Tag Archives: Advent

Interrupted…by love

Week 4 in our journey through Advent reflecting on a year of interruption.

Where have you found love this year?
How are you sharing love today?

Comment below with your thoughts….

2020 has been a different year to how any of us had imagined it would be back in January.  And Christmas 2020 is no different – Christmas is going to be different this year.

The story is told of a Dad who called a family conference. He’d decided their Christmas was going to be different. They had been getting carried away with frivolous festivities. And so he told them, they were to be more disciplined.

Cutting down on excessive spending on gifts. they were going make sure there was a better atmosphere between visiting relatives. His speech came to a crescendo with a  final rallying cry – let’s make this the best Christmas ever!

After a few moments of quiet, the youngest son nervously spoke up – “but Dad, I don’t see how we can ever improve on the first Christmas”

I think many of us are aware how we can sometimes get caught up in what we could call the culture of Christmas – the commercial call to buy as many presents as we can, to stock the kitchen to the hilt, to spend time with family and friends, eating together, playing games together…

Familiarity can sometimes breed complacency. And this year I wonder whether the fact we are having to think more carefully about how we spend Christmas might cut into the familiarity, and make us think more carefully about what Christmas is really about.

Because let’s face it, pandemic aside, we shouldn’t need an excuse to spend time with family and friends, to give gifts to one another to show our love and care for them. This should be a normal part of life as human beings, created to be in relationship with one another.

Christmas is about something more important.
Something no matter of family conference can improve on.
Something no restrictions can take away.
Christmas is not, cannot be, cancelled.

At Christmas we celebrate the world being interrupted by a gift of love. Because God shows his love for us through the life of Jesus, who as Christians we believe demonstrates true love to us, welcoming the outcast, caring for the stranger, loving us for who we are.

Advent is a time of watching and waiting – leading us to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Advent is also a time of realising what we are watching and wating for is already with us. Jesus is already here. And is a gift of limitless love for us.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I get a gift at Christmas, or get a Christmas card in the post, I feel a bit bad if I’ve not sent them a gift or card. I want to reciprocate – to give back – and I feel it’s not fair.

Well God’s gift of Jesus isn’t fair either – because God gives and gives, and doesn’t expect anything from us, just to receive. We call it grace. God giving when we don’t think we deserve it, and expecting nothing of us except to receive it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

In this year of interruption,
This Christmas interrupted,
May your life be interrupted… by God’s gift of love.


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Interrupted…by Joy

What has given you joy this year?
What is giving you joy today?

This week I had a bit of an interrupted week, because the car broken down while doing shuttle runs for Bognor Foodbank. It was about 1:30, I called the RAC and they said 90mins to 3-4hours.

Louise was working til about 5, so I thought I didn’t have much option but to wait, the car was on double yellows, and wouldn’t be easy to move, and I’m no mechanic, I had no clue what the problem was.

Well, 90 mins came and went.
3 hours came and went.
4 hours came and went.

Every 30 minutes or so I would get a text saying, we’re on the way, sorry for the delay, we’ll be in touch within the next half hour…
It was hard to keep waiting and waiting….

By the time it had been 5 hours, I called again, they couldn’t tell me how long it would be, and said they’d escalated the breakdown and someone would be in touch shortly.

This few hours of waiting reminded me of the thread of God’s story and love for the world we find in the Bible. The Bible is filled with promises that God is faithful to us, loves us, cares for us.

Well by 7:30 my rescuer, the recovery truck, still hadn’t turned up and I was starting to get a bit hopeless. I’d called a number of times and they couldn’t give me an ETA, I was starting to get quite cold, and my phone battery was on 8%. I realised I had jump leads in the boot and thought maybe it’s worth trying to jump start the car to see if it is the battery.

At which moment, a friend pulls up – totally unexpectedly – we wire the cars up, they gave me a jump – the car starts – and then they followed me home.

My waiting was finally interrupted by Joy – in a way I didn’t expect!

I wish now I’d look for the jump leads earlier,
I wish now I’d taken more action,
I wish now I realised I had the tools I needed to journey onwards, and journey home.
But I kept sitting and waiting, because ‘it’ll just be another 30 minutes.’

