Many of you will have hear the sad news that Paul McDonald died last week. Paul died after a long battle with cancer. Paul's family have asked whether I could do a blog to let people know that Paul's funeral will be at Easthampstead Park Crematorium on Thursday 30th December at 2.15pm.
Please be praying for Paul's family. Many of you will know his sister Hana (Price), his dad Alan and his mum Trish who are all part of Kerith. Please also be praying for Paul's wife Paula and his sister Bekah.
This is going to be the final blog of the year - wishing all of you a fabulous Christmas and New Year. I'm looking forward to catching up with you all in 2011, and seeing what God has in store for us all in the New Year.
Further to my blog a couple of days ago on Flori singing in "Albania's Got Talent", I was sent a translation of the judges comments, which makes fantastic reading. The translation was done by Robert Cook, who leads one of the churches we work with in Albania, and who with his wife Mira has been to Kerith on a number of occasions.
Let's pray for God to raise up many more like Flori!
----------- "The basic comments in the semi finals were that 'when Flori sings there is something divine about it...He has a God given gift...what a wonderful way for the evangelical alliance to celebrate its official recognition as a national religion (this happened 2 weeks ago)...God has given you this gift not only to please him, but also to please people....
In the final.....this is what happened.....after he sang a famous Albanian ballad giving it all he had!! The lad done good...he was voted into the super final (last 3) by sms voting and then came second in the final vote (again by sms). He gave public praise to 'my Lord, Jesus Christ, without whom I wouldnt be here' without doubt he got the best reception from the live audience. "
This year's Christmas Eve meeting (4pm-5pm) is going to have a real family feel.
The Inn Keeper and his wife (Ben Pocock and Lydia Harris-Lane) will be telling the nativity story, with the help of all the children. If you have children there then please encourage them to join in with Ben and Lydia. Along the way there will be carols, games, a drama and a short preach from Lydia.
The reception area will be decorated as Santa's workshop, with some fun for children arriving early to engage with.
All of the children will be given colour pencils and a picture to colour in. There will be a competition for the best picture, which will run until 9th January, when the prize giving will be held in K2.
We will have the college car park so please park there unless you have a Kerith car park pass.
Catrina and I are having both of our familes over for the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and they'll all be coming to the meeting. What better way to prepare for the big day! Hope to see you there.
I thought you might enjoy this clip of a guy called Flori singing in the semi-finals of Albania's Got Talent. Flori is a member of one of the churches we work with out in Albania, in a place called Korce, which is in the South of Albania. The clip is all in Albanian, other than the song, but you can get the general idea of what is going on. Andy Jackson and I met Flori when we were out in Albania earlier this year.
The final of Albania's Got Talent was last Friday, and Flori came second. How cool is that.
Let's pray for more Christians, whether here or in other nations, to invade culture as Flori is doing.
We're planning for Christmas Day this year to be a celebration of all things Christmas, and an opportunity to thank God for sending His son Jesus. To that end we'll be singing a mix of carols and more modern songs, I'll be preaching on the relevance of Christ coming, we'll be taking up an offering for Cruse and Daisy's Dream, and getting children onto the platform to show us their toys. It will be a great hour in the middle of all the busyness of the day to focus on it's true significance - as well as a chance to see one another and celebrate together.
We can't get the college car park on Christmas Day, so parking will be at Avis for all of us without Kerith car park passes.
I'm looking out of the window at it snowing pretty heavily (which it's forecast to continue doing until 9 o'clock tonight) wondering quite what is going to happen with the guest meetings tomorrow, and having to admit that I really have no idea!
What I do know is this. A gang of us will be up at The Kerith Centre from 7am clearing all the paths, making drinks and generally ensuring there is a warm welcome for everyone who makes it. And we will have meetings at 9, 11 and 7, regardless of how many of us actually get there. If you're able to get up there early then please come and join us in the fun of getting the place ready. We've got 6 snow shovels, lots of salt and there's a load of fun to be had!
Based on last years experience the vast majority of us managed to make it through the snow, so please come if you possibly can whilst staying safe - it will be a blast! And still encourage your guests to come too. God often works in the midst of adversity, I'm believing for God to do great things tomorrow.
If anything changes I'll communicate it via another blog, but for now that's the plan!
Finally let's be making sure to look out for the elderly and vulnerable at this time. Go and knock on the door of that elderly person in your street and check they're OK for food and heating. Or give that person who you know make be struggling a ring to see if there is anything you can do to help. And if you're in trouble don't be afraid to ask someone for help - God put us in community for times like this.
