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Thoughts on the eve of 2012

May I wish anyone who stumbles upon “Paxtonvic” a very happy 2012.  I’m glad so many people seem to visit the blog over the year. There have been some 79,000  “hits”  since Paxtonvic was born on May 20o9 and apart from the odd quiet spell, I try to post something most weeks.

I have no idea who wrote the following reflection on the passing of time, but I like its sentiments. If anyone knows who wrote it please do let me know.

Though even thinking on the subject of time may prove disconcerting, it is not a bad idea- especially  at the beginning of a new year.

As we look into 2012 we look at a block of time.

We see 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days and 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes and finally 31,536,000 seconds. And all is a gift from God. We have done nothing to deserve it, earn it, or purchased it. Like the air we breathe, time comes to us as a part of life.

The gift of time is not our alone. It is given equally to each person. Rich and poor, educated and ignorant, strong and weak- every man, woman and child has the same 24 hours every day.

Another important thing about time is that you cannot stop it. There is no way to slow it down, tun it off or adjust it. Time marches on.

And you cannot bring back time. Once it has gone, it is gone. Yesterday is lost for ever. If yesterday is lost, tomorrow is uncertain. We may look ahead to a full year’s block of time, but we really have no gaurantee that we will experience any of it.

Obviously, time is one of our most precious possessions. We can waste it. We can worry over it. We can spend it on ourselves. Or, as good stewards, we can invest in  the Kingdom of God.

2012 is full of time. Asa the seconds tick away, will you be tossing time out of the window, or will you be making every second count?


Bless us, O Lord, and bless the times and seasons yet to come.

Teach us to number our days aright

That we may gain wisdom of heart

And full this new year with your kindness

That we may be glad and rejoice

All the days of our life.


Grant, O Lord, that as the years change,

we may find rest in your unchangeableness.

May we meet this new year bravely,

sure in the faith that while men come and go

and life chnages around us

you are ever the same

guiding us with your wisdom

and protecting us with your love.

Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.


December 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jottings from Christmas

* Just a correction to this 30th December Post.

The Programme ” After Life: The Strange Sceine of Decay” on BBC4 on December 29th 2011  was presented by George McGavin and not James Hood as first stated. Thank you to Mr McGavin for pointing this out to me!

I may have lost out at National Trust Monopoly but Im still smiling on Christmas Day.

Hope you have all enjoyed these Christmas Days even if life has been difficult for any reason.

I was so pleased to be well after my mid November op and thoroughly enjoyed the five Christmas Eve services across the Benefice. Somehow we managed to squeeze in 199 people into Little Paxton Church at 2.30pm… surely Alf our number counter with his ” clicker” could have added one more and made it 200! Great Paxton was full too for the 4pm carols and Im sure that churches all over the country will have had similarly large numbers.

Son and daughter cooked a wonderful Christmas Day meal which was  great news for me having been a bit busy for the previous few hours.

When we were on holiday in Norfolk last summer, we found a copy of the National Trust Monopoly game at Fellbrig Hall Shop and bought it to play this Christmas. I rather like it and quite fancied buying up a stately home or two…..though didnt really do very well due to my strong competitors.

Boxing Day at Huntingdon late in the afternoon was interesting…. kind of diserted with a few crowds trying their luck at the shops that were open. Back to Huntingdon on Tuesday with my daughter and a visit to the large Antque warehouse in St Mary’s Street. Its my idea of materialistic heaven. A drive to Coventry followed returning Adele to her Coventry home and it was nice to see the little house  looking so festive and clean!

Watched a bit of  TV but found the most fascinating programme to be broadcast last night ( December 29th) on BBC4 called ” After Life: The Strange Science of Decay” .

Presented by entomologist George McGavin  it explored the science of decay in an experiment at Edingburgh Zoo.

In the programme we saw  the average contents of a typical kitchen decaying over a period of time with time-lapsed cameras filming every messy moment. Nothing like watching magots, mould ( especially slime mould) and bacteria munching their way thorugh fruit and veg, meat and sandwiches.

The whole point was to show us that although to us decay might seem ( and smell) like bad news it is the necessary precursor to new life springing up in the face of  death.  It even demonstrated that atoms of nitrogen which were present in dying mustard plants turned up again in a new plant which the scientists engineered. So, decay  isnt the big bad thing we tend to think it is. Without it there wouldnt be the eternal cycle of life and death and rebirth that we are so used to. I might be a bit nicer to  maggots next time I see one… they are after all only larvae waiting to be born as a flies. And as for slime mould…. its soo clever.

Does maggot have one or two g’s ?

I’ve loved the Christmas tree kindly donated to a poor vicarage family by a well wisher and all the candles we put in the fireplace. Ive loved listening to carols on a CD I found at the Oxfam Shop. There was one that I hadn’t heard before “The Echo Carol” by Philip Wilby – ethereal and icily gentle. The poem  above “Behold I stand” is also a favourite  read at Christmas.

And now there is a delightful scent of hyacinth coming from my window ledge.

Next Sunday New Years Day we have a service at 10.30am at Little Paxton Church which will be the last act of worship for c 6 months whilst our re-ordering is underway. I wonder if we shall make 200 again?

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Behold I Stand

Behold I Stand

by Gerrard Kelly.

When the night is deep

With the sense of Christmas

And expectancy hangs heavy

On every breath,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

When the floor is knee deep

In discarded wrapping paper

And the new books are open at page one

And the new toys are already broken,

Behold I stand at the door and knock.

When the family is squashed

Elbow to elbow

Around the table

And the furious rush for food is over

And the only word that can describe the feeling

Is full,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

And when Christmas is over

And the television is silent

For the first time in two days

And who sent which card to whom

Is forgotten until next year,

Behold, I stand at the door.

And when the nation has celebrating

Christmas without Christ

A birthday

Without a birth

The coming of a kingdom

Without a King

And when I am





Behold, I stand.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A sermon for Christmas

A Happy and blessed Christmas to all Paxtonvic readers!

So far on this Christmas Eve Im sure in keeping with many other churches up and down the country we have had a large number of people at our carol services. 200 at Little Paxton ( how did we get you all in??) andc 150 at Great Paxton. Wonderful singing and atmosphere!

Now it time for Holy Communion at Diddington at 8.15am and then The First Communion at Little Paxton at 10.00am and then at Great Paxton at 11.30am.

Here is my Christmas sermon offering… I hope you find encouragement in its message.

Christmas Homily for 2011 at the Paxtons.

“ Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is Christ The Lord”

How many of you have a mobile phone in your pocket or bag tonight? Hands up… be honest! Have you switched it off? Is it on silent or vibrate?  Anyone got it on just incase a message comes through?

Or even if you get bored five minutes into my sermon you might be tempted to see if anyone has tweeted you. Dare anyone to tweet a friend and say how much they are enjoying themselves here right now!

30 years ago when I first preached a Christmas sermon as a Lay Reader, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what a mobile phone was, or indeed what a tweet was, what facebook meant or what sort of message was sent by messenger.  E-mail wasn’t the popular and easily accessible way of communicating that we know now and back in 1981 texting hadn’t been invented. If you wanted to get a message to someone, it was phone or letter or telegram  or maybe even going to see them and speaking directly to them. Our ability to send messages to one another has completely changed in a phenomenal way in 30 years… whether or not we actually take on board a fraction of the messages we hear and read day by day I’m not so sure.

If you take a walk out on the streets of our towns you will see a large number of people either on their phone texting or talking. That happens everywhere….and it isn’t  just something that younger people do either.

We like to be in touch. We like to be able to receive important messages from family and friends or from our workplace. We like to tell others where we are or what we are doing. We like to be connected.  They are all about communication and used well and wisely, and certainly not in a car, they remind us that we are social creatures, made to be in touch with each other , made to have relationships and to live in community. The poet John Donne wrote that no man is an island and in the bible we read how God created us for  a whole variety of relationships where love is given and received.

There is a good deal of communication going on tonight and that isn’t anything to do with mobile phones. Indeed, when Jesus was born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem so much of the modern technology we take for granted was unheard of. The story of Jesus of course could only be transmitted by word of mouth, by people travelling and telling others of the good news of his life, death and resurrection. It was only c 50 years after his resurrection that letters and gospels began to be written.

But God had his ways and means. If you reread the Gospels of Luke and Matthew this Christmas in a quiet moment, especially the opening chapters, you will find God’s messengers were hard at work. Nothing to do with internet messaging either. These were angels… and angel literally means messenger. I wonder of you knew that? An angel was believed to bring the word of God to people and that certainly was what happened in the Nativity story.

