. We have planned an unusual start to next year. Our week of prayer and fasting is being extended to a month and we are calling it “Why, God?”. On Sunday I will be sharing our vision for this time. It’s about getting prepared for what He has prepared for us.

Between now and then we have quite a break from our normal programme – this Sunday is the last time we will be together, apart from the Carol Services, until 5 January, so I would love to see you there on Sunday to hear about these “preparations”.

The good thing about this break is that we get some “time-off” from the normal work of doing church so that we can give energy to celebrating Christmas. The more difficult thing about this break is that Christmas can be a difficult or lonely time for many and by not meeting together it is harder still. So may I encourage you to think about the people in your housegroup and endeavour to stay in touch with each other over this season.

Other events
14 December (this Saturday): Carol singing and mince pie giveaway in Headingley
Also on Saturday - the Healing on the Streets team will be praying in Leeds market. Contact Pauline and Jerry if you would like to join them.
22 December: Carol Services at 11.00am and 7.00pm at HMC
1 January: New Year’s Day walk on Ilkley Moor

Love in Action
This Sunday is the last chance to join in with Love in Action for Christmas. But there are many other ways to give and serve and see lives transformed – not least by volunteering with the Debt Advice Centre team or at the Child Contact Centre (which is hoping to double up its availability from February, so there are openings here very soon).

Recordings and pictures
If you would like to listen again to talks from Sunday mornings you can find them in“Resources/Teaching” on the website. We’ve recently uploaded:
  • Kate Newman, A Serving Church
  • Maggie Gee, The feeding of the 5000
  • Jonathan Clark, The meaning of life
  • And the most recent five sermons I did in October/November on Romans.
And here (candles, kids and a cairn) are some great photos from last Sunday at weekly worship: there’s Ben the builder constructing a real cairn to mark our journey so far and also pictures of the children enjoying their Christmas parties.



Good News - front
Good News – our Carol Service theme

Whilst millions have heard the news about Nelson Mandela’s death very few people heard the news about his birth. But through that baby boy, born in poverty and anonymity 95 years ago, millions have been freed and the beacon of forgiveness has been relit.

In contrast, very few people heard the news about the death of Jesus at the time. Fewer still heard the news about His birth into poverty some 2000 years ago. For those that did hear, the news was a definite surprise. For Mary – it was a bit of a shock, how did that happen? For the shepherds - they were sore afraid - petrified more like. For Herod - uh oh, there’s trouble ahead! 

Through that baby boy, Jesus, the entire world is offered freedom. His earthly life ended with the prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. He sacrificed His life so that everyone who believes in Him can receive forgiveness. And then He rose from the dead and we can know Him today.

The news of Jesus’ ignominious birth is surprising news for us too; it changes our lives, one way or another. But, it is good news: what was broken is about to get fixed, wrong is repaired, injustice is put right. This good news headline announces the healing of the people and the planet.

God with us.

Emmanuel.

David Flowers, 10/12/2013
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