So hope to see you tomorrow, and have fun whatever you're doing today.
Simon (who is just about to go sledging in Lily Hill Park!)
If, like me, when you finally get to actually sit down and watch some TV you flick through all of the 50 or so channels and can't find anything you want to watch, then you might be interested in a programme the BBC are showing next week. It's basically a dramatisation of the Nativity story, and has been getting excellent reviews from people who have seen it. You can read more about it here.
It's on BBC1 from 7:00-7:30pm Monday to Thursday next week (20-23 December). One reviewer I read wrote this:
"It is not just moving, it is funny (very), believable (totally), sexy (yes!), tense and profoundly full of the grace of God. And the awe of God too - the writer Tony Jordan has worked a miracle. Half way through each episode the camera pans back way out into the cosmos, and you hear deep groans, as if something tremendously significant is happening in both heaven and earth. And it ends with a declaration that because of this birth, the salvation of humankind is on its way. Then you hear the voice of the adult Jesus reciting the Beatitudes."
Sounds worth watching, and recommending to friends and family.
I was reading this morning in Luke 15:8-10, where Jesus says:
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This is in the middle of three stories about God's passion for lost people, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. This Sunday with our carol service we have a great opportunity for people far from God to hear about how God came into our messed up world to with a message of good news which would bring great joy. Please be inviting people to come, we're doing the same meeting at 9, 11 and 7 - you never know, it might be your friend who all heaven is rejoicing over by the end of the meeting. Be bold!
I have heard rumours of snow this weekend. Rest assured that we'll meet whatever happens, even if it's just me and the rest of our family who manage to walk in!
For a number of years now we've taken up an offering during our Christmas Day meeting for a local charity. This year the offering will be split equally between two charities.
Daisy’s Dream supports children and their families, both before and after bereavement, throughout Berkshire and the surrounding areas.
Cruse is a national charity seeking to provide high quality care for people following a bereavement.
Both of these charities were suggested by people within our church community, who are personally either involved in, or have benefited from, the work they do. There are leaflets on The Kerith Centre reception desk giving more details on each charity.
I never cease to be amazed by the ongoing generosity of our church. Paul encourages us to "excel in the grace of giving" (2 Cor 8:7), and I see that time and again in the life of our church. Whether it's regular giving to the church, giving to Serenje, giving toys for children in our community or giving to individuals in need, you are certainly a people who excel in this expression of grace!
This weekend we've got our Christmas Carol Concerts - I can't wait. Please can I encourage you to be inviting as many people as you can - my prayer is that across the three meetings we'll have 2,000 people attending. That would mean us just over doubling our average Sunday attendance, so if each of us brings a guest then we'll pretty much be there. Things you may need to know:
All three meetings will be the same. That means if you'd normally consider the evening meeting to be a bit too "way out there" for you or your guests, have no fear as it will be just the same as the morning meetings. Why not think about inviting guests for both the morning and the evening meetings.
Adrian Holloway will be speaking at all three meetings. I personally think that he's one of the UK's most anointed evangelists, and a very clear communicator of the gospel. His talk is going to be split into three short messages. He will do an appeal at the end of the third message where he will ask people to lift their hands if they'd like to respond to what he's said.
We are going to have a choir (although no robes!). They will doing some performance items, as well as supporting the us singing some of the carols!
We will have the college car park for the evening as well as the morning meetings. Please park there, unless you have a pass for the Kerith car park.
We will have 100 copies of J. John's book "The Life" to give away at each meeting. This is a very readable account of the life of Jesus. We will also be encouraging people to sign up for the evening and daytime Alpha courses, which start at the end of January.
The new LinK magazine will also be available for us to give out to guests.
We will be serving mince pies at the end of each meeting.
If we do fill any of the meetings, and you're a regular, please consider giving up your seat for a visitor. You can always watch the meeting on the screens in reception.
It's going to be brilliant!
I hope that's enough information. If there's anything else you'd like to know then please just ask!
Please can I encourage you to be reading the Christmas story over the next few weeks. I've been using the Christmas reading plan from YouVersion, although it might be a bit late for you to start using that.
However, all is not lost if you haven't yet started! Either come up with your own plan (there's a radical idea), or why not take a look at the BibleGateway Christmas Story plan. If you sign up you'll get an email with suggested readings from the Old and New Testament every day from the 13th December through until the 1st January.
Whatever you do make sure that you don't let the busyness of Christmas crowd you out from reading God's wonderful word.
