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Issue No: 217     Published: 19 Dec 2005

ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS - A Guest Editorial

I was wanting to include something on the traditions of Christmas for you but time has been a problem this week! The Lord rescued me - again! For completely 'out of the blue' I received the following. Thank you Lord. Thank you Michael!

Dear David,

Perhaps the following would be useful to you.

CHRISTMAS

Over the years some churches have rejected Christmas and Christmas trees as being too pagan. It is known that the Puritans among others rejected Christmas because it was not found in the Bible. Many modern scholars believe that Christmas was celebrated to counter the Saturnalia celebrations of the Roman Empire, much as Baptist Churches in my time had Friday Ice Cream Socials so the kids would not go to the after foot ball game dances. But..

Was Christmas first, or Saturnalia. Christmas as we know was not celebrated by the church until the third or fourth century. The Armenian Church still does not celebrate Christmas (They celebrate the birth of the Messiah together with the coming of the Wise Men on the 6th of January). There are other church holidays though. We know the Resurrection was celebrated from the beginning. We also have other festivals going back to the early second or maybe even the first century. One of these is the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary, which is celebrated on March 25, which date being nine months previous to Christmas. It is believed by some historians that Christmas or the Nativity is celebrated on 25 December not because of Saturnalia, but precisely because it is nine months after the feast of the Annunciation, the normal time of gestation. These same historians suggest that actually Saturnalia celebrations were begun to counteract the Nativity celebration instead of vice versa.

Another bit of history relates to the Christmas tree, which some people claim came from paganism. Actually the Christmas tree has its roots in the Morality and Bible plays held in the Middle Ages. As we know few people could read, so plays were put on to communicate the Bible to illiterates. (Stain glass windows also performed the same function). As these plays often gave the history of salvation on Christmas and Easter, the first play on Christmas Eve was usually the story of Adam and Eve. Two large evergreen trees one hung with apples (for the tree of knowledge of good and evil), and the other hung with candles (tree of life) was often used in the Holy Roman Empire (roughly what we call Germany today). The trees were usually too big to be easily removed for the midnight service, and so the Christmas tree came to be. Eventually they were brought into the home as part of the festivities. (One might not the opposite happened with the Advent Wreath. The Advent wreath was invented by Martin Luther for use in the home. Eventually it came to be used in the church as well)

As the British Royal family has often been somewhat German, they brought the custom of the Christmas tree with them which spread out in Great Britain and then to the USA. I suppose that Christmas gift giving originated in Germany or England. In Holland and the East, presents are usually given on St. Nicholas Day, and in Spanish territories the day of presents was the sixth of January, the day in which we celebrate the coming of the Magi. Today of course because of American Commercialism, Christmas has become the day for presents at least in Mexico and Central America.

The twelve days of Christmas come from the liturgical church, the first day being the twenty-fifth of December, and the last being the fifth of January, the last day before the Epiphany.

Shalom B'Yeshua HaMoshiach

+Michael Joe Thannisch, SST, OSL
mjthan@quik.com
http://www.christiansynod.org/
http://www.freewebs.com/childrenofabraham/

Kathy and I wish you a very 'Happy Christmas' (not the now PC, 'holiday season'). May we both 'remember' and 'action' the reconciliation God has offered each one of us, initiated that day in a humble manger and fulfilled 33 years later on barren hill.

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FROM THE WORD

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her." (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary’s Song

"And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. "From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home." (Luke 1:46-56)

The Birth of Jesus

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

The Shepherds and the Angels

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

Jesus Presented in the Temple

"On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." (Luke 2:1-40)

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DAVID'S DOODLINGS

FREE GIFTS

19. God’s free gift to us is salvation; ours to others is – a smile.

307. God's gift of salvation is free, but to reap the full benefits, costs us our life.

308. Salvation costs us nothing, but cost Jesus everything.

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FROM YOU - TO ME -TO YOU

Dear David,

Thank you for your Tuesday lesson, "THE THREE ARMIES OF GOD"...

