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Pastoral Letter from Bishop John

An excerpt of Bishop John's Pastoral Letter on the Feast of Christ the King

This year we must celebrate Christmas in a different way. Assuming that our churches will be open but still having a limited capacity, we will return to the ancient tradition of observing the Christmas Octave and I invite everyone, able to do so, to attend a Christmas Mass on at least one of the days during the Octave, from Christmas Eve through to New Year’s Day. Each parish will have its own arrangements for managing its capacity. During those days there are important Feasts which can be celebrated specifically in the light of Christmas. We will also provide some resources for the family at home, and resources for children. Can we connect more closely with the simplicity of Christmas and the importance of what God is saying to us in the birth of His Son?

That First Christmas was the story of a family without home or security. God’s Son is born in a stable. A few shepherds, among the humblest of people of the day, are given the great privilege of being called to witness what is happening. I enjoy contemplating the simple crib setting with Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the ox and ass. There is a silent adoration of the new-born baby. There is no need for words. We have the wonder of silently gazing on the presence of God among us. There is surely a wonderful sense of hope and reassurance in that scene.

This family then must become refugees and flee from the wrath of King Herod, into Egypt. God is uniting His new-born Son with the homeless, the rejected, the poor and the insecurity that surrounds so many people in our own generation. We need to remember the real Christmas Story if we are to truly celebrate its importance. And this year, when families cannot meet in large numbers, and Christmas must be very different – the invitation is there to remind ourselves of what this feast is really all about. Jesus has been born into the brokenness of our world. He comes to share our reality and to lead us in truth. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we have every reason to be confident that, out of the many difficulties and problems that face our world today, progress can be made in seeking justice and peace and care for our brothers and sisters and our common home.

It is also a time to recognise, with thanks, all that we have and the good things that surround us; those qualities of life which everyone should enjoy.

May God bless you and keep you safe and well – assured always of His love
 
“Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey”
 
+John

Read the Pastoral Letter in Full Here
Listen to the Pastoral Letter Here
Preparing the Way: Advent at Home Resources

The Department for Formation have produced a document called Preparing the Way: Advent at Home.  This is our main Advent resource and encompasses many of the resources you will see below.

Advent is the liturgical season that precedes and prepares us for Christmas. It is a season of hope and of longing, of joyful expectation and of peaceful preparation. Advent is that time of the year when we look forward in eager anticipation for his return in glory and prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who is true God and true Man. His arrival changed the world forever; it is God’s greatest gift to his people. Through the message of John the Baptist, the ministry of the angels, the obedience of Mary and St Joseph, the joy of the shepherds, the adoration of the magi and the expectation of Elizabeth and Zechariah we pray and enter more deeply into the events of the Saviour’s birth.

During these difficult days Bishop John is encouraging households and individuals to pray together at home. May our homes be places where we meet Jesus at this time. We hope these resources will help sustain your prayer life this Advent. In addition to these resources, we encourage you to stay in touch with your parish who may be offering private prayer and streamed Masses.


There are a number of resources for ‘Church at Home’ on the diocese website here

Access Preparing the Way: Advent at Home Here

Bishop's Message: First Sunday of Advent

Each Sunday of Advent we will share an Advent reflection from Bishop John on our social media channels, Facebook and Twitter, as well are our YouTube channel.

Written Reflections on Symbolism of Advent

These will be updated weekly and can be shared in your parish newsletter or to reach those who may not have access to the internet.

First Sunday of Advent – A reflection from Fr Mark Harold

Second Sunday of Advent – A reflection from Sr Anna Yeo

Third Sunday of Advent – Coming Soon to our website

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Coming Soon to our website

You can also find Psalm reflections to print from the Bishops' Conference Liturgy Office here.

Prayers

Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
Amen 

Leader: Lord Jesus, in this Advent season we wait eagerly for your arrival. Come fill us with your hope, your peace, your love, and your joy.
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Leader: The world isn’t like you wanted it to be. We don’t love each other as you love us. So come and help us change.
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Leader: The world is full of fighting and wars. We even find it difficult to get on with our friends and family sometimes. We need you, Jesus. Come show us how to live in peace.
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

May the star of Bethlehem, which shone brightly over the first crib stand guard over our homes, filling them and all the earth with light and peace. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your Holy Birth you give hope to all the world. Amen

 

Scripture Challenge

Advent Music

Ready the way
Love shone down
There is a longing
Thorn in the straw
Hail Mary
Like a sea without a shore (Maranatha)
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Wait for the Lord (Taize)

For Families

A Printable Advent Calendar for Children
CAFOD’s Advent Resources for Children
Craft – Make an Advent Star for your window

MAKING A HOME CRIB

As we move through Advent towards Christmas you may wish to make your own nativity
scene to remember the reason for the season. The tradition of displaying a crèche did not
arise until the mid-12th century; it is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to
emphasize the poor and humble circumstances in which Jesus was born. Here are just
some ideas but you can come up with your own. A short liturgy will be provided nearer
Christmas for the blessing of the nativity scene. Feel free to send in photos of your
creation and we will share them online.

Helping Others

Caritas Advent Appeal:
Campaigning for those without a permanent ‘forever’ home.
The impact of COVID-19 has made 2020 a year like no other. A perfect storm of a global health pandemic and the start of a UK recession biting means raising funds to help tackle homelessness and help people in poverty is going to be harder than ever before. So, as Caritas approaches its Advent fundraising appeal for this year, they have a simple message: in a world where you can be anything, #BeKind

Please donate to Caritas this Christmas to help make a real difference to people’s lives. Because when there’s no room at the inn for people today, Caritas has a range of support to help get people back into a home, back on their feet and feeling hope for their future. For more information and to donation please visit
https://www.caritassalford.org.uk/service-view/advent-appeal2020/
Access Preparing the Way: Advent at Home Here
Our website will be continually updated over the coming weeks and months
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