Christmas Tree Festival 2018

Photo of a church with Christmas Trees festivalSt Mary’s, West Malling is delighted to help kick-off your Advent preparations with a special Christmas Tree Festival on the weekend of December 1st and 2nd this year.

A new experiment for West Malling, we have invited a plethora of local organisations, charities and businesses to come to church that weekend and set-up their own Christmas Tree and promote their activities. We are pleased to say that around 20 separate groups are coming and the church will be festooned with wonderful and very different trees.

Entrance is free and you can come along anytime between 12 noon and 6 p.m. each day on Saturday the 1st of December or Sunday the 2nd of December to see the trees. Donations are welcome and refreshments will also be available.

Christmas Tree FestivalIf you come along on Sunday, why not combine it with a trip down the High Street to take part in the switching on of West Malling’s Christmas Lights.

Advent & Christmas Services 2018

Photo of a church with Christmas Trees festival

Christmas Tree Festival
1 & 2 December

This is the complete rundown of all the Advent and Christmas special events and services taking place in Offham and West Malling this year.

Sat 1 Dec and Sun 2 Dec, 12 noon till 6 pm. St Mary’s Christmas Tree Festival
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on this website.

Sun 9 Dec, 5.00 pm West Malling Community Choir Christmas Concert
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on the WMCC website.

Wed 12 Dec, 7.00 pm Heart of Kent Hospice Christmas Concert
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on the HoKH website.

Fri 14 Dec, 7.00 pm Vox Anima Christmas Concert
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on the Vox Anima website.

Christingle service at Offham

Offham Christingle (16 December)

Sun 16 Dec, 4.00 pm Christingle service, Offham
St Michael’s, Offham
An afternoon candle-lit service for all the family with carols, a family-friendly talk from our Vicar and Christingles for all the children.

Sun 16 Dec, 6.00 pm Come and Sing! Handel’s Messiah
St Mary’s, West Malling
Jamie Meaders will lead a choir of over 100 people in rehearsals from 2pm onwards with anyone welcome to sign-up to ‘Come and Sing’. £15 per singer. At 6pm, accompanied by soloists, strings and harpsichord, we will sing together the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah. Hallelujah!

Tue 18 Dec, 8.00 pm Carol service, Offham
St Michael’s, Offham
An evening candle-lit service of Christmas readings and carols with guest Richard King and friends leading a special guest choir to complement the congregation’s singing!

A photo of the choir from the Carol Service at Offham, 2012

Richard King and friends,
Offham Carol Service (18 December)

Wed 19 Dec, 9.30 am West Malling CEP School Christmas Service
St Mary’s, West Malling

Thu 20 Dec, 7.30 pm Carols in The King’s Arms, Offham
The King’s Arms Pub, Offham
The King’s Arms play host to an evening of carol singing with the odd glass of mulled wine in three to lubricate the vocal chords!

Sun 23 Dec, 7.00 pm Carol service, West Malling
St Mary’s, West Malling
Readings and carols telling the Christmas story. Come and take part in the pop-up choir being organised by our new Director of Music, Richard Hall, or come and be part of the congregation.

Mon 24 Dec, 3.30 pm Christingle service with nativity,
St Mary’s, West Malling
Candle-lit Crib service with a Nativity play from St Mary’s Sunday School and lots of carol singing. Christingles will be distributed at the end for children. Come early to avoid disappointment. If you miss out, you may like to come to the second service at 5 p.m (see below). Often attended by families with pre-school children but all ages are welcome.

A photo of the Nativity play from St Mary's, 2012

Christingle with Nativity, West Malling
(Christmas Eve)

Mon 24 Dec, 5.00 pm Christingle service with nativity,
St Mary’s, West Malling
A repeat of the 3.30 p.m. service. Candle-lit Crib service with a Nativity play from St Mary’s Sunday School and lots of carol singing. Christingles will be distributed at the end for children. Doors will not open until after 4.30 p.m. when the previous service concludes. Often attended by families with primary-age children but all ages are welcome.

Mon 24 Dec, 11.15 pm Midnight Communion, West Malling
St Mary’s, West Malling
The first service of Christmas Day is a traditional Midnight Mass with Carols and Holy Communion.

Tue 25 Dec, 8.00 am Holy Communion (BCP)
St Mary’s, West Malling
Traditional language, reflective and quiet Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service.

Tue 25 Dec, 9.15 am All-Age Communion service
St Michael’s, Offham
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day.

Tue 25 Dec, 10.00 am All-Age Communion service
St Mary’s, West Malling
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day.

Sun 30 Dec, 10.00 am Benefice Service for first Sunday after Christmas
St Michael’s, Offham
There is no 8 am or 10.00 am service at St Mary’s, West Malling on this Sunday. Instead, we come together as one congregation for a joint Benefice service. Rev Jim Brown will be leading and we gather at St Michael’s, Offham.

Stir-up for Advent

Does it feel like Advent has truly begun?

