As we journey through Advent we are looking at how God's extraordinary love can transform our ordinary lives.
Look at the people around you, where do you notice the divine shining back at you?
Look at the world around you, where do you see glimmers of the divine?
Look at yourself, where do you see the divine reflected back at you?
Each Sunday in Advent we will be sharing a reflection and/or a prayer about the theme out of the ordinary theme. We will share them on this page and on social media. Share them with your friends, family and anyone who you think needs to hear the message of hope this Christmas.
Saturday 30th December 2023
District Communications Officer, Sam Roberts shares a prayer looking back on 2023 and ahead to 2024.
The saying goes "not all hero's wear capes", but I bet if you look close enough you may just see a pair of angel wings because when God works through us, people can do extra-ordinary things for others.
Let us pray
Dear God, as we look back over 2023 and look ahead to 2024 we are so thankful for how you appear in other people.
This Advent we have been encouraged to scratch beneath the surface and there are times when Angel's do appear in our ordinary lives and through you, people can do extraordinary things for others.
We are grateful when your love shines through the actions and words of others and we are thankful when you use us to share your message of faith, hope and love.
There's so much pain and suffering in this world, but also so much love and a willingness to help. We pray that more people will see and experience your love as we approach Epiphany and through the next year.
We give thanks and pray for everyone who plays a part in our lives and we ask that you to help us be a blessing in their lives too.
Saturday 23rd December 2023
District Children and Youth Co-ordinator, Vic Loveday shares a reading and asks us do we really listen?
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God."
Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
In this passage we hear Mary listening to the Angel. She was listening to the messenger. I wonder have you been listening? Listening can be hard, listening properly is a skill and we need to practice being good listeners. Do we listen to our church members, do we listen to our communities we are part of, do we listen to our messengers, do we really listen to want is really needed?
So I challenge you this Advent to really listen to the messages. To be open to hear what is being said and respond even when we aren't sure of the outcome. Let's be courageous, let's tune into God, let's be open to others. We can act as an angel to others, they can act as an angel to us.
Saturday 16th December 2023
District Administrator Katrin Hackett shares a reflection and meditation.
I grew up in the country side- there were no street lights, so when it got dark – it got really dark! Something that is now a bit hard to image, living as I do in the city with street lights everywhere.
But that dark wasn't really dark – there would always be some light from the night sky, the moon sometimes shining bright enough to cast shadows; and the occasional car coming over the hills a few miles away would briefly light you up like a spotlight! It was, and is, amazing how quickly our eyes will adapt to the smallest amount of light!
Have you visited any of the caves in Castleton? If you have, it is likely that at some point the guide will turn all the lights out. Then you do truly experience dark – Eyes open or closed, makes no difference. It can feel quite scary – you've got no sense of direction – you don't want to move! And then they will turn on one small light – maybe even just light a candle – but you feel such relief – you can see again! And it becomes a very bright and welcome light.
A few years ago, at our church carol service, we turned out all the lights in the church to listen to the opening words of John's gospel. There was something special about hearing those words in the dark. At the end, a single candle was lit, and then folk came forward carrying a candle, lighting it from that single source and taking it back out into the congregation.
So that is what this week is all about – being the light.
Maybe we are like the candle flame – bringing hope, reassurance, comfort to those in need.
Or maybe we are like the moon – reflecting back the light of the sun, sometimes so much so that shadows can be cast, but more often just enough to see by.
We are called to be witnesses by our words and our actions to the light of the world – Jesus!
Shine from us today!
Sunday 10th December 2023
District Mission Enabler, Neil Harland shares a reflection and an Old Testament reading.
You may have read in the weekly district news email (if not do go to sheffieldmethodist.org and look for) that after prayerful consideration Gill Newton has decided it will soon be time for her to move on, meaning that we will need to start the search for a new Chair of District.
As we gathered for our district staff team Christmas meal this week, I was struck that most of our roles had been shaped and begun under Gill's leadership, mine included. Life without Gill at the helm feels hard to imagine – first she becomes President of Conference, now she's off for good. Many of you will also have served alongside Gill, and in recent years she has spent focused time working intensively with some of our circuits as they underwent seasons of significant change.
Our assigned old testament reading for this second week of advent reminds us of the transitory nature of much of what seems permanent "surely the people are like grass. The grass withers; the flower fades" This is a cause for reassurance, not despair, because the resolution of the sentence is "but the word of our God will stand forever." The roles we fulfil, our worship styles and venues, our church leaders, and even the very nature of how we do church itself begin, blossom, and then all reach the end of their season. But under God's protection, fresh new shoots will always spring up in the next season.
Have you seen the request from Gill as President of Conference to leave one advent candle unlit this year in solidarity with all who have died in in the Israel/Palestine conflict? In my church we have been engaged in hasty email correspondence as stewards over the last few days. Will the congregation understand? Will we upset someone? But we feel we must and so will follow the urging to change our traditions this year, taking up the urgent prayer of the prophet Isaiah "Comfort, O comfort all people in the Holy Land in their grief and suffering this advent".
Advent Sunday – 3rd December 2023
Deputy Chair, Julie Coates shares a reflection and prayer.
Last Sunday I leapfrogged Advent and went straight into Christmas. In Retford it was the day on which the lights were switched on and I was invited to take part in a carol service in the Market Place – so there was I singing 'While shepherds watched' before I'd even had my heart warmed by the glow of the first advent candle.
Today feels like an opportunity to take a step back and start again – to become 'alert' for signs of God's presence in our world and our lives today.
Those churches following the 'Out of the Ordinary' resources produced by the Methodist Church might find themselves pondering the meaning of this week's symbol – which is a box of Christmas decorations mixed with some items of rubbish.
There will be some chaos or mess as the two are sorted out.
Some things might be treasures that have been hidden, some items will be things that could distract us if we don't let go of them, and other objects just need to go in the recycling bin.
Let's pray about the contents of that box ...
Come to us in the mystery of these days
In the waiting and the wondering, keep us alert to signs of your presence ...
the hidden treasures within the created world,
within the lives of those around us,
even within ourselves.
Help us where there is work to do within ourselves to unpack the box ...
to declutter our inner lives
to sort out what needs to be passed on, discarded or used in a new way
and to recognise the treasure with wonder.
Help us where there is work to do in the world around us ...
show us the signs of your kin-dom
and help us to join in the task that you have prepared for us -
the work that you are already doing.
In the name of Emmanuel – God with us. Amen.