I talked last week about John the Baptist who was a cousin of Jesus, who God called to prepare the way for Jesus to arrive. John kept telling people the promised one was coming, but the people had been waiting for so many years, they’d got so used to life in the waiting, some were losing hope, others started thinking John was the coming one.

No-one seemed ready for God’s promises to come true in the way they did.

Jesus came to earth, interrupted the world, in such an unexpected way – as a little, vulnerable baby – to rescue us, to show God’s faithfulness to us. To journey with us. To give us joy.

So don’t be like me, don’t keep waiting thinking rescue is coming.
Jesus has already interrupted the world.
Friends Jesus is here, Jesus has rescued us.
And Jesus is with us, journeying with us, and that wonderful truth, gives us joy.

May your life be interrupted… by joy.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.[1]


[1] Words of Timothy Dudley Smith, based on the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55

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Interrupted…by peace

Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.

What has given you peace this year?
What is giving you peace today?

Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.



Lydia, my youngest daughter, is 4 and an early riser – it’s unusual if she wakes up after 6am, usually, around 5:30 in the morning we’re awoke to Lydia coming into our bedroom asking ‘is it morning’, ‘can I have a cuddle’,
‘can you help me put my tights on’, or ‘wake up’!

Louise, my wife and I often respond with something of a grunt, a groan, or a go and play in your bedroom, but Lydia has none of it, she’s wide awake and she wants our attention.

During Advent, Christians often read some of the story of John the Baptist, an older cousin of Jesus who was himself called by God to tell people of the coming one, who would bring signs of the kingdom of God.

Right at the beginning of Marks gospel we read some words that we also find in the Old Testament – which point to John the Baptist as a messenger preparing the way for the Lord – the coming one.

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Mark 1:2-3

The message at the start of Mark’s gospel is – ‘wake up – make space for the coming one!’ Pay attention to the signs of the coming kingdom.

The use of the words that are also in the Old Testament make a link with the words we find there. Some of them come from Isaiah 40, which is a chapter that begins with the words:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says God.

Isaiah 40:1

They are reassuring words, because they remind us that God cares for us, loves us and wants to comfort us. That in making space for God in our lives, the turmoil of life is interrupted by the coming one who came to bring peace to the world.

There’s a myth that God is sat on a golden throne looking down on use little humans wagging his finger in judgement, saying we are awful people who deserve to be punished. There’s even been Christian leaders suggesting that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on us. That’s codswallop.

God doesn’t sit on high, at a distance, judging us. God is among us and with us.

God knows the mess that the world is in, knows we, the human beings God made, are not always the best at looking after the world and one another.

But God knows we try our best and doesn’t focus all effort on punishing us. God loves us and wants our living together to be interrupted by peace, that we might live in peace with one another.

We’ve seen that interruption this year as we sacrifice our own wants and desires, to limit our activity and care for one another through pandemic.

Christmas reminds us that God came to live among us and show us signs of the kingdom of God now. One day Jesus will return and establish an even greater kingdom where all is well, and filled with peace.

But as we journey towards Christmas and hear the message wake up, make space for the coming one – we discover that the coming one, Jesus, has come to make God’s love and care for us more real for us today. The kingdom is now.

So while we know the world isn’t perfect, We know we’re not perfect – perfection isn’t want God is asking of us right now. What God is asking of us is to wake up and be open to be interrupted with peace, to let God’s peace flow into our lives, and flow out into our relationships with one another.  

May your life be interrupted… by peace.

All shall be well in his kingdom of peace;
freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase;
justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring;
wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:

Sing we the King who is coming to reign, verse 2, by Charles Silvester Horne

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In this Advent Season…

In this advent season,
waiting & watching,
Known & unknown,
Certainty & uncertainty,
Hopeful & hopeless,
Stability & instability,
in the now & yet to be,
We pray for peace & love,
Grace & wisdom,
Justice & hope,
For all those who make decisions now, which impact what will be.

Originally written on 12th December 2018, in light of the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’

Interrupted…by Hope

Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.

What has given you hope this year?
What is giving you hope today?

Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.


I should have been in Ireland this weekend for my brother-laws-wedding.

My girls were going to be flower girls and my future sister-in-law was so keen that back at the beginning of 2020 they got the dresses…but all that’s been interrupted how, and chance is my daughters will have grown out of them by Autumn 2021 when the new wedding date is.

