19 - CHRISTMAS - 68
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
Thinking of Christmas, I find it a great comfort to realise that our Saviour, Jesus Christ is a real person, whose birth is both accepted and attested. We live at a time when so much previously held Christian dogma is be in surrendered in face of the claims of rationalism, humanism and evolutionism. How good it is to read in Matthew's Gospel, "The birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. The record goes on to relate the time, place and manner o that birth.
As to time. Paul in his letter to the Galatian Christians writes, - "When the time had fully come, God’s forth his son, born of a woman". It was a time establish in the eternal purposes of God, long foretold, when it came Jesus was born. As to place. This too was by divine appointment. Where is Messiah to be born? asked Herod. Bethlehem, answered the chief priests. And so to Bethlehem (meaning Place of Food) he came and was born who said, "1 the bread of life", and again, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst". As to manner. Matthew's Gospel quotes Isaiah's prediction, "A virgin she conceive and bear a son". Luke's Gospel adds, "The virgin’s name was Mary And the Angel said ..,.. you will conceive and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus.
Birth is the inevitable precursor of death for ever human. Only Jesus need not have died yet he chose to die and filled out the promise of his name - "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin. Let me remind you that we commemorate the human birth of Jesus who made possible our spiritual birth. That regeneration which makes us children of God and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. With the Psalmist we say, Bless the Lord, O my soul'.
Before turning to local news I would comment on the preoccupations of the Church of England. The proposed union between the Anglican and Methodist Churches seems to be meeting with stiffening opposition in both camps. Government by Synod is on the way and could democratize the administration of the Church. The Pastoral Measure is quite revolutionary but applied with charity and wisdom, could make the Church pastorally more effective. A new policy on baptism envisages a growing practice of believers’ baptism, and a service of naming and blessing of infants taking the place of infant baptism where parents are not desirous of becoming regular church members.
The new series of orders of public services is provisional and experimental, nevertheless it meets a pressing need and is welcome as a constructive move in the direction of an agreed and settled replacement of the Book of Common Prayer, which has served us so well for so long a time.
In Blackmore more work has been done in the restoration of our ancient parish church. The domestic situation which has curtailed my own activities has opened the way for one of my churchwardens to do a splendid job in this department. The south dormer windows have been reglazed, the walls lime-washed, the ceiling shields and bosses are being restored. Our organ is being rebuilt and improved, and new pews are to be installed. The latest inspection reveals the need for urgent repairs to the walls of the tower. This last will be our next care.
We had no Flower Festival this year and for the second year running rain spoiled the Garden Fete. Nevertheless people rallied round and most of the items for sale were sold. Once again the congregations of the Deanery of Ongar went from church to church throughout Lent and found blessing from the ministry and pleasure in mutual fellowship. Our Young Wives Fellowship now numbers around sixty and is thriving. The Junior Church has increased also. The Primary Section now meets in the Village Hall and the Juniors in the Church, as before. The fortnightly Bible Study continues steadily and the studies, taped, are she by some half dozen smaller groups in private houses. We have just concluded studies of the lives of Abraham, Ise Jacob and Joseph.
A happy fellowship continues between the friends at the Baptist Church and ourselves. In this connection the Holy Spirit seems to be pointing what may be a new way in this community. Several young couples recently moved into our parish, who are keen Christians, recognizing the organised religion lacks appeal for many are planning to meet people on their own home ground. To this end, after the pattern of Acts 6:4, a committed group has said, "We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word". It is hoped that a series of house meetings will lead to an extension of Christ's Kingdom.
I have constantly stressed the need for the Church identify with the local community in service. I feel I fairly say that ours is a happy one and well integrated. I believe Christ's servants have had a constructive part in creating this situation. Our new village hall is most impressive and will be ready for occupation before Christmas. The Committee responsible has done excellent job. The Donkey Derby they organised again this year was a great success. The Parish Council is negotiating for a village sports field and play area. An urgent need with our enlarged population. Our new Primary School is to be enlarged to cater for an increasing intake. The Blackmore Charities continue to assist older parishioners and the distribution of Christmas Gifts to this group is always appreciated.
The year under review has brought us great testing & and great blessing. Hilda, whose health deteriorated in second half of last year, did not improve with the coming this. Whilst away for a few days with a clerical friend at the beginning of July I learned that my dear one was in hospital. After a week or so Hilda returned to the friend with whom she had been staying and a week later came home. This was made possible because God sent a dear Christian nurse, Miss Pamplin, into our home. She has been a tower of strength in every way to Hilda and to me. We say from our hearts:-
How good is the God we adore, Our faithful unchangeable friend! His love is as great as his power, And knows neither measure nor end!
Our good wishes for Christmas and the New Year accompany our affectionate greetings.
Hilda and Montague H. Knott.
P.S. Our Christmas Letter has been sent year by year to those we believe to be interested in us and in our Christian ministry. With the passage of time and other changes, which affect us all, we have no right to assume a continuing interest. Therefore receipt of an acknowledgement or a greetings card will be taken as indicating that you would like to be on our mailing list for 1969.