19 - CHRISTMAS - 67
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
As is usual with our annual Christmas Letter we sit awhile and cogitate seeking some inspiration for the opening lines. It is our custom to compose the letter in October in time for copies to reach overseas destinations in time for Christmas by surface mail. This is written on the second day of December so it will be airmail for some.
All this year we have been trying to catch up. From early February till the end of April I was out of action through a slipped disc and Hilda has found life a real struggle. Nevertheless our times of testing have allowed us to see how wonderfully God has provided through our friends both in and out of the parish.
Last year we wrote of the changing face of our parish and the change continues as regards buildings and newcomers. In some respects however it has been a stand-still year. Nothing more has been done in respect of the restoration of our ancient church, although things are on the move now. We still have only two out of five new classrooms and ancilliary buildings of our new primary school. This seems to have resulted from "the Squeeze". Neither have we been able to start the new village hall, possibly for the same reason.
Church life in the parish continues largely as usual. Our parish magazine "Friends" is delivered to each home as far as we can ensure this. We hope the majority are read. This gives me a chance to minister through the printed page. We hold a baptism service each month. Usually the church is comfortably full. This, and the monthly family service, affords me the best opportunities for the ministry of the Word. Otherwise, whilst our services are better attended than in many country churches, the size of the congregations prove that the worship of God and the ministry of his word have little appeal to the majority. A highlight of the year was the holding of Deanery Lent Services in a different church each week. Large congregations gathered to hear the Diocesan, Bishop John Tiarks who preached on each occasion.
For the first time in ten years our Garden Fete, held at Jericho Priory in June, was marred by incessant rain. Over the August Bank Holiday large numbers attended the Flower Festival during which friends presented a delightful concert of chamber music. In church was a display of kneelers which a group of our talented ladies are embroidering. The harvest services and supper were joyous occasions in their turn and our year will close over a new ecclesiastical year already begun with the Seasons of Advent and Christmas.
While in some respects the cycle of events seems unchanging one may discern shadows of a sombre hue creeping over the events of our time. It makes news that China is catching up in the nuclear missile race. Vietnam has agonised through a generation of warfare that has achieved nothing but loss of life and material impoverishment. Rich nations have problems as numerous and complex as nations that are poor. A massive unrest seems to grip the world and escape seems not to lie in either wealth or poverty, strength or weakness, health or sickness, wisdom or folly, youth or old age. Yet as the same sea will rage where tossed by the tempest and at the same time lie placid in some sheltered inlet so in the sea of humanity, tossed by the exingencies of our time, will be found those restful souls who pursue an untroubled course.
The Prophet Jeremiah was given a word to his people from God which points the way to a state of rest - "Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls." This is an invitation to look to past experiences and note that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people. As with nations so with individuals. The person who fails to take note of the good way which has trodden by men of worth from ancient times, will find no in this restless world. The Prophet links a state of real with the good way.
God the Son, whose birth into this world as Jesus, Babe of Bethlehem, we commemorate at the Season of Christ declared - "I am the way", "learn from me and you will find rest for your souls." This is our prayer for : that over this Christmastide and through the corning year may enjoy the rest that stems from God Eternal, by the 'of the Holy Spirit over your mind and heart, and by walking in that good way that leads to fullness in Christ.
In sending our affectionate greetings we express the hope that the season of joy and goodwill which prompts this letter to you will also stir you to send your news to us.
Hilda and Montague H. Knott.