Tag Archives: Advent

The Flourishing of Creation: There is Room for all of Nature

If you’re a Great British Bake Off fan, you might remember 2018 series winner Rahul. Rahul left a mark on me, not so much because of his amazing baking, but for who and how he was.

After judging, the programme shows little video clips of the bakers reflecting on their successes – or failures, and the comments from the judges.

Rahul, on numerous occasions would be in mid flow talking to camera and then suddenly divert his eyes another way and say ‘Oh look at those beautiful peonies’, or ‘ooo look at that cute puppy’.

At the time I was struck by the way he noticed & was distracted by the beauty of creation. But I was also equally struck by the fact he kept apologising for it. He apologised for noticing the beauty of nature.

nature is part pf creation – part of God’s world – and so we should notice and marvel at its beauty. And we shouldn’t apologise for that! Scripture is plastered with such awe and wonder – and so should we be. For when creation flourishes – so too will humanity flourish.

Take Isaiah 35 for example:

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:1-2; 5-6; 10.

Isaiah prophecies that creation will flourish with new growth, and as creation flourishes, so too will humanity – for the all creation together will be overflowing with joy.

It might feel a bit strange to be thinking about creation in the midst of Advent – isn’t advent about Jesus – celebrating his first coming to earth…and anticipating his return?

Well yes – but I say, why did Jesus come?

John 3:16-17, perhaps the most well known New Testament verse says:

6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

John 3:16-17

Notice that, while humanity is given particular mention – it is to the world that Christ comes, to save the world.

I hate to burst our human-centric bubble… but the world is not humanity alone. Humanity is not the centre of the universe., and that’s a truth that has been passed down for centuries… at the end of Jonah 4 we find God say to Jonah:

And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah 4:11

In God’s heart – there is room for those like us.
There is room for those not like us.
There is room for those who, like the Ninevites, were unaware of the truth of who God was…
There is Room in God’s heart for all creation.

Christ’s salvation work is not just for humanity – but for all of nature. Such is Christ’s heart and love for all life.

Christ comes to the world, to make a way and room for all.
All humanity, and all creation,
To have hope, to grow and to flourish.

And calls us into partnership with him to share the good news,
To invite people to experience the salvation of God,
To care for creation,
To live and love in hope – throughout the world.

To make room for all the world to know God’s love, hope and salvation. Because when God reigns – there is room for all of nature.

Prepare the way – There is Room for difference

In my first year of secondary school, there was a woodland behind the school, and in the woodland lived ‘Knocker’. Knocker got the nickname because, as the story goes, he hid in the woods and knocked on the trees to scare people away.

He was different, lived differently, and was shunned, gossiped about and avoided. but looking back, I have no idea what sort of person he actually was. All I knew about him was based on the bias I’d unconsciously built up through stories others had told, regardless of what the truth actually is.

John the Baptist is one who may well have stimulated similar reactions.


John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 

Matthew 3:4

The point Matthew is making is that John the Baptist was different. In his lifestyle. In his appearance. And in his message.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

Matt 3:2-3

For 400 years – the period between the Old and New testaments, there had been a perceived silence from God. No prophets, no message. Then from the wilderness comes – the literal wilderness John lived in, and the metaphorical wilderness of this silence, comes a voice saying:


“Prepare the Way!
The Promised One is coming.
Something is about to happen. To change. To transform.
Are you ready?


John the Baptist, in his difference and diversity, is a trailer for the God who is about to do something different. Radical. Revolutionary. To come and dwell with us, as Immanuel, a baby who changes everything.

In doing something different God doesn’t thrown the past out with the bathwater, but takes the story into a new chapter, where prophecy is fulfilled, when the promises of God are made known differently, where the message of love and grace is repacked and transformed – into a living, walking, breathing human being.

In Christ, God did something different.
And still today, God is at work, moving among us many ways.
Known and unknown.
Expected and unexpected.
Making Room for diversity and difference.
Because in God’s story,
When God reigns,
There is room – for difference.

God makes room for you. For me. For us. for all.
Those like us,
Those different to us.

Those like John the Baptist. Those like ‘knocker’ who are different to us, seem strange, unpredictable or unusual.

So In our story,
Will we let God reign?
Will we prepare the way to make room for the difference of God?
The difference of one another?
The transformation that comes from embracing the radical and unexpected of God and God’s kingdom.
Will we make room for difference?


“All This for You”: There is Room for You and Me

As we begin the journey of Advent, the churches I serve are following the theme ‘There is Room’, and in week 1, thinking about how, when God reigns, There is Room for You and Me.

Last Saturday, I had an experience while leading a baptism service that took the truth about how There is Room in God’s story for all to a whole new level.

I’ve done numerous Baptism in the last few years, but always for toddlers. So last Saturday was the first time I baptised a baby.