Tonight (Friday) is our annual Battle of the Bands competition. It's really a LIFE event for under 18's, but us oldies can sit up in the balcony to observe it all. Our very own Ethos are playing, along with a number of local bands.
It starts at 7pm and costs £2 to get in. All profits for the evening go towards project125 - raising money for the girls dormitory in Serenje. Hope to see you there (and if you're of a sensitive disposition don't forget your earplugs!).
This Saturday Catrina and I are hosting a 'Matthew Party' (named after the disciple Matthew who was constantly inviting people to parties). We've invited all the neighbours from the road we live in, along with some other friends, over for drinks and food any time between 2 and 8pm. We've got no idea who is going to turn up, or when, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how God will use it and what conversations we'll end up having. We'll also take the opportunity to invite all of our neighbours to the various Christmas events.
I know that quite a few Lifegroups are organising parties too. If you haven't got one organised for your neighbours, why not consider inviting them round on Sunday 19th and tying it in with inviting them to one of the guest meetings on that day. You just never know what God will do!
This Sunday evening we're having our "Not So Silent Night" Carol Service. Please can I encourage everyone to come to this, even if you're normally a 'morning' person, as nothing creates atmosphere like a good crowd. Please also be inviting guests. Things you need to know are:
Liam Parker will be preaching on God speaking through the whole of the Christmas story. Liam is growing into a great communicator of the gospel, please be praying for him as he speaks.
We'll be singing carols, but with a bit more of a 'rocky' arrangement than we might be used to!
There will be a drama.
Parking will be at the college for everyone other than visitors, the elderly and the disabled.
There will be chocolate for everyone after the meeting - you'll have to wait until the 19th for mince pies!
Whilst you're there be looking for opportunities to 'walk across the room' and talk to people you've never spoken to before.
On Sunday 12th December Catrina (my wonderful wife) is going to be speaking at both morning meetings on how we can grow in our relationship with Jesus over Christmas. My experience is that very often all the busyness of Christmas gets in the way of my relationship with God, which is sort of ironic when He's supposed to be the reason we do it all in the first place!
Catrina has some great insights into the ways that different people relate to God, and how understanding that can help us to find Him in the middle of all the busyness. Come and find out how to put Christ at the centre of your Christmas.
Can I also encourage you to be reading through the Christmas stories over the next few weeks. I had a great time yesterday meditating on chapter 1 of Matthew - it's amazing what revelation you can get from reading a long list of names!
The Children's Services department of Bracknell Forest Council are looking to give Christmas gifts to children they are working with, and have asked us whether we would be able to help. There are 100 children in total. Of these 20 are under 3 years old, 40 of the children are aged between 3 and 11, and 40 are between 11 and 17. They have asked for good quality new or used toys (unwrapped!!) for babies and children up to age 11, and personal care items for children aged between 11 and 17.
Please can you think about getting involved. Whether it means giving away some toys you no longer need, buying a new toy, or buying some hair gel or body spray for a teenager, then you will be making a difference in the lives of some children who have probably had a pretty tough year.
Donated items to be brought into The Kerith Centre Reception on Sunday 5th and 12th December, and can also can be brought into The Kerith Centre during the week. Children's Services will come and collect the donations on Monday 13th December, so we won't be able to take donations after Sunday 12th December.
We are seeing a growing number of requests like this, as local government and local charities struggle to fund things they have been able to do in the past. This is a great moment for the church (all churches) to step in and demonstrate the love of Christ in practical ways. A huge thank you to everyone who is going to donate toys, and to all of you who are involved in volunteering or regular giving in Kerith - what you are doing is making a huge difference in our local community.
You may also be interested to know that November was the busiest month yet for the Foodbank - well done to Pat & Geoff and the team who do such a fantastic job, although I wish the need didn't exist in the first place.
This coming Sunday we're going to be looking at relationships and reconciliation. In the morning a couple are going to be telling some of their story and then renewing their wedding vows, and in the evening we're going to hear some other stories of hope when it comes to relationships. We're also going to be having a drama from the youth drama group in all three meetings.
The longer that I'm a Christian the more I understand that our faith all comes down to relationships. Jesus died on the cross so that we could have a relationship with God. The great commandment ("love God, love people") is all about relationships. So much of the hurt and pain in the world is down to broken relationships, and the most inspiring stories in human history almost always revolve around relationships.
It's going to be another great Sunday. Don't miss it, and don't miss the chance to invite others to come with you.
Hope you're enjoying the snow (or slush as it is now!),