Twenty years ago there was a debate about whether the new millennium began in the year 2000 or 2001. Whatever the mathematical arguments, the public at large took it to be 2000 and celebrated accordingly. Some waited nervously to be struck by the so-called Millennium Bug which threatened to shut the world down when computers failed to recognise the year 00 in the date. Or rather it didn’t actually threaten anyone as it didn’t exist. For those who closed their eyes at that moment and waited for the end, the end never came. Others simply closed their eyes and went to sleep … well, after the party anyway. Personally, I very happily celebrated Millennium Night alone.
At the end of this month we shall enter a new decade (or maybe not!). I note with some feeling this will be the second time this has happened in my time as Vicar at St Andrew’s, as I came in 2009! If the change of year makes us look back, then a change of decade makes us do so even more. Having looked back, we look forward: what will the coming year or decade bring? Some of us will pose an answer to that question with excitement, others with trepidation. Most of us with a bit of both.
I doubt I will not be the only one to make a quip about having 20-20 vision. The year 2020 is necessarily unique so if you miss the chance, that’s it forever! The term, incidentally, derives from the use of visual acuity measurements by opticians. They also are called Snellen fractions, named after a Dutch ophthalmologist, Herman Snellen, who developed the measurement system in 1862. If you have 20/20 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the optician’s chart you can see what the "normal" human being can see. (In metric, the standard is 6 metres and it's called 6/6 vision). In other words, your vision is "normal"; most people can see what you see at 20 feet.
To write the previous paragraph, I had to do some research. I had always thought the term “20/20 Vision” referred to perfect vision. In the definitions I read there was no mention of the word perfect, only “normal.”
Of course, what normal means depends upon your standpoint, and we apply the term to human beings with care. You can have vision that is better than the norm. A person with 20/10 vision can see at 20 feet what a normal person can see when standing 10 feet away from the chart. Hawks, owls and other birds of prey have much more acute vision than humans. A hawk’s vision is eight times more acute than a human's, hence the other expression, “Watching you like a hawk!”
Seeing has much resonance in the spiritual life. At Christmas we hear how the shepherds travel to Bethlehem to see “this thing that has come to pass.” At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus urges his disciples to watch and pray as he awaits his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Church of England offers prayers for a watch-night service on New Year’s Eve. As we gather up all the emotions, questions and concerns that hover around at the changing of the year, it is good to commend them all to God. Only then will we walk with confidence into whatever the future brings. When you consider all the things that 2020 might bring there is plenty to pray about.
Later in this edition of Inspire (p. 18), I have reproduced three prayers, all from the Church of England website: A Prayer for the 2019 General Election, a Prayer for our Nation, followed by the Collect for the Beginning of a New Year. If you’re looking for something to aid your prayers, that would be a very good place to start.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Advent Carol Service
This year’s Advent Carol Service is on Sunday 1 December, appropriately this year the first day of the season, at 6.00pm. As advertised, the theme of the service is an “Adult Nativity.” If you’d like to know what that means, you’ll need to come along and find out!
Another popular event in our annual calendar is the candle lit Christmas Market, to be held in church this year on Saturday 7 December from 2.00pm until 4.00pm, with the usual range of stalls and activities including light refreshments. Besides stalls selling pre-owned items, there will be many tables stocking hand-made craft items at reasonable prices. Ideal for that Christmas present with a difference.
This year’s Christingle Service will be held on Sunday 15 December at 10.00am. For 2019 we have extended an invitation to the families of St Andrew’s School. It will be a Service of the Word without Communion. Those wishing to receive Communion on that day may still attend the 8.00am service which will be held in the normal way.
Please see the Diary pages for these. The complete range of all our usual services are there to help you celebrate this holy season. Come along, and, this year, why not bring a friend?
At the All Souls Day service some of us wrote the names of departed loved ones on a cardboard star as an act of remembrance. These were kept and will be placed on the Christmas tree in church, where fresh stars will be available for use by others. Christmas can be a poignant time when we have lost loved ones and we hope this will bring them comfort. See also Ali Perry’s feature on this further on in this edition of Inspire, (on p.10).
Northway House Carols
Once again this year we are singing carols at Northway House Nursing Home in Kingston Road. We will be gathering on Thursday 19 December at 2.30pm and all are welcome. Please let me or Beryl Oaten know if you are able to take part. We normally sing alongside some of our friends from Rowbarton Methodist Church, plus, thanks to the management, there is a chance to share tea and a mince pie with the residents afterwards. It feels very special to be able to take Christmas to those who cannot easily come to church.
Community Carol Singing
Not the Community Carol Service (that’s the 22 December, by the way!), but carol singing in the community. Katy has organised visits to the Obridge Inn, Tesco’s in Priorswood Road, the Co-Op in Cheddon Road and the Railway Station. The date is Tuesday 17 December from 5.15pm, ending around 7.30pm. If you’d like to come, please sign the list in the Narthex where full joining instructions will be posted.
For a number of operating reasons, the pattern of venues for LMG Prayers may be subject to change so they have not been included in the Diary pages. If you’d like to attend, please check with Robin or Katy.
St Andrew’s School Governors
There is a vacancy on the Local Governing Body for a church representative. The role of the governors is to oversee and work with the Head Teacher and staff to promote and maintain the highest educational standards, and in this church school, its Christian distinctiveness. If you’d like to find out more please talk to Robin or make an appointment to meet the Head, Keith Atkins, who can be reached on 01823 275906.