The baby I was baptising was about 6-7 months old, and as I held this helpless, dependant, innocent child in my arms, looking at his peace-filled, sleeping face, and spoke some of the baptism liturgy over them, I was somewhat overwhelmed…


for you Jesus Christ came into the world;
for you he lived and showed God’s love;
for you he suffered death on the Cross;
for you he triumphed over death,
rising to newness of life;
for you he prays at God’s right hand:
all this for you,
before you could know anything of it.

In your Baptism,
the word of Scripture is fulfilled:
‘We love, because God first loved us.’

Methodist Baptism Liturgy, Methodist Worship Book p.92-3.

I had to take a breath to remind myself I was in front of a room full of people and was leading a service! In that moment, it had become as if it was just me and this innocent baby. Like nothing else mattered but the words of truth I was speaking over them – that the truth of God’s gift to them is that There is Room.

It took the grace of God to a whole new level for me. An innocent baby who cannot yet comprehend or communicate an understanding of God’s grace – yet God outpours his grace anyway. “All this for you, before you could know anything of it.”

I had the great privilege of declaring that truth to them, their family and friends, and welcoming them into God’s family.

God’s grace transcends our human understanding. Transends our western obsession with needing to be deserving, to earn and achieve all we have.

God’s grace is outpoured on the world – through the life and love of an innocent baby, born in a manger. A baby who declares There is Room in God’s Story for you, for me, for us, for all.


Find out more about Advent & Christmas events at Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate Methodist Churches as we declare There is Room .

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Bognor Regis Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Felpham Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Westergate Methodist Church

Keep Watching….

The stage was set…
The house lights dimmed…
Silence…
Waiting…
Watching…
Anticipation building.

Then with great gusto, The orchestra begin to play,
The curtain begins to rise…
The stage is revealed, and the show begins. 

I still remember my first trip to the West End.
Anticipation was strong.
We knew the story we were about to witness,
Yet we didn’t know quite how they would do it on the stage.

So as we sat there,
We sat between the known and unknown,
intensifying the anticipation of what was coming…
The knowing made the waiting even more electrifying.
The unknowing made the waiting more exciting.

That image, for me, captures the essence of Advent,
A time of waiting in expectation,
Between the known and the unknown,
Remembering what was.
Waiting and watching for what will be.

Waiting inhabits most areas of our lives, in one way or another.
Sometimes waiting passes by unnoticed.
At others, waiting is a heavy millstone around our necks.

Sometimes waiting can be a joyous and uplifting time,
At others, it can be draining of all life.

And over the last 2 years waiting has taken a whole new meaning for us… waiting for our turn in the vaccine roll out, waiting for another news conference, waiting to know if there will or will not be more changes to the way we live our lives….

In Luke 1:39-45 we read of Mary and Elizabeth.
Both are pregnant…
Unexpectedly pregnant in fact…
Both families have been visited by angels foretelling something of what will happen.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

Luke 1:41-42

Amidst all the unknowns…
Amidst the crazy uncertainty…,.
Elizabeth somehow knows Mary carry’s God’s promised one…
She doesn’t know how, what, why…
But she knows that this baby would be a fulfilment of God’s promise.

How it must have felt for Mary and Elizabeth,
Having a glimpse of what might be coming,
A glimpse of what God was doing,
Yet not really knowing God’s plan at all.

Confusion. Uncertainty. Fear. Disbelief. Loneliness.
Why them?
Why now?
How?
When?
What?

There must have been more q’s than answers.
But they were willing.
They trusted.
Waited.

2000 or so years on, we’re in a different place…
The promised Messiah came
Jesus came, lived, ministered, died, rose again.
Left the Spirit of God with us.

All could be made well with the world…
Peace, hope, harmony, justice, righteousness, clarity….

2000 years on, perhaps the world isn’t quite so different as we sometimes like to think. Humankind might have progressed, but thw world is still a mess.

While I don’t think any of you are expecting to give birth to a son of God any time soon…we are all also like Mary & Elizabeth.

We’re human.
Still human.
Still live with anxiety, fear.
We live with questions.
We live with uncertainty.

For me, there’s something about the known and unknown of the season of advent, the watching and waiting which reminds me that God is as much in the waiting, uncertainty and the unknown, as everything else.

As Advent reminds us of what was, is and will be,
We are reminded we worship a God who’s work has not finished.
Has never finished.
Advent reminds us to keep watching…
Watching for glimpses of the God in our daily lives.
Watching for the activity of God in the world.
Watching for God’s invitation to us to participate in that activity.

For that is God’s gracious and generous offer to us.
Inviting we watchers and waiters to participate in the continuing work of God.
So, keep watching.
In advent and in all our days…

“Do not be afraid”

A personal reflection on Advent, where I find myself in Minsitry and Gabriel’s words, Do not be afraid’ – with thanks to Tim Lea’s video ‘No to Fear’.


The angel said to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God. 

Luke 1:30

I took up running earlier in the Autumn. In was loving getting out first thing in the morning and jogging along as dawn began to break. I managed to capture some of those moments in photo’s – but often they photo’s didn’t do justice to the moments – just as the cover photo above demonstrates! it is hard to capture the dawn on a phone camera because light is sparse