It stirs one's thoughts of the choices offered on how to prepare for the spiritual warfare of good vs evil we encounter daily in our personal lives... You put the question on the table and the choice is ours to make, for God has given us the free will to decide which path to follow. So the question to me personally is... "Which army do you want to be part of?" As I read the

1.Outer Court Army: Traditional/Evangelical Church .... it appears there is a wall up around this army to help keep out what is presently going on... outside the wall.... "Sadly, this first army is not adapting to this new situation at all well. It spends most time remembering past glory days, rather than adapting to today’s battle conditions." And Jesus said; "Remember Lot's wife." Luke 18:32; "....she became a pillar of salt." Gen 19:26.

2.Holy Place Army: Pentecostal/Charismatic Church... it appears to be standing on the inside, making ready and waiting for the battle...knowing that "When this time arrives, this army is going to be faced with the most critical decision of its existence – are leaders and soldiers alike prepared to die for the cause? Some will and some wont. And Jesus said; "...house divided against itself shall not stand." Matthew 12:25
"Many will leave the army but there will be many more prepared to fight to the end, putting the cause ahead of their personal safety." And Jesus said; "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." Luke 11:20

3.Holy of Holies Army: Tabernacle Church Movement/Army... it appears to be gathered before the Ark of the Covenant praying on their knees... "For this army can only operate successfully with those who are 100% sold out to the vision and prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the attainment of it. The vision of this army is not one of containment, but rather, a total and final victory over the enemy. They are highly educated, knowing their strategy and goals backwards. In Psalm 132:7; and 133:1 it is written..."Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!" .... "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." Most importantly, they know that when they follow the defined battle plan, their ultimate victory is assured." For Jesus said; " Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Well David, After all is said and done here is my answer....

I know I don't want to turn into a "pillar of salt" and dwell on the past, for the past belongs to God; so # 1 army is out!...

I am preparing and waiting to be called to do the battle of good vs evil.... but will I stay the course or jump ship when I have to face the most "critical decisions" of my "existence"? ....that is the question and if I continue to follow the #2 army I am not 100% sure what I will do, so my answer is "no" to #2 army.

With the power of the Holy Spirit I choose #3 army to follow. Through prayer and working with God daily, I am 100% sure and ready for I know God will guide me to the "ultimate victory" over the enemy in the battle of good vs evil, the battle that is going on this very day. Thanks again for the lesson. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it." Amen.

As the Red Green Show from Canada says "Remember, I'm pulling for you, cause we're all in this together."

www.pbs.org/redgreen/stevebio.html
http://www.execulink.com/~bobnet/redgreen/

With love and kindness to you and the WWJ Family.
Merry Christmas to all !
From Marie and Jack Shea,
Wheatfield, NY, USA
www.sheaministries.org
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Your comments to me or fellow readers are always welcomed at... david@wwj.org.nz

This is an opportunity for you to express your views, which may not be my views. But none of us have a mortgage on all the truth - except for Jesus!

CRANWELL'S CARTOON





26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:26-30)





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TUESDAY TEACHINGS

UP THE MOUNTAIN Part 1 of 4

A Modern Day Fairy Tale! If you are too grown up for fairy stories, an allegory relating to spiritual choice.

This allegory was given to me one ordinary day as I was sitting at my computer, wondering what to write next for the book, ‘Eagles Fly High!’ The full story was revealed and recorded over the period of a fortnight. Most unusually for me, the inspiration was given while working at home. I hope you will be as excited and challenged by it as I have been.

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Previous teachings on this subject, the First Miracle of Jesus, the Book of Ruth, God's Character and Servanthood and Leadership, the Parable of the Sower, The Two Marathoners, The 3 Rivers of God The Spring Feasts, The Power of 3 in God & the Church, A Layman's History of the Times of the Feasts, The Autumn Feats, Revelation 12:11, The Way of Holiness and 3 Miraculous Conceptions can be viewed at...

