The month of February encompasses the end of the Christmas celebration on the 2nd February and the beginning of Lent on Wednesday the 22th February. February has one foot in Christmastide and one foot in Lent. There is a change of mood from celebration to sombre reflection. However the two seasons are not unrelated events but part of the whole picture of the life and significance of Jesus Christ. Let’s start with the end of the Christmas period. Perhaps you thought Christmas was done and dusted by the beginning of January. Firstly, the church has a tradition of marking significant events with a forty days observance, so for example Easter and Christmas are observed for 40 days as is the build up to Easter with forty Lenten days. Secondly, in the story of Jesus’ birth we are told that Mary and Joseph presented themselves with Jesus at the temple forty days after his birth.
When Jesus is just forty days old, the shadow of the cross is cast over him. It is not surprising that as the Christmas celebration of the birth draws to a close we turn from new life to death. The church prepares to face the cross on Good Friday through the observance of Lent. It is rather like a spiritual spring clean. There is reflection on how our Christian faith is being applied and the chance to enhance it by removing obstacles that get in the way or by looking for new ways to apply our faith. The purpose of Lent is to be ready for the Easter festival. In order to be ready for the high point of the Christian year, preparations need to be made in advance. Lent is viewed as a time for self-examination and repentance by prayer, fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s word. Lent should be equally positive in terms of taking up a challenge like trying to make someone smile each day by an act of kindness. It not just about giving something up for Lent. It is about making new habits and stopping bad habits.
Rector’s Sabbatical Leave
Sabbatical means a ceasing or a rest from work. The foundational Bible passage forsabbatical concepts is in Genesis where God rested (literally, “ceased” from his labour) after creating the universe. After ten years of service in the church, you can apply for a sabbatical. I will have completed twenty-three years of service in June this year. Some people take the opportunity of doing something completely different like doing some research, writing a book or completing a pilgrimage. I will be trying to follow the biblical model of taking a rest. In February I will make a pilgrimage to the place of my birth in Chile. The last time I was in Chile was 1972, so I will return some fifty-one years later. I am on sabbatical leave from 1stJan to 31st March. The churchwardens will be the first point of contact for church matters.