Do you enjoy a surprise? I guess it depends on whether it’s a pleasant surprise or not. For the last few weeks, I have been involved in detail planning with my adult children to give my wife a happy surprise for her birthday. All my grandchildren were involved in this, and even Thea, aged 3, managed to keep quiet, albeit with a few checks from her siblings! To Izzie’s great delight, led blindfolded by the children and spun round, we surprised her with a beautiful chicken house and run. She then had the pleasure of researching chickens in order to buy three bantams. As a family, we all enjoyed the planning and the anticipation of Izzie’s response, and Izzie will enjoy the pleasure of keeping chickens again after several years without them.
With the continuing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions on social activity and uncertainty about the months ahead, it is important that we plan for positive experiences. It has been so good to be part of such a caring community here in the Chiddingstones. We have so much to be thankful for.
On Sunday 4 October, we will be celebrating our annual Harvest Festival in St Luke’s Church, Chiddingstone Causeway. Harvest festivals are celebrated throughout the world from Australia to Sweden to India, with celebrations that date back to ancient times. This custom is thought to have originated in China where they offered a sacrifice to the moon as a symbol of harmony and abundance. Today, some families celebrate by eating traditional moon cakes. In Britain, harvest is one of the oldest traditional festivals, taking place at the time of the harvest moon. Originally it was a pagan custom which was adopted in 1843 by Revd Robert Stephen Hawker. He invited his parishioners in Morwenstow, Cornwall to come to a special harvest thanksgiving service. Since then, harvest thanksgiving services have become an annual event in churches and schools.
As we look around the world, with so many displaced people, we have so much to be thankful for, despite living through hard times. Being thankful or choosing to give pleasure to others is good for our mental health and wellbeing. Paul records a saying of Jesus that does not appear in the Gospels: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35), and some of the major festivals recorded in the Old Testament were harvest festivals: Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost and Tabernacles. It was a reminder to the Israelites that they were dependent on the land for survival, and also to be thankful to God for the provision of the sustenance that makes life possible. All this is so important as we face the global effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events and, as David Attenborough’s BBC1 programme of 13 September noted, the destruction of habitats, the development of monocultures and the unwise use of chemicals have led to some species being wiped out. Please pray for our farmers, threatened by Brexit and increased competition from around the world, and pray for our government in all their critical negotiations.
God bless, Bill