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LAUGHING AT OURSELVES

***Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused***

*** "Those who can't laugh at themselves leave the job to others." ***

443. THE VIRGIN MARY
Little Kiana, under the tutelage of her grandfather, was becoming quite knowledgeable about the Bible.

Then one day Kiana floored her grandfather by asking, "Which virgin was the mother of Jesus? The virgin Mary or the King James Virgin?"


442. WHICH WAY?
Epitaph

The following caption was found written on a gravestone...
"As I am now, you soon shall be, so be content to follow me."

Graffiti
Someone had scrawled the following note on that gravestone...
"To follow you I'm not content, until I know which way you went!"

441. WHAT SHOULD A GOOD SERMON BE ABOUT?
About Jesus...and about 10 minutes.

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FACTS FOR FUN

LAST WEEKS QUESTION: How can birds sit on electric wires without being injured?

ANSWER: It's simple. In order to be electrocuted, the bird would have to touch two wires simultaneously or one hot wire and the ground at the same time. One wire won't do it. (You got it? The logic, not the wire.)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What happened to Pontius Pilate after he sentenced Christ to be crucified?

Answer Next Week.

SOME FUN FACTS

570. BUSY BODY
Our bodies create and kill 15 million red blood cells per second! (Amazing that there is time left for anything else!)

571. MOUSE HOUSE
The average mouse pad 8.75 inches (220mm) by 7.5 inches (185mm). (How is it that those who hate mice can still manage to operate a computer?)

572. NOT SO PRICKLY
The Aubergine or Eggplant is a part of the Thistle Family. (Sour taste too!)

A WORD PUZZLE FOR YOU

Make another word from this word using all the letters.

RESCALE

Answer at the end of A David Musing

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DO YOU KNOW? (About Relationships)

Are Nabal and Abigail

a. Sisters
b. Sisters-in-Law
c. Husband/Wife

Answer at the end of A DAVID MUSING.

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IF ONLY I'D THOUGHT OF IT!

"""OTHER'S SAYINGS TO ENLIGHTEN, AMUSE, OR BEMUSE"""

!!!!!!! "If you don't like the way you were born, try being born again."

!!!!!! "Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon."

!!!!! "This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing?" (U R)

!!!! "In the dark? Follow the Son."

!!! "Running low on faith? Step in for a fill-up."

!! "If you can't sleep, don't count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd."

! YOU could be another Cain, when you say I'm not Able.

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BIBLE RIDDLE

Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible? (First of 4)
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury.

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JUST JOKING - MAYBE

IN MEMORY OF COMMON SENSE
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend by the name of Common Sense who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valued lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, and that life isn't always fair.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge). His health began to rapidly deteriorate when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion!

Finally, Common sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, spilled it in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by two stepbrothers, My Rights and Ima Whiner.

Not many attended his funeral, because so few realized he was gone.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE SAID ABOUT YOURSELF AT YOUR FUNERAL?

Three buddies die in a car crash, and they go to heaven to an orientation.

They are all asked, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first guy says, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man."

The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."

The last guy replies, "I would like to hear them say, "Look! He's moving!"

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MANNERS AND CUSTOMS IN BIBLICAL LANDS

LAMPS

The one luxury considered a necessity in a Palestinian peasant's home. At sunset, his door was shut and the lamp lit. Sleeping without alight was regarded as a sign of extreme poverty. If a traveller saw light at night in a house, he knew there were people there. To wish 'a man's light put out' was a terrible curse.

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THE BIBLE

*** The word ‘Bible’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Biblia’, which means ‘books,’ and refers to the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity. The Bible consists of 66 books and has two parts. The first part is called the ‘Old Testament’ by Christians. It consists of 39 books of the sacred writings of the Jewish people which was written originally in Hebrew, except for some portions in Aramaic.