The Archangel Gabriel comes to Mary with a message of overwhelming significance. She at first is filled with fear. It wasn’t something she could easily delete from her consciousness. She is only 12-13 years old but she is told that she is to give birth to Gods son, The Messiah, and that Gods Spirit would cause this to happen. This was not a good message for a young unmarried girl to receive at all. She could be stoned if pregnant out of wedlock. And yet we read she gives her assent and presses the reply button in her heart with little hesitation.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”

Joseph, to whom she is engaged needed a message as well for he was on the verge of divorcing her when he received a message from an angel in his sleep  “ do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”. He was convinced he must marry Mary.

We fast forward 9 months or so later. Mary and Joseph have made it to Bethlehem where they have been ordered to go for a census. It wasn’t possible in those days to book accommodation online and get a last minute deal. We get the impression that they just turned up hoping to find somewhere to rest. We know the story so well. There was no room at the Inn and they end up in a stable where Jesus was born. You would think that no one else would have known about this at all. Joseph couldn’t text their families to say they were grandparents. He couldn’t take an instant picture of the infant on his iphone and send it round the world. And yet, something very strange happens. They find they do have visitors, and unlikely ones at that.

For out in some Bethlehem fields  shepherds are suddenly confronted with an angel … another messenger from God and like Mary they were filled with fear.

“ Fear not, said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled minds” so runs the famous carol words. But the messenger brings tidings of great joy to them, he tells them not to be afraid for he brings good news of great joy….. for to you is born in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.”

As if to underline this amazing news, the messenger is joined with a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying  “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth”.

Again, these shepherds have like Mary no hesitation in obeying the messenger and off they go in haste to find the Christ child.

Before we leave the nativity story, I must make mention of the wise men, The Magi who inevitably pop up in all the nativity plays even though it might have been some time later when they visited the holy family. Matthew records that they were guided by a star to the place where Jesus lay: God communicating with these astrologers in a way they would readily understand. Matthew also tells us that Joseph had more angelic messages keeping the holy family safe from the paranoid King Herod and taking them to Egypt until settling in Nazareth.

Tonight, no less than 2,000 years ago, I believe that God longs to communicate with us and be in relationship with us. I doubt of many of us see angels but God longs to communicate with us in all sorts of ways.

I truly hope that the Christian Community  here St James  faithfully communicates in its weekly life the Good News of Gods love for each and every one of us in Jesus Christ. That striving to proclaim the Gospel, The Good News, is called our mission and we would love a lot more of you to join us in that sometimes daunting job of being God’s messengers. We certainly aren’t angels and you don’t have to be one to be about the business of mission. Sometimes people think mission is all about bible bashing and indoctrination and believing a whole load of “thou shalt nots”. It’s true we have our ancient creed and we shall say that together shortly.  But maybe St Francis of Assisi got it right when he said “Preach the gospel always; when necessary use words.”

Caring for others, promoting activities which bring people together, giving hospitality, encouraging creativity and building up community life can all be a part of mission which has Gods loving heart beating at the centre. When our nave is reordered in 2012 we hope that this ancient building which has witnessed to Gods love for 900 years will truly come alive with messages from God. We hope it truly becomes community space, open and welcoming space where people draw closer to Him in whom we have our being and in whom we find meaning and purpose.

Our bells, our wonderful bells are ringing out again. They were an ancient means of communication across a parish when people didn’t have watches and phones and radios.  Bells would summons workers in from the fields to church prayers, they announced when someone had died and rang as the bread and wine were being blessed; and they had many other functions as well. I hope they inspire those who hear them to keep alive the “rumour of God” and think on things holy and wholesome as they go about their daily lives. And even come to church and enjoy being there! You might like to know that there is an old Ukranian legend that says every bell in the world rang in honour of Jesus on the night of his birth.

And what about you and me? What may God be wanting to say to us tonight? What might God have been trying to say to us this year? What things have happened to you which have perplexed you or made you sad? Perhaps the messages you have had have been baffling or confusing?  Christmas is a wonderful time to remember the constant  message of the angels “ Be not afraid; I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people … for to you is born this day a saviour”

That message to the shepherds is for all of us for all time… to all people. “ Do not be afraid: I bring you good news”

Pray these Christmas Days. Pray that God will draw close to you. He longs to. May he draw close to all of us as we join together presently to receive bread and wine; bread and wine representing  Christ’s real spiritual presence with us now. May he be close to us as we open our presents tomorrow morning and share in all the fun, food and games of Christmas Day. May our prayers encompass too all those for whom a message from God seems a distant thing and where grief or sin or some barrier stops his light from entering in.

“ Be not afraid; I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people … for to you is born this day a saviour”

May the peace, love and joy of the Christ Child be yours this Christmas time.  May we hear God speaking to us these coming days and may our reply be without hesitation  “message received… here I am Lord. I’m here to do your will” Amen.

December 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poem: The Jesus Room

The Jesus room is not a chapel

Or a church or a shrine

Or anything like that.

It is not even sacred ground

in town or garden.

The Jesus room is inside the head,

inside the heart, inside the body,

Inside the feelings, but no one knows

Quite where the exact location is.

It is not really a room at all

And the Jesus discovered there

Does not come care of religious dogma

Or some archbishop or priest

Or politican or minister

Or anybody like that.

Indeed when you go into the Jesus room

You will find no one there,

Only space… emptiness… energy.

You will, however, feel the vibration

If you are very still and quiet.

And as you tune in to the power of the place

You will sense a presence, a mystery,

You will hear the poetry of the Jesus room.

By Christopher Woodland.

December 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What all the best Vicars are wearing this Christmas….

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homily on Mary of Nazareth


Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Annunciation.

It really is amazing, that this young girl, Mary, should respond in such a remarkable way to the appearance of an Angel. This angel claims to be God’s messenger, bringing her news that she will give birth to a child who is the son of God and the inheritor of the throne of David, whose kingdom will last for all eternity.


Yet Mary responds in a fashion which probably puts most of us to shame. “May it be to me as you have said.”  A simple response of faith.


What do we know about this young girl who makes such an incredible response to this momentous declaration given by an angel? What can we say about this young woman who is arguably history’s most venerated mother.

Though Mary plays a key role in the birth stories of Matthew and Luke, she is scarcely mentioned in the other two Gospels and not at all in the New Testament letters.

During her childhood she lived in Nazareth where she was put into an arranged marriage with the carpenter Joseph. Gospel references begin when she was a little over 12 years old. Luke reported that while Mary was living with her parents in Nazareth, not yet fully married to Joseph an angel visited and told her she would give birth to a holy child who would be called “the Son of God.” Being pregnant out of wedlock was dangerous, Mary might even be stoned to death.

Christian tradition asserted that Mary was a virgin all of her life.  Early church leaders such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria believed Mary remained a virgin, and Athanasius wrote extensively on the “ever virgin” Mary.

The Gospel accounts record that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but Roman Catholics, following the lead of many early church leaders, argue they were Jesus’ cousins or Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. Protestants have taught Mary was a virgin only until the birth of Jesus, after which she and Joseph conceived James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and unnamed daughters.
Mary was present at  Jesus’ crucifixion  and at the Day of Pentecost, but then she disappears from history. One tradition says she lived in Jerusalem until she died, in A.D. 48, at about age 66. Another says she moved to Ephesus. Still another, asserted by Gregory of Tours (d. 593) based on earlier apocryphal writings, says that when she died, her body was “borne on a cloud into paradise, where it was reunited with her soul and now rejoices with the elect.”

Mary may have died not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even if she was very young when she gave birth to Jesus she would have been in her forties, at the youngest, at this stage, which is already very good by ancient life expectancy, especially for a woman who’s given birth.

Mary slowly grew in importance to early Christians; at first she was considered the new Eve. By the fourth century, she was given the title  “theotokos” the “God bearer,” and was increasingly seen as a compassionate intercessor to whom believers could pray.

By the Middle Ages, English historian Eadmer taught that Mary was herself conceived without original sin. This belief, along with that of her “Assumption” (rise to heaven) grew to such an extent in Roman Catholic circles that today they are part of that church’s official doctrine.

Today, many people (not just Roman Catholics and Orthodox) claim to experience visions of Mary, and she remains an important object of devotion for millions.

As we stand now on the edge of Christmas Day – I hardly think it is of the most vital importance to have a protracted debate about what we call the immaculate conception..

For me the momentous fact is that Mary, the God-bearer, said Yes at all. The fact is, and we tend to forget it – Mary was perplexed by the appearance of the angel – who wouldn’t have been? The Greek word means deeply agitated – she was taken aback, troubled, anxious – all perfectly natural. Not only because  an angel had spoken to her – but the message was going to be hard to explain to others.

