Glencairn Methodist Church
February - 2012
Advent tells us Christ is near
Christmas tells us Christ is here
In Epiphany we trace
All the glory of his grace
Then three Sundays will prepare
For the time of fast and prayer
That, with hearts made penitent
We may keep a faithful Lent
Holy Week and Easter, then
Tell who died and rose again
O that happy Easter Day
"Christ is risen indeed," we say.
These are the first three verses of a children's hymn by Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) as given in the 4th Edition of the Church Hymnal of the Church of Ireland, (APCK, 1960)
As I write, we are between the first and second of the "three Sundays" mentioned in verse 2 that prepare us for Lent, which in turn prepares us for Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer calls these three Sundays Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, words of Latin origin indicating that they are approximately 70, 60 and 50 days before Easter. (The actual numbers of days are 63, 56 and 49, so simply round each up to the next multiple of 10!). In the old way of counting we always had these "three Sundays" in our calendar and the Sundays between Epiphany and before Septuagesima were simply counted in sequence "after Epiphany". The number of these varied as the date of Easter varied. However, more recent calendars, such as that in the 2004 Book of Common Prayer (Church of Ireland), end the run of "Sundays after Epiphany" at 2nd February, the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and so there is now a variable number of Sundays between then and Ash Wednesday which "count down" towards Lent. If Easter is early there may not be three of them and so the old Latin names have disappeared. [An adaptation of this hymn, written by Edward Darling and Harold Millar, acknowledges this change. Their lyrics are given in the 5th Edition (2000) of the Church Hymnal.]
Sunday 12th February is, this year 2012, 7 weeks after Christmas and 8 weeks before Easter. It does in a sense hold both of these great festivals in view at the same time. And this is significant because the Incarnation and the Crucifixion/Resurrection are necessarily linked in Christian Teaching. The sequence goes like this: By his nature, Man sins; God loves Man and wants to rescue him from his condition; But sin is serious and forgiveness requires sacrifice; Jesus, God the Son in human form, volunteers to pay this price for sin on the cross; and the way is now clear for Man and God to be reconciled.
One of the choices for the Gospel reading on 12 February is John 1: 1-14 which you will recognise as the Gospel for Christmas Day, usually the last of the nine lessons at a Carol Service. It is appropriate to read it at this time of transition from looking back at Christmas to looking forward at Easter. It helps us keep both in view, when we read that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of God the Son".
Give thanks to God that he took this action to save humanity from sin and its eternal consequences. Accept salvation as God's gracious gift to you.
8 February 2012
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm