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Our newsletter, Tidings, is published 10 times a year to be available at the beginning of each month but, to give the editor a break, there are no January or August editions.  It is circulated to members and friends of three churches, namely Longbenton Methodist Church, West Moor Methodist Church and St. Andrew's Church (Methodist and United Reformed) at a cost of 40 p a copy.  Rev. Alison Wilkinson is the minister for Longbenton and Rev. Gavin Hume is the minister for the other two churches.

Here are some items from the December 2017 / January 2018 issue, beginning with letters from Gavin Hume and Alison Wilkinson.

Dear Friends

What are you waiting for?

And how do you feel while you are waiting?

Impatient, fearful, excited, nervous, frustrated, worried, doubtful, hopeful?

Waiting seems worse when we are passively waiting for something over which we have no control, and the time seems to pass more slowly. Sometimes we might struggle to concentrate on the here and now while we wait, and yet we know that the tasks of everyday life need our attention too.

Advent is a time of waiting, but not a passive waiting. It is a time of active waiting, in anticipation and hope. We don’t spend our days watching the clock tick towards Christmas. We glance briefly at the Advent calendar, while actively preparing to celebrate Christmas and the coming of Christ unexpectedly into the midst of ordinary lives. This reminds us that we also need to be prepared for the coming of Christ into the midst of our ordinary lives. As we seek to serve the coming kingdom, we might just be surprised by the unexpected people and places where we may encounter the presence of Christ.

The coming of Christ is about past, present, and future. Because of the past, our present active waiting can be a time for experiencing the presence of Christ here and now, in the midst of our joys and sorrows, our fears and our hopes. Because of our future hope, our present is given a different perspective, because we know the story isn’t finished yet.

So, in the midst of whatever you are waiting for this Advent, may you know the presence of Christ, and may you know the hope that your story, and the story of our community, our world, isn’t finished yet. One day the kingdom of Christ, which came in weakness and vulnerability on that first Christmas, will come in all its fullness, making all things new.

With every blessing,

Gavin

Dear Friends,

Once again many of you will have been knitting angels to give away this Christmas to bless our neighbourhood with the good news of Jesus’ birth. 

Some of you won’t be knitters and so aren’t able to join in the actual making of the angels, but help in other ways. Angels are messengers sent from God. I’ve been thinking a little about the Christmas angels, and it’s such an imaginative, simple but powerful way to communicate to people. I love the whole project. It’s just a shame we can do it only once a year, on one particular day. Wouldn’t it be good to do it more often? 

If only there were a way of sending angels, messengers from God, into our communities every day! Wouldn’t that be amazing?  People wouldn’t have to wait until Christmas to hear about the love of God!

In many ways God is sending messengers every day into our communities, and they aren’t knitted figures, they are flesh and blood – you and me. In the Bible angels always start their message with “Don’t be afraid!” Clearly, meeting a messenger from God was a very frightening experience, so the angels always reassured whoever they were talking to that they didn’t have to worry. 

Maybe for us to be flesh and blood messengers from God we need to hear the “Do not be afraid” bit of the message first, and ask God for the courage to be an ordinary everyday message from him, in what we say and do. You know the old saying, “Preach the gospel. If necessary use words.”

I love the knitted Christmas angels we bless our community with, but let’s remember we too are messengers for the living God, every day! 

And we don’t have to be afraid! 

Alison

Thank you

It is hard to believe that I have now been in Newcastle and St. Andrew’s for almost a year. I have discovered new places, met new people and have enjoyed time with my grandchildren.

However, it is the time at St. Andrew’s that has underpinned it all. I have been so blessed by being among you and have felt very welcomed. I have been both challenged and encouraged through the faithful teaching from God’s Word. Thank you, everyone. God bless you.      

 Alexandra/Andy McKay

Alice and Besa

One of the bright girls whom I taught at school was Alice. She grew up, married and the couple have lived in Kosovo as missionaries for several years.

While we were worshipping at Jesmond United Reformed Church in November, a friend there, whose son Alice married, told me about a project of Alice’s in Kosovo. A lady named Besa (whose name means “trust”) is trying hard to rebuild her life away from violence. By means of making cosmetic/wash bags to sell, Besa can feed her family and educate her children.

I bought one of Besa’s bags for £8.75. If you would also buy a bag, the money will not only keep her through the harsh winter, but will help her to build her business for the future. I will bring Besa’s bag – and a photograph of her ­– to St. Andrew’s for the next few weeks so you can see it. The bag would make a good Christmas present.  

                                          Shirley Thomas


The Twelve Days of Christmas

Although its exact origins are not known, it is thought that, like Green Grow the Rushes, O, the verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas have a

Christian meaning and were possibly a coded reminder of the tenets of faith and used in times of religious turbulence.

Thus, the “true love” refers to God, the “partridge in a pear tree” to Jesus’ incarnation and the “two turtle doves” are the Old and New Testaments.

The “three French hens” are thought to be faith, hope and love, the three abiding gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 13), and “four calling birds” are the four Gospels. “Five gold rings” are the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, and the “six geese a-laying” refer to the six days of creation.

The “seven swans a-swimming” represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) and the “eight maids a-milking” are the Beatitudes. The “nine ladies dancing” are the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the “ten lords a-leaping” are the Ten Commandments.

“Eleven pipers piping” is a reference to the eleven disciples who were faithful to Jesus and the “twelve drummers drumming” are the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed.

Margaret Burchell