But she says YES  “ Let it be to me according to your word” – despite all the angst and confusion.

There are many ways to find a spiritual path towards the manger scene these nativity days.  Maybe remembering especially Mary’s YES – despite her shock and anxiety and agitation can help us to be always ready to say YES  to God – whether our path be easy or  one that is full of uncertainty and twists and turns.  As we think of Mary saying that powerful and momentous YES to God – it can remind us too of the momentous YES which Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane 30 years or so later.

This Christmas, may our response to God’s calling be a response of faith and obedience. May we worship the newborn Saviour with open hands and open hearts, ready to embrace Him as our Lord and Saviour, ready to accept God’s calling to new possibilities of living in faith and obedience.

Heavenly father,

We reflect this Christmas upon our hopes and dreams

Both for ourselves , for those we love and for the world

May the reality of your coming to earth

Be far more than a distant dream

But a truth that changes our lives day by day as we say YES to you.

This we pray through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas all wrapped up

Still the fundraising for CHUFT goes on….. and here’s a novel way to get Christmas all wrapped up and have some fun as well.

Bernice from the village has, with the help of several friends, been  wrapping up presents at Barratts shop in St Neots town centre. The store kindly let her do this to raise funds for CHUFT and everyone who comes in with a present ( from any store) can have it gift wrapped for a small donation. When I got there c 1pm I saw Bernice and Alison looking very smart with Elf hats on… obviously avoiding any ‘ Elf and Safety considerations!

If you live in the area and dont like wraaping presents, why not pop in and have a delux wrapping service…. they will be there until Christmas Eve, rivalling  Santa for hard work.

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Tower Day at Little Paxton – December 17th 2011

It was a day that all of us involved in the tower project  at Little Paxton   had been looking forward to. Although the work had got a bit behind schedule the bells were well and truly ready to be rung on the morning of December 17th and many people came along to hear our new ringing team in action.

By 11.00am there was a queue of people wanting to climb the tower spiral staircase to see the bells and clock, but they had to wait till the bells had stopped ringing before going up. Mr Ken Heley, deputy church warden, was on hand all day to take people up and down and show them the new peal of 6 and clock bell as well as the refurbished clock.

Down in the nave there were several festive stalls which enjoyed good custom and all the proceeds went to the Church For Tomorrow Project.

Here is June Griffin who proudly pulls one of the bells… June hopefully wont mind me mentioning that she was 80 last week and didnt start learning to ring till she was 79 years old. Big congratulations June!

Here are four of the Little Paxton ringing team from left to right;

June Griffin, Debbie Ellis ( Tower Captain) Mary Parnum ( also a ringer at Eaton Socon)  and “Steeple Keeper Alan Smith”. Not pictured are Eric Young and Owen who will also be regular ringers in the team.There are several new recruits too who will be learning on the bells in the New Year… more are alwasy welcome!

The view from the west gallery looking towards the east window.

Little Paxton Ringer Tony Payne under the watchful eye of George Bonham, Tower Captain at St Neots and one of the Paxton Band’s trainers.

Also present was Wendy Piercy who is Tower Captain at Eaton Socon.

She and George have been training the new team over the past months mostly at Eaton Socon.

From 4.30pm we were delighted that visiting ringers came from across the country for ” a pull” – the first visitor who signed the book was from Exeter Cathedral. Several towers in the area had been open all afternoon for the visitors.

It was lovely to hear the bells ringing today before the 9.15am service.

Last week a reporter called Glenn from Radio Cambridge came out to record the bells and his recording plus some interviews with myself and Ken Heley were broadcast early this sunday morning.

There will be another tower open day on January 21st… there simply wasnt time to get everyone up who wanted to see the bells!

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Little Paxton Church Clock

Here is the Little Paxton Church Clock back in the tower having been refurbished by Smiths of Derby over the last few months.

The clock striking bell is one of our orginal bells, cast in 1713 by Thomas Newman. It is inscribed ” Will Hedding CHW” . It was choosen as the clock bell as it hadnt been tuned in its lifetime as we now have the original sound chiming on the hour.

It can be viewed in all its glory this Saturday December 17th when we have a church and tower open day from 11.00am onwards.

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment