Thank you to everyone who has helped to prepare the church for Christmas, and has taken part in the Christmas liturgies. Have a peaceful and blessed Christmas – Fr Andrew.
Friday 31st December at 5:30 pm, in Durham Cathedral. A service to reflect on the year past and welcome the new year to come. Everyone is welcome.
Our crib collection this year will go to support this charity, which helps the most deprived Christian families, especially those living around Bethlehem, in Gaza, in Israel and in Jordan. With no pilgrims or tourism since March 2020 and no government support to individuals or businesses, many families have lost their income and are increasingly calling on FHL for help. www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk
Copies of the new Northern Catholic Calendar 2022, with details of all contacts in the Diocese, are now available at the back of church for a cost of £3.50 (ringbound) or £3.00 (ordinary binding) – please place money in the box for books and papers in the narthex.
In today’s Gospel, two women are placed at the centre of the story; Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Each woman has become pregnant unexpectedly, through God’s power. Each is looking forward to the birth of her child with hope and joy, but also, perhaps, with some uncertainty and even fear. They have come together to support and encourage one another.
John the Baptist, still in the womb, recognises Jesus and leaps with joy to greet him. As a man, John will recognise Jesus and prepare the way for his coming, not seeking glory for himself, but pointing the people towards the Saviour. For now, Elizabeth and Mary rejoice together, because God is bringing salvation to his people.
But salvation comes at a price. Both John and Jesus gave their lives in obedience to God’s plan. Mary had to watch her Son suffer and die – as Simeon prophesied, a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul. Mary faced her ordeal with absolute faith and trust in God. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Jesus’ birth, let us remember and pray for all mothers, especially those caring for their families in difficult circumstances, and those who have to watch their children suffer.
Our local group of Lay Dominicans meets on Zoom at 2.30pm on Sunday December 19th and will include an informal reflection on “The Nativity through Dominican Eyes”. If you would like to join our Zoom meeting or to learn more about the Lay Dominicans then contact Andy Doyle (email@example.com or 0798 543 4185).
This year’s Parish Carols by Candlelight will be held in the church on Sunday 19th December at 4pm.
Everybody is very welcome.
If you missed the Chaplaincy carol service, it’s available on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_kxq-PB_8Y
We will be decorating the church, opening the crib, dressing the tree etc between 11am and 1pm on Christmas Eve. As usual, many hands make light work so please come along and help if you can. Many Thanks.
Would you be willing to welcome and steward people at our Christmas Masses? If you are happy to do so without being committed to joining our usual rotas, please contact Andy Doyle on 0798 543 4185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From this month, our diocesan newspaper is back in print! Please support the Northern Cross, either by buying a copy at church, or by taking out a subscription through www.northerncross.org.uk
A magazine to help us to make the most of the season of Advent, with daily reflections and articles. Cost £2 (£1 for students.)
This Advent, please support our local charity, St Cuthbert’s Care, which provides frontline registered care services for people with complex disabilities, residential homes and fostering for young people, and two Catholic nursing homes for older people. Your Advent donations will help to purchase gifts for residents in care, and electronic devices to help them stay connected. https://stcuthbertscare.org.uk/
John the Baptist was a powerful preacher. He called the people to repent; to turn back to God and change their lives. John’s preaching hit home, and the people asked him ‘What must we do?’ In response, John challenged them. In the Roman Empire, it was taken for granted that tax collectors would use their position to line their own pockets, and that soldiers would bully and intimidate the people. But John called on them to make a change. He challenged the people also to share their possessions. If they had enough – food or clothes – they should share with those who had nothing. John’s preaching touched the hearts of the people, because he was a man of faith and integrity. He did not seek glory for himself, but instead told them clearly that someone greater was coming after him; Jesus, the Son of God.
The message of John the Baptist is a simple and practical one. He calls us to turn back to God, and reminds us that faith has to be more than words; it has to be expressed in care for our neighbours. The coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas is Good News for everyone, and John calls us to be Good News for one another.
There will be an extra hour of Confessions in preparation for Christmas on Saturday 18th December, 2-3pm, in church.
With Christmas fast approaching please keep the Church flowers in mind. It is incredible to believe that, with all the lockdowns, it is now two years since – apart from a wedding – we have been able to do fresh flowers. During this time flowers have increased unbelievably in price. Any donations will be very welcome either through the Donation Box in the Narthex or directly with Cliona Kear. Would you like to support an arrangement in memory of a loved one, a birthday or any occasion special to you? Please contact Cliona Kear on 0191 386 3400 or email@example.com
A support group run by and for LGBT+ Catholics in the North East, with the approval of Bishop Robert, meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s RC Church, Worswick St., Newcastle. Details at https://diocesehn.org.uk/whats-on/event/proud-catholics-3/
Making Space for God. Saturday 18th December, 10am-12.30pm, on Zoom. Details and registration at https://diocesehn.org.uk/whats-on/event/advent-quiet-morning-making-space-for-god/
Children’s Liturgy Live Sessions have started again. Because of Safeguarding regulations and to minimise COVID risks, parents and carers are advised that they are no longer able to attend the sessions unless they are a designated helper. If you would like to become a helper (either leading or supporting the sessions), please let Fr Andrew or Mandy Hampshire know – we are always looking for new recruits
We have added a page to the parish website, containing a transcription of all of the information on our parish Roll of Honour. It can be found in the ‘About Us’ section. Some research has been done on a few of the men named on the roll, but if you have a relative named there, and have information that you wish the parish to preserve, please send it via the parish office.
Today’s Gospel begins with a list of important men. Tiberius Caesar was the ruler of the whole Roman Empire; Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor in Judaea; the kings were petty rulers, propped up by Roman power. These were the men who, later, would put Jesus to death. But Luke only mentions them to set the scene. He wants to draw our attention to someone very different. John the Baptist was not a king or a priest. He was a prophet like the prophets of the Old Testament; a man who heard the Word of God and proclaimed it without fear. The rulers of the people lived in palaces, but John preached the Word of God in the desert.
John came with a challenging message: repentance. Repentance means a complete change of heart – a re-ordering of our whole lives, back towards God. The people were baptised by John as a sign that they wanted to change their lives and turn back to God. It was a challenging message, but it was also one of hope; repentance brings God’s forgiveness. As we prepare to welcome the Lord at Christmas, John challenges us to turn our hearts back to God, with a promise of mercy and forgiveness.