I find names fascinating. The process by which somebody is given their name is so haphazard that it can hardly influence the person, and yet we treat the name as an insight into a person's character or abilities. That is not always true, and sometimes names seem to have been chosen to confuse. The names given to English Acts of Parliament for example: If you see a title such as "For the Preservation of Game" you can be pretty certain that it empowers certain people to kill as many pheasants as they can manage in a morning and afternoon, which is a pretty roundabout way of being impressively "green".
This month starts with Easter Day - the Christian commemoration of that event which we believe is the hinge of human history - when we celebrate the Resurrection or Raising of Jesus Christ from death to life. The name "Easter" is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon, either alluding to the idea of the light of the Risen Christ which was symbolised by the rising sun (in the east), or like many other instances, taking over former pagan celebrations previously connected with this time of year - there was a cult of a pagan god called Eostre - and the Celtic missionaries from lona and Lindisfarne who brought the Christian Gospel to the English were adept at attaching the new ideas to the best of what was reassuringly healthy and familiar.
But what do we make of the name of that other more sombre festival which came just at the end of last month - "Good Friday" ? Whatever can be "good" about the commemoration of the judicial murder by crucifixion of a man whose judge had said was innocent of any crime? It could only be "good" if what happened was of far greater significance than first appeared.
Yes, we Christians believe that Good Friday is good because it tells us four things: first, the evil things we do have consequences (we know this of course, for they hurt us and those we love, and God himself). Secondly, we find it impossible to deal with all the consequences of evil, no matter how hard we struggle. Thirdly, because Christ did not deserve any punishment - he alone of all mankind never sinned - his death on the cross has dealt with all the consequences of sin. The Prayer Book puts it like this: "he made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."
Nobody has sinned or ever will in such a way that their sins have not been dealt with by Christ's sacrifice. And that's the fourth thing we learn from Good Friday: Though we could not deal with the consequences of our sins God sent his Son to do what we could not do.
How do we know that this is true? Because though Christ died on the cross on that dark Good Friday afternoon, after three days God raised him from the dead on that first Easter morning, when the women who had known and loved him went to the empty tomb, just as the day was dawning, and met him on the way.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Our beautiful Island, the place we call our home. So full of opportunities to go and meet like-minded people - sailing, swimming and sports clubs, art, historical and cultural societies, coffee mornings, lunches, churches. I'm sure many of us have our regular 'ports of call' where we like to meet up with our friends and have a natter.
How do you choose which groups to join, where do your interests lie, what makes you want to 'give it a go'? Initially, it's often something you're already interested in, want to enjoy and know more about. Sometimes it's an opportunity to try something new - learn a new craft, improve your physical health, stretch your mind, deepen your understanding or faith. Maybe someone has encouraged you to join, to go with them and be introduced into the group. It always helps when you know someone who's already there. Sometimes though, you decide to try something new, where you don't know anyone who already goes. It can be a daunting experience. 'Will anyone speak to me? Will I be made welcome, or will I go home having shared a joint venture, but having an isolating experience?' Maybe no one really spoke to you beyond a brief 'Hello', before moving on to talk to their friends, instead of introducing you to them. Do you feel encouraged to go again?
We've all of us experienced going along somewhere full of expectation, keen to join a group, but have not really felt welcomed. We've tried it for a week or two, and then not wanted to go again. Maybe we'll try something else, or maybe we won't bother.
I think most people do enjoy going out, are welcoming to others, sharing their company, sharing their interests and making a new circle of friends. But we don't all find it easy. We are so lucky to have so many groups and activities in our villages. Could you be the one to offer a friendly smile and a word of encouragement to others? Could you perhaps ask someone to go along with you, to share your time, your interests and your friends? And if you do, do you know that they'll feel welcomed and want to go again? And if you see someone new at your group, will you welcome them and help them feel at home?
After all, a friendly smile and a word of welcome can go such a long way towards building up a new and lasting friendship.
"When will she take the Christmas tree down??!!" was a comment overheard in church which reminded me there are different views about when Christmas ends. Twelfth night on 6th January which is Epiphany? Or, as soon as possible after Christmas before the dust settles and the needles drop? Or, as late as possible to ensure the festive spirit lasts into the new year? I do not know the right answer but the official church view is that Candlemas on 2nd February is the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season when we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the temple. But surely the real question for us as Christians should be, not when, but does Christmas ever end?
When my family or friends visit the Island Seaview and St Helen's are among the places we take them. I wonder where or what you take people to see.
Christmas and New Year is a time for visiting. We may visit others or perhaps have them come to us and whichever way round that happens some adjustment is always necessary. Accommodating other people is not just about providing a room or a meal, it is about giving them something of ourselves. If we are to visit then we think about our host, their life, their way of living. If we are to be the host then we think about the needs of our visitors and what they might like as they come into our home.
Hospitality comes in many shapes and sizes - we even speak of the 'hospitality industry' - but at its heart lies the importance of welcome.
I often wonder about the Inn Keeper in the nativity story. What kind of welcome did he make to the Holy Family? What were they like as guests? The thought of someone coming to stay and then giving birth certainly complicates hospitality but according to the story the welcome was minimal and there is no evidence that the Inn Keeper did more than provide a space to sleep.
The real hospitality came from the visitors - the shepherds and wise men. It was the visitors who made this young family feel at home. It was the visitors who welcomed God into the world.
However we imagine the circumstances of Christ's birth it is difficult to get beyond the poverty of the experience and the contrasting warmth and the generosity of those who welcome Jesus into the world.
So will you be visited or visiting in the coming weeks?
It is good to remember that God came into our world despite the poverty of the circumstances and we have so much to learn from the warm and generosity of those who went to visit.
May God bless you, your home, those you welcome and those you visit this Christmas and New Year.
Yes November is the month for remembering. Both good and bad memories alike seem to span the days of this month. Starting on the 1st we remember, not only the Saints of the Church but also those who have been close and dear to us personally, on All Saints and All Souls Day.
Closely followed on 5th we recall happy childhood memories of Guy Fawkes Day accompanied with its traditional bonfires and fireworks. The smell of smoke and taste of toasted marshmallows may well be a happy childhood memory for many of us, as we wrapped up with mittens, hats and scarves to hold the sparklers, and watch the fireworks explode with bright colours in the night sky.
Not so happy, of course, are the memories of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday when we commemorate the loss of so many lives in two world wars and other more recent conflicts - conflicts which still continue today. These are sobering thoughts which help to motivate us to seek for peace in our world and community - peace which needs to begin with us.
But, where can we find that peace? I am reminded of the words of Jesus who said - "my peace I give unto you....". Maybe this is one of the most important roles of the church today to bring peace to those who are troubled, and comfort to those who are distressed. Each week congregations gather in our churches to share in Holy Communion as an act of remembrance of the Last Supper and find their peace in corporate worship. But the church is more than that. It is here to serve the whole community in times of joy, sadness, sickness and confusion; and is always open for private prayer.
This November, and all year....REMEMBER, REMEMBER your church is here for you, whatever your need.