Dear friend,

Welcome to the December newsletter from St Peter's Church. In this newsletter you'll see the dates and times of our services - both in the church and online - and details about what else we're up to as a church family.

Advent is here

Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement:

Every eye shall now behold him robed in dreadful majesty.
(Charles Wesley)

About advent wreaths and candles

The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays.

Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible. Advent candles are often nestled in the evergreen wreath. Additional decorations, like holly and berries, are sometimes added. Their red color points ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice and death. Pinecones can symbolize the new life that Jesus brings through His resurrection. Families begin lighting a candle on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and they light another candle each subsequent Sunday.

The most common Advent candle tradition, however, involves four candles. (No, not those four!) A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. Sometimes all the candles are red; in other traditions, all four candles are blue or white. Occasionally, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The alter set for Christmas

Services in December

With the national lockdown ending on 2nd December, we will once again be allowed to hold services in church from the 6th December. However, our area is in COVID Tier 3 meaning that the same restrictions will be in place as before. So, if you are coming to church, please wear a mask and you must not socialise with people outside your household.

For those who do not wish to come back into church just yet, the 10AM online services will continue through December on Facebook and YouTube.

Unfortunately the constraints of COVID-19, the need for social distancing, and the need for additional cleaning between services means that we are not able to hold our usual special Christmas services this year - although we are planning to hold our Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve, when the Rev'd Mike Green will be with us.

But perhaps these present circumstances will help us to reflect on what Advent traditionally is; a penitential season - in preparation not only for Christmas but for the second coming of Christ.


    Fundraise for St Peters while shopping online

    We have now a couple of ways you can raise much-needed funds for St Peters church while you do your shopping online. You set yourself up at one (or both!) of the links below, then do your online shopping as usual. A small donation will be given to church each time you shop - with no charge to you.

    As many of us will perhaps be shopping online a bit more than usual on the run-up to Christmas, these donations should really mount up and make a big difference to us. So we’d really appreciate it if you could take a moment to sign up and support us. It’s completely free and only takes a moment.

    First, we have registered St Peter's with Easy Fundraising where over 4,000 shops and sites will donate to us when you use Easy Fundraising to shop with them – at no extra cost to you. You can find our Easy Fundraising page at https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/stpetersparishchurchbirstall

    Second, we're also on Amazon Smile, so if you shop at Amazon you can make a small amount of Amazons profits goes to us - you don't pay any extra. You'll need to create an account at http://smile.amazon.co.uk/, then select the church as your chosen charity. We've had to use our official charity name which is "PCC of Birstall Parish Church in the Diocese of Leeds", so that's what you'll have to search for when selecting the charity you want the donations to go to.

    Please also try to encourage your family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours etc. to also sign up amd raise free donations for us every time they shop.
    Thank you very much!

    What's on in December


    St Peter's church on social media

    You will probably already know that the church has a Facebook page, and many of you may be watching our online services there. But did you also know that we have a YouTube channel, and a Twitter account?

    On the YouTube channel you can view any of the online services we have broadcast recently, plus videos of songs and hymns that our Worship Team have recorded over the last few months. If you have a Google account you can subscribe, and then you're told whenever we publish a new video.

    Please do consider sharing the service on social media, and sending the link to friends and family who may enjoy it. We'd love more people to get to know our special church. If you have any technical problems please contact help@stpetersbirstall.co.uk and we'll try to get you sorted.

    Did you know?

    The church has it's own Wikipedia page!

    We'd love to enhance the information on our own website, particularly with regard to the history of the church and surrounding area, so if any keen historians want to help us with that please get in touch by replying to this email.

    Prayer for December

    God of hope, who brought love into this world, be the love that dwells between us.

    God of hope, who brought peace into this world, be the peace that dwells between us.

    God of hope, who brought joy into this world, be the joy that dwells between us.

    God of hope, the rock we stand upon, be the centre, the focus of our lives always, and particularly this Advent time.


    And finally

    If you need support in any way - prayer, or practical help - please contact us on our special email address: support@stpetersbirstall.co.uk.

    We hope you enjoyed this newsletter. If you have suggestions for things we can put in it please do get in touch.
    Thanks for reading. God bless you all this Advent season.

    St Peter's Church, Birstall