19 - CHRISTMAS - 63
It has been a raw day and now that darkness has fallen, the drawn curtains and the glow of the fire in the study create an easier atmosphere for the penning of our annual letter. On the desk is the card index which records the names and addresses of our numerous relatives and friends. The file containing copies of previous Christmas letters is atohy elbow. I can hear my good wife preparing tea, and so we make a start on the seventh Christmas letter to go out from The Vicarage in Blackmore. I say we for though I wield the pen, every word is as from us both. It is a grand thing when the partnership of man and wife is also a partnership in Christian service.
An account of the year's happenings must start with a reference to the unusually severe winter which blanketed the countryside with snow from Christmas to the end of March. Mercifully, this winter has started in gentler mood. Yet it was interesting to note that our older parishioners stood up to that hard winter and apart from a restriction in movement from their homes were none the worse for the snow and the intense cold.
Parish Church activities have continued in their established pattern, Services, Bible Study, Parish Suppers, Jumble Sale and Garden Fete, all have brought - their labour and their reward. At Christmas, Easter and Harvest, members of our congregation beautify our ancient church with seasonal decorations, largely floral. Each year one feels they could not be bettered yet this year they have been surpassingly beautiful. A high-light for many of us was the visit of our good friends Bishop and Mrs Goodwin Hudson from Australia. The Bishop preached at Evening Prayer just before leaving for the Toronto Anglican Congress. His helpful sermon is still remembered.
Of course, our perennial problem of church repairs is still with us. We have raised and spent 17,000 and need to spend at least another £5,000 to finish the job. Our unique wooden bell tower is now structurally sound but needs another £12 - 1500 to complete the restoration. It had been our hope that an efficient heating system would have been in operation by now, but difficulties, other than those foreseen, have arisen and we are still making do and shivering our way through the services on really cold days.
Our Parish Quarterly, "Friends", with which many of our friends are acquainted, has completed its third year. It goes to all the houses of our Parish. Numerous expressions of interest and appreciation reach one so that one feels it is serving a useful purpose as a link between parson and people in a parish too numerous to permit visiting every home.
At the beginning of next year our Diocese of Chelmsford will commemorate its Golden Jubilee. Plans are afoot to make 1964 memorable not so much as marking the end of an era but rather as a year of gratitude for the past, of forward looking as to the future and of firm resolve to bear the Gospel of Christ by word and action to those outside the Church's fellowship.
It is interesting to observe that some of our friends in the ministry are having to resort to the duplicated letter to reach a growing circle of acquaintances. Our own letter will be going for the first time to a number who were unknown to us when the year commenced, but whose coming into our lives is greatly welcomed and we value these new friendships.
We both are wonderfully well, although there are times of pressure when we feel we really are that year older than when we last wrote a Christmas letter. It has been good to walk with the Lord, to search the Scriptures and to tell of our wonderful Saviour. It has been good to share time and counsel with one and another, to recall those who have testified to the help God has given them in such sharing.
Besides the card index and file referred to in our opening paragraph, there is also on my desk, the best of Books. I turn to it now to send to each of you a passage which will speak for itself:-"great beyond all question is the mystery of our religion: 'He (God) who was manifested in the body, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels; who was proclaimed among the nations, believed in throughout the world, glorified in high heaven.'" 1 Tim 3 16
These brief but moving phrases trace the movement of God from glory to glory. God became flesh. The Christ child of Bethlehem is the Christ in Glory. By the way of His lowly yet lovely life, by the way of the Garden, the Cross and the Tomb, He returned to the glory from which He came, but with an added glory and having gained the right for an innumerable company to share that glory with Him.
Thank you for your letters, if they have gone The Vicarage, unacknowledged. We enjoy hearing from you and hope the Blackmore, post will bring news of you in due time. Essex.
We send our affectionate greetings and wish you the rich blessing of the Lord throughout the coming year.
Hilda and Montague H. Knott