Advent is almost upon me - which means I have to crank up my slow cooker to make the soup for lunch time prayers, select some material to use (I've opted for the Hilary Faith Jones book of reflections 'Awakenings'), sort out if we want advent candles and who will buy them, chase up who is storing the Jean Geenhough nativity set so it can be displayed complete with baby Jesus for weeks before he's born, finalise all the Christmas events.... and, this year, in the absence of a Church Secretary, complete the BU congregational head count and annual returns.
The BUGB forms are dead easy to complete, except of course I can't work out how we had the number of members reported last year given how many we have now... creative accounting may be needed! The congregational count will be fun as D+1 will be with us, so our count ought to be high... we'll see. This year BUGB decided also to ask us some (good) questions about worship style. One point though - why do they assume that everyone has a morning service (quite a lot of churches round here never have done)? I found a few boxes that did not offer an answer consistent with our situation - how tricky it is to devise questionnaires that actually work. It will be interesting to see the results though.
Anyway, Advent Sunday and BUGB headcount Sunday coincide, we are part way through the series on Jesus' female forebears and it's a joint bash with D+1 - what should I offer? In the light of recent events, and given that it is a joint service, I am departing from the theme (which would have seen us looking at Bathsheba) to do something that I hope speaks into our situation, to the explorations for the future and hints at something of what Christmas is about. The working title is 'perfect in weakness' and we will be using the stories of Gideon thinning down his army and the apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh as a starting point for what feels like fairly brave stuff. Under God's guidance, Gideon allowed anyone who was afraid to turn back and excluded most of those who remained on the grounds they did what might be expected. Paul did not get rid of his 'thorn in the flesh' but was told that God's strength was perfected in weakness. Maybe we need to recognise/remind ourselves that we are seeking God's will for our futures, not our own desires or what humanly seems normal/sensible. Maybe we have to accept the 'thorns in the flesh' too. Above all, at the start of Advent perhaps it is good to remember the divine kenosis of Jesus, a vulnerable, helpless baby in whom God's will was perfected.
We shall see how it goes, now I really must soak some barley for this soup!!!