NEWSLETTER for 20 November from Reverend Peter Reiss, Turton Moorland Team Rector

The Christmas trees have gone up in Chapeltown and Edgworth – it is a bit surreal that one day there is nothing and the next day a big tree has suddenly appeared. Thank you to the Council for the trees and next Friday will be the switch-on of the lights; 6.00pm at Chapeltown and 6.30 in Edgworth. And across the wider area there will be “switch-ons” with various degrees of partying, noise, celebrities, and gathering. And then for a few weeks, in what is otherwise a dark time of the year, there will be some extra sparkling light, and homes also will be decorated and lit up as we challenge the darkness with our array of lights.

This year the news is dominated by pretty gloomy stories, except they are not stories – made up tales – they are all too real, whether the war in Ukraine and the increasing number of war-crimes and atrocities being uncovered (and other wars are sadly pushed to the back pages or the bottom of a webpage), whether the increasing taxation, the inflationary increases in everything we buy, the pressures on our existing organisations, our schools, the NHS and yes also our churches, and in every case real issues facing real people.

So no we do not cancel Christmas, though we may feel we have to scale back some of the spending. We do not decide to give it a miss this year, though we may miss out on some of the things we are accustomed to enjoy. Instead we choose to “switch-on” our little lights, our acts of kindness and love, our offers of joy and hope. We switch them on and if they are connected with the little lights of others, we will see them “twinkle” – a bit fragile – but still twinkling in the dark. When the wind is blowing the tree outside St Anne’s can move about quite a bit, and the lights sway and swing in the wind. Buffeted but still twinkling and shining, and even more outstanding for all that.

As Advent starts on Sunday week, so we prepare – preparation is always a choice like switching on lights. We could just let what happens happen, but Advent invites us to prepare consciously, to consider, to reflect, to pray, to switch on what we are going to do in preparation for the coming of God, and in thanks for the coming of Jesus all those years ago; he came to a pretty dark place where things were very unsafe and uncertain.  Across our Mission Community we will be sharing an Advent Adventure Calendar with a daily reflection and thought, each one a little light maybe, but together a guide for the journey. May God guide us this winter and guard us and keep us together.