2020 has been filled with so many interruptions and delays, and I know some of you have been saying you’re just looking forward to 2020 being over. But before we get to 2021, we journey through Advent and into Christmas.

Advent is a season on watching and waiting…Remembering the waiting of God’s people, who were longing for the Messiah to come and save them, hoping God’s promised one would transform their lives and society.

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we might be saved.  Psalm 80:3

These are hopeful words from Psalm 80, expressing the people’s longing for the shining light Gods face to bring hope and release. Little did they know that years later Gods face really would interrupt the world as a baby in a manger.

I got this Christmas decoration when I was at school. I’d been asked to be a part of a group from school going to put on a Christmas concert in a local town, I think for a charity working with elderly and isolated residents.

I think I was reading a poem and I started well, microphone in hand,
filling the vast hall, and then my nose started to run, big time!

All eyes were on me, and so I didn’t want to wipe my nose, and thought that maybe, if I just ignore it, with the occasional gentle sniff, no-one will know.

I felt embarrassed, and deeply wanted that moment to end as fast as possible!

To this day I don’t know if people did notice, but the one thing this Christmas decoration always reminds me of is no matter how uncomfortable a situation I am in, hope will interrupt it.

The discomfort will come to an end. Restoration will come.

2020 has been a year of the unprecedented.

But nothing compares to the unprecedented truth that Advent leads us towards, that Jesus is coming to interrupt the status quo, and bring us hope.

I pray you day is interrupted…by hope.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free,
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Words of Charles Wesley (1708-1788)

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The unexpectedness of God

A couple weeks ago we were surprised to wake up to over 5 inches of snow, with more still falling. We knew it was coming but hadn’t expected it to be quite such a significant quantity!

Have you ever considered how disruptive Mary’s encounter with Angel Gabriel must have been? What was most likely a normal, mundane day was turned upside down by an unexpected encounter with God’s messenger. This unexpected encounter changes Mary’s life.

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)

It seems to me that the Christmas narrative as a whole is filled with God being and doing the unexpected…

  • Elizabeth and Zechariah expected to never have children, yet along comes John…
  • I doubt anyone expected Augustus to announce a census where everyone must return to their home town…
  • Mary came from Nazareth, and in John’s gospel we find Nathaniel’s questions of ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ – indicating that people from Nazareth weren’t expected to achieve anything…
  • The Shepherds were having a normal night watching their flocks when unexpectedly an angel stood before them…
  • The magi expected Jesus to be born in a palace in Jerusalem, but found him in Bethlehem…
  • Herod was frightened by his unexpected visit from the magi suggesting a new King of the Jews was to be born…

If there’s anything that the Christmas story tells us it is that God comes into the unexpected….God is in the unexpected…God is unexpected…

And nothing says that more clearly that the unexpectedness of the Christ-child, Jesus, born as a baby, who was, and is, God.

How do we respond to God’s unexpectedness? In the midst of the commercial hype of Christmas, how ready are we to even recognise the unexpectedness of God?

Upon receiving her unexpected message, Mary was both perplexed and questioned Gabriel. The Luke narrative doesn’t show Mary rejecting the message, ignoring or running away, but on hearing it seeking to engage with and understand the message. After Gabriel responds to Mary’s questions, Mary’s response is simple, humble, obedient and heroic…

‘Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’

Luke 1:38

Mary’s receptiveness seems admirable. She responds to this unexpected and life changing encounter with grace and acceptance.

And remember the stakes were high here. She was betrothed to Joseph, and now she was going to be pregnant, and he’d know it wasn’t his child…What would her family, neighbours, community say and think of her.

So today, consider how ready you are to encounter the unexpectedness of God. Not to be consumed by the festivities of the Christmas season but to be able to see beyond the tinsel, turkeys and wrapping paper to encounter the manifest and unexpected presence of God, in the unlikeliness of Christ Jesus.

Receive afresh God’s promised gift, to receive afresh God’s revelation to humanity.

Be ready to respond with grace to the unexpectedness of God.

Adapted from a Sermon preached at Bethel Methodist Church, St Austell Circuit, Cornwall on Christmas Eve 2017.

Image: Trees at the Queens Foundation, Birmingham, December 2017.