I know it’s technically the last Sunday of the year, rather than the first Sunday of Advent, but I always find my attention starting to get diverted towards Advent when we get to ‘Stir-up Sunday’ in November. The prayer for that day in the Book of Common Prayer begins “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”.

But because of that opening line “Stir up”, many people know that Sunday as the day to be making Christmas puddings! Families held “Stir Up” to be a reminder to mix and steam their Christmas Pudding ready to be consumed on Christmas Day.

Parents would teach their children how to mix, everyone would take a turn to stir and each person involved would think upon their year ahead and make a wish or say a prayer. In some households, a silver sixpence was added. I certainly remember hunting for the coin with my great-grandmother when I was a boy. Perhaps that’s why ‘Stir-up Sunday’ feels like the start of Advent for me. Now the preparations are beginning.

However, a recent survey of British children suggested two-thirds of them today have never experienced stirring the pudding mix. Parents now tend to buy a ready-made Christmas pudding rather than make their own.

The phrase “Stir up” comes from a translation of the latin prayer “Excita, quæsumus” – excita – “Stir up”, also being the word from which we get excited, or excitable. So what are you ‘excitable’ or ‘stirred up’ about?

We may get stirred up by the latest Twitterstorm, or who will win Strictly, or whether we will get that Christmas toy for the children before the store runs out of stock. But are they the things that really matter in Advent?

When Mary and Martha met Jesus, Martha tore around the kitchen while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening. When Martha got upset about her sister’s lack of assistance, Jesus told the harassed Martha that Mary had chosen the better part. Hurry and rush are not often a friend to a sense of God’s presence.

Stir-up Sunday, in the final analysis, simply brought everyone in a family face-to-face around the kitchen table talking about their hopes for the future and doing something together and that sounds to me like a good way to enter into Advent.

I feel like I say this every year in a world that only ever seems to get faster. But I do know some are listening. Some are slowing down. Some are taking time; often because they’ve seen the perils of running too fast, too hard for too long.

If we were to slow down a little and make space for some old traditions like ‘Stir-up Sunday’ or the waiting and reflecting of Advent, we might find a better form of stirring taking place in our hearts this coming Christmas.

When it comes, and not before (!), have a lovely, merry Christmas!

Rev David Green
based on David’s ‘Thought for the Day’
first broadcast on Sunday 25 November
Radio Kent’s Sunday Programme

Advent: trust the process

A photo of Nick Saban in action coaching.Nick Saban is recognized as one of the best coaches in university American Football. He has won five national championships. In his career, his teams have won nearly 80% of the games he has coached; a great record.

His defining and highly successful philosophy is what he calls “The Process”. Instead of asking his players to focus on winning the next game, he asks them to focus on what the next action is. The next drill. The next play. To Saban, it’s not the outcome that’s important, it’s the “process”.

In his own words:

“We try to define the standard that we want everybody to work toward, adhere to, and do on a consistent basis… being responsible for your own self-determination, having a positive attitude, having great work ethic, having discipline to be able to execute on a consistent basis, whatever it is you’re trying to do, those are the things that we try to focus on, and we don’t try to focus as much on outcomes as we do on being all you can be.”

Saban has recovered something that I think our nation has sadly lost, and that loss is never more apparent in the UK than in the run-up to Christmas. To our considerable detriment, we have become all about the end goal.

We all have goals. We want to write a novel, go on a diet and lose a stone, become an entrepreneur, retire early, have children. Sometimes the goals are easier to realise – we want to celebrate a lovely Christmas with family and friends, sparkly lights, turkey and trimmings, fizz and maybe a Carol or two.

But if we live life from goal to goal, we can fall into the trap of only being happy when we reach that desired end. If all you want is a wife, it feels ‘less than’ until you get what you want. Romance, getting to know one another, enjoying the friendship? Love is cheapened and we treat it cheaply.

Sometimes our goals aren’t within our control. I can’t make someone publish my book. If the outcome doesn’t meet my expectation, if I’m all about the goal, I will feel disappointed. I end up either aiming for things I know I can guarantee (so I am never disappointed) or I don’t try at all.

Sometimes we aim arbitrarily. We want to lose a stone, and then get disappointed when we only lose 9 pounds. We are robbed of the joy which should have been ours.

But if we focus instead on the “Process”, we get to enjoy the journey. Furthermore, if and when the goal is reached, there isn’t an enormous anti-climax because it was never entirely about the goal anyway.

So ignore Christmas Lights in November, John Lewis TV adverts and Black Friday deals. Eliminate the clutter! Embrace Advent! Welcome the “Process”! Prepare in that traditional and ancient sense that our forebears understood and we have lost.

Christmas will come. It starts on the 25th of December. But the message of Advent and one that will serve you well with your New Year Resolutions too, is that it is the journey that matters. Don’t fret for end results. Enjoy your Advent and, when it comes, may “the Process” bring you greater blessing this Christmas!

Rev David Green

An unexpected Christmas

With congratulations to the children and grown-ups at St Paul’s Church, Auckland in New Zealand for their fabulous work. We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with this lovely interpretation of the Christmas Nativity story.