Dear friends,

With Christmas Day falling this year on a Monday, the preceding season of Advent is as short as it can be – four Sundays in little more than three weeks! Thus, although it may feel as though we’ve only just started our Advent journey, yet this coming Sunday we will in essence be halfway there to Christmas Day! We may at first baulk at the busyness that this engenders; however, the intensity of Advent this year might also spur us to get stuck in!

Accordingly, I repeat my request for volunteers to help with the Kenmore Park School Christmas workshopthis week on Friday, 8 December: we will gather in church at 11.45am for a briefing (and a free lunch!); the pupils and teachers will then arrive for 1pm, and stay until 2.15. Volunteers are also requested to put together the Christingles next week on Sunday, 17 December (from 2pm in church), in advance of our Christingle Service for Families and Children at 4pm. Do please spread the word about this special service, to which all are welcome: this constitutes our primary Christmas outreach to families, and involves a short, interactive and family-friendly liturgy including congregational participation, Christmas carols and, of course, a Christingle each to take home.

We will welcome another guest preacher this Sunday for the 10.30am Parish Mass: the Rt Rev’d Pete Broadbent was Bishop of Willesden 2001-2021, and it will be good to see him again at St Mary’s. Amidst the aforementioned busyness, and despite the wintry weather conditions, do pleasure make sure to make every effort to prioritise the Sunday Eucharist, as we countdown to Christmas at the end of this month.

The funeral details for the late Mary Haines are as follows: Mary will be received into church at 5pm on Thursday, 21 December – all are welcome to Vespers of the Dead, before the usual 6pm Mass; her funeral Requiem will then be in church on Friday, 22 December at 11am (followed by a committal at Breakspear Crematorium at 1pm). (In consequence of this, we will move the majority of our Christmas cleaning and decorating to the morning of Wednesday, 20 December – after the 9.30am Mass). May Mary, and all the faithful departed, rest in hope and in peace.

Looking ahead, the PCC has agreed to budget 2.5% of next year’s unrestricted income (around £3,300) in support of external charities: please let me know if you have any suggestions as to good causes we could support.

Please find attached the final ACAT prayer case, for December.

This Sunday’s first reading, from Isaiah, speaks of consolation and joy: this week on Friday we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (with Mass as usual at 9.30am), in which we rejoice in the maternal consolation offered us by Mary, who – in view of the part God wished her to play in His plan of salvation – was preserved from the moment of her conception from the shadow of original sin. We ask, in this Sunday’s responsorial psalm, to ‘see, O Lord, your mercy, [who have] give[n] us your saving help‘ – and, in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God’s saving power and loving-kindness are mightily revealed. We too, like Our Lady, have a part to play in God’s plan of salvation: like her, we must listen in trust and obedience to discern God’s call in our lives – and, like her, we too must get stuck in!

May the glorious ever-Virgin Mary Immaculate pray for us,

Fr Richard