The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
19 - CHRISTMAS - 64
Addressing the envelopes for our Christmas Letter has revealed that our mailing list has grown more than is usual during the past year. We are pleased that old friends and new are thus brought to mind.
This is our eighth Christmas Letter to be sent from Blackmore Vicarage. Twelve months ago it was the outstanding: inter which sprang to mind as one reviewed the year. This time it is the outstanding summer. Even as this is being penned a weakening sun is splashing the thinning foliage into a riot of autumn colours as though summer struggled against a final exit.
We enjoyed receiving your greetings last Christmas and especially reading the letters of those who were able to write. Though in many cases our friendship continues through an annual exchange of greetings or letters yet, where Christians are concerned, it offers occasions for praise, thanksgiving and prayer as the passing years register the continuing faithfulness of God and the steady going on of his faithful people.
To our news then. For the Diocese of Chelmsford this has been the Year of Jubilee. The Diocese was created in 1914 and for 50 years God has blessed and enlarged Christ's Church and her witness in this County of Essex. Our Bishop has reminded us of the tremendous changes wrought through, as he put it, two hot wars and one cold one. As part of its thanksgiving the Diocese hopes to give £11,000 towards building a church and towards the support of a Christian youth leader, in Africa.
As to the Parish, new houses are being built all the time. In new roads houses are being fronted with pavements and one feels, somewhat regretfully, that it might not be long before some of the newer residents agitate for street lighting. The increasing population means that more and more souls are being added to our spiritual care. We long for a greater measure of freedom from the mechanics of running a parish in order to "pastor the flock".
The pattern of worship, work and witness continues as in past years. Five of our young people and two adults were confirmed on the 9th April, Two of the young confirmees have become teachers in the Junior Church. A Young Wives Fellowship was formed in early summer and commenced meeting regularly in September. New chiming hammers were fitted to our bells to avoid the risk of fracturing, a few months ago. We hope one day to instal a new bell frame so that our ancient bells can be rung again in the traditional manner. After a frustrating delay we at last have a Faculty to instal new heating and lighting in our church. The work should be completed by the end of November or early December. It will be interesting to see how valid has been the excuse for absence from services on account of a cold, cold church. The fortnightly Bible Study, the monthly Family Service and the women's meetings continue encouragingly. Now, we have commenced planning and praying for a mission to be held jointly with the neighbouring parish of High Ongar. This is to be called "Operation Open Door", will be held 20 - 31 May 1965 and will be led by officers of the Church Army.
As regards ourselves, we had a happy holiday spending a few days in turn in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall. We both feel wonderfully well, apart from the occasional stiffness and ache that come with the passage of time. During the years in Blackmore the Lord Jesus has become a greater reality in our lives and his service, at the same time, more demanding and more rewarding.
We like to bring our Christmas Letter to its close with a reference to Holy Scripture and the sharing of a thought thereon.
The Apostle John records the interview between Pilate and Jesus Christ at the point of his exit. In these words Jesus refers to his advent, to which our thoughts go instinctively at this Season, "to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice". (John 18:37). The crib and the cross are inseparable. He was the man born to die. Between that birth and that death we trace his life - full of grace and truth but it was pre-eminently in the manner of his coming and in the manner of his going that we discern the grace (favour) of God towards man.
The Evangelists draw a word picture of the Babe of Bethlehem. With the hymn-writer we sing "veiled in flesh the Godhead see". The Apostle Paul writes that he "was made in the likeness of men". This divine condenscension on the part of Almighty God, in the person of the Eternal Son, to take our human nature and become man - the Man Jesus, is beyond our comprehension. Equally incomprehensive is his vicarious death. Again the Evangelists draw the picture and we behold - "Christ the mighty Maker die for man, his creature's sin". Without his birth there could have been no death and without his death, his birth would have had no point. These truths concerning the Truth, are God's appointed means by which we enter into truth, the means by which we find ourselves able to hear his voice.
For that birth and that death let us say with the Psalmist "bless the Lord O my soul … all that is within me bless his holy Name".
We send our greetings in Christ and our good wishes for the coming year.
Hilda and Montague H. Knott.