News & Pictures

129 Prayer Letter – Read the latest prayer and news letter here.

Field baptism service for two ACF members.

Some people ask what pastoral and families workers do in support of armed forces chaplains.  I have pleasure in attaching an article focusing on the longest serving Methodist pastoral worker, David Betts, who works in Aldershot.  It was published in the Methodist Recorder on 21 April 2017.

NMAFBS signed the Armed Forces Covenant – 10 November 2016

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Newsletter 127

 

A prayer for chaplains

You send us outside the walls of the church,

outside our experience,

outside our comfort zone.

Your disciples went out in twos,

yet we often seem to be alone.

Help us to remember that we are always in pairs,

for you are our constant companion,

walking beside us.

Even in our most solitary moments,

you are there,

our rock.

Amen

Newsletter 126

Newsletter 125

Newsletter 124

 

May 2016

Sailors’ Society releases free Wellness at Sea app for seafarers

Wellness at Sea app is the next step in Sailors’ Society improving on board health and well-being at sea and puts seafarers’ wellness in their own hands.

The app also holds port directories and contact details for services offered by maritime welfare organisations including Apostleship of the Sea, Mission to Seafarers, NAMMA and Sailors’ Society, and enables users to track their journey and know their ETA using MarineTraffic AIS data.

The app is Android and iPhone compatible. To download, search for Wellness at Sea. For more information on Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea programme, visit www.sailors-society.org/wellness

 

April 2016

CrossCheck

March 2016

The real Easter story – http://ourdailybread.org/easter2016/

December 2015

The sign of Immanuel

When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim (Israel)”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, be calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let  us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ” ‘It will not take place, it will not happen.’ for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’ “
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’ Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah – he will bring the king of Assyria.
Isaiah 7:1-17 (written more than 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ)
The darkness turns to light
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… In the future, he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9: 1-2, 6-7
The branch from Jesse
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth… The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. the cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11: 1-4a, 6-9
The birth of Jesus foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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 mightily favoured! 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 favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants 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 on 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.’ … ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered, ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.
Luke 1: 26-35, 38
 
The genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham …. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
Matthew 1:1, 17
Joseph accepts Jesus as his son
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-15
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 their 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 guest room available for them. And there were Shepherds living out in the fields near by, 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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour 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.
Luke 2:1-16
The Magi visit the Messiah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to  be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘ “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” ‘ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2: 1-12
The Word became flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision of a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-14
There is substantial, though not conclusive, evidence that Jesus was born in December.
The Biblical Evidence
What does the Bible say about the date of Jesus’ birth?   Luke 2:6 tells us that “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered,” so we assume Jesus was a full-term baby, born nine months after His conception.
Luke 1:26 says the angel Gabriel announced the conception of Jesus to Mary in the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist.  So Jesus was conceived about six months after John the Baptist was conceived.
So when was John the Baptist conceived?  That is more difficult, but the Scriptures suggest some answers.  John’s father was Zacharias, a Levite priest “of the course of Abia [Abijah]” (Luke 1:5).   According to I Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 orders, and these orders took turns serving in the Temple for a period of eight days twice a year, separated from their wives and children.  Zacharias and the other priests of the course of Abia served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year.
The angel of the Lord spoke to Zacharias “while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course” (Luke 1:8), that is, while he was performing his service in the Temple.   After his course was finished he left the Temple, returned to his wife Elizabeth, and John was conceived (Luke 1:23-24).    If this was after the second course, that is, the 24th week of the year, John would have been conceived around September or October and born around June or July.  Jesus’ conception six months later would have occurred around March or April and His birth around December or January.
There is no certainty to this theory, especially given that the Jewish calendar (of only 360 days) may have been different from King David’s time to Jesus’ time. But based on the scriptural account of Zacharias’ service in the Temple, it is well within the realm of possibility that Jesus was born in December.
The Extrabiblical Evidence
St. John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.), whose status in eastern Orthodoxy is comparable to that of Augustine in western Roman Catholicism, argued strongly for a December 25 birth date because of the course of Zacharias’s priestly service.  But he also based his conclusion on the findings of Bishop Julius of Rome.  Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386 A.D.) had asked Julius to ascertain the date of Christ’s birth “from the census documents brought by Titus to Rome” after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Julius then determined the date of Christ’s birth to be December 25.
Julius, Cyril, and Chrysostom were not alone in their reliance upon the census documents.  Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), in a detailed statement of the Christian Faith addressed to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, stated that Jesus was born in Bethlehem “as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing.” (Apology, I, 34).  Likewise, Tertullian (160-250 A.D.) wrote of “the census of Augustus — that most faithful witness of the Lord’s nativity, kept in the archives of Rome” Contra Marcion, Book 4, 7).
Unfortunately, we do not have access to these census records today.   But perhaps the better part of wisdom bids us to assume that these Church Fathers had access to information that we do not possess, and that they knew what they were talking about.
Some have said that Jesus couldn’t have been born in December because shepherds did not keep their sheep in the fields past late autumn.  But Alfred Edersheim, in his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883), cites ancient Jewish sources to the effect that flocks of sheep “remain in the open alike in the hottest days and in the rainy season — i.e. all the year round” (Book 2, p. 186).   There was also a special class of Levitical shepherds who kept sacrificial lambs in the field all year round because they were used for sacrifice every month of the year.
Winters can be cold in Palestine, but they vary greatly, and some Decembers are rather mild.  A recent study of stalagmites and stalactites in caves near Jerusalem strongly suggests that the average annual rainfall dropped nearly 50% from about 3 feet in 100 A.D. to about 1.6 feet in 700 A.D.   Average winter temperatures may have varied as well.   If Mary could have given birth to a baby in a Bethlehem stable, then hardy shepherds could have watched their flocks in the fields at the same time.
Edersheim concludes, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date (December 25th).  The objections generally made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically untenable.”
In the end, no one’s Christian Faith should depend upon whether December 25 is the date of Jesus’ birth, nor do such questions give us any reason to take Christ out of Christmas.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R) NIV(R) Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission of Biblica, Inc. TM All rights reserved worldwide. “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc. TM

Matthew attended the Methodist Conference, in Southport, 25 June to 1 July 2015.

AMCF Global Interaction 2014 = NMAFBS stand

AMCF Global Interaction 2014 = NMAFBS stand

Newsletter118

Newsletter117

Naval Military and Air Force News and Prayer Letter February to May 2014

A Replica of the Gospel of John

The Gospel of St John

This will be available from the end of March 2014. Further details are available from the office.

A replica edition of the Active Service John’s Gospel, re-issued for the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The Gospel is being produced by Scripture Gift Mission and the Naval Military and Air Force Bible Society will be working in partnership to distribute these books. Jointly the two societies gave away millions of pocket-sized scriptures during the First World War to soldiers and sailors.

This replica edition of John’s Gospel (NIV) will be the ideal for use in schools, churches and at remembrance events.

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