*** The second part is called the ‘New Testament’. It consists 27 books which was composed in Greek and records the story of Jesus Christ and the beginnings of Christianity. It is translated in whole or in part into more than 2,000 languages, The Bible is the worlds best seller ever, and the most widely distributed book in the world. Its influence on history and culture, including literature and the other arts, is incalculable.

*** The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. The United Bible Societies (UBS) estimate they have distributed nearly 9 billion Bibles, whole or in part, since 1947.
In 1989, the American Bible Societies (ABS) distributed more than 106,387,551 Scripture portions in the United States alone. During the same year, a worldwide partnership of Bible Societies distributed well over 650 million Scripture portions and about 15.5 million Bibles.

*** In 1988, the 1,000th anniversary of the baptism of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, the Soviet Union, in an agreement with the UBS (United Bible Society), received hundreds of thousands of Bibles. According to a recent U.B.S. report, Bible portions are available in 2,123 languages, the complete Bible, in 349 languages, and the New Testament in 841 languages. In 1995, they distributed 565 million Bibles and Bible portions to 200 countries.

*** The Bible is, some calculate, a $200 million-a-year retail market in the United States. According to a recent national survey concluded in US, the average American home had four bibles and almost all U.S. homes had at least one or more. Most the Americans prefer the King James Version (KJV).

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WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN TO YOU?

CHRISTMAS TIME

Christmas time comes but once a year,
To be happy, you drink lots of beer!
Putting your gifts on the credit card,
Then come the repayments, oh so hard!

But Jesus came on Christmas Day,
Forever more to show the way,
How to enter into God's glorious presence.
In the ultimate of all Christmas presents!

So this Christmas, for some cheer,
Party less, put aside the beer,
And enter into the Holy Place,
To meet with God, face to face.

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A DAVID MUSING

Have just produced the final copy of our Psalms CD after many weeks of work. It is amazing how much work goes into producing a CD - as I have found out! Certainly easier to play than to make! Not just a matter of recording and pushing a button!

Oh well, as the cheese adverts in New Zealand say, "all good things take time!" I just trust that others may find it good!

Now to get the booklet and packaging right. No time for Christmas celebrations! Just kidding!

By next week's PGIM it will all be over. At least it will be in New Zealand, even though it may well still be Christmas Day at your place. Maybe I can come and join you then!

So until next week...

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOU BLESS GOD.

His servant and yours

David Tait

Today's 'Word Puzzle' Answer: CEREALS

TODAY'S 'DO YOU KNOW?' ANSWER: c. Husband/Wife 2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings. (I Samuel 25:2-3)

REPRODUCTION OF NEWSLETTER CONTENT

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ABOUT US

WALKING WITH JESUS MINISTRIES is a non-profit, non-denominational, Bible based ministry located in Hastings, New Zealand. A ministry dedicated to developing discipleship, fostering unity amongst God’s people to achieve the Great Commission, and in doing so, preparing for Christ’s return. It is securely based upon the foundational principles of the Apostles Creed while recognising the wide and rich diversity of beliefs amongst Christians in other areas. In accordance with the Lord’s direction, materials produced by the ministry are available, free of charge, to genuine enquirers upon request. The ministry is solely funded by donations, as the Lord provides. A list of materials available (plus some fun!) is obtainable and freely downloadable from our website
wwj.org.nz or by contacting us as follows.

Walking With Jesus Ministries
290 Flaxmere Avenue
Flaxmere
Hastings
New Zealand

Phone: (06) 8799 911 International (+64) 6 8799 911
Email: enquiries@wwj.org.nz
Web: wwj.org.nz

Our role is to bless and encourage those in ministry while promoting co-operation and unity of direction amongst the body of Christ, as emphasised 3 times by Jesus in His longest prayer, immediately prior to His arrest and crucifixion. "… so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:12, 21, 23-4) Our website is currently being developed to encourage your participation one with another, to share resources, and to enable you to promote events and items of interest to the body as a whole – and have a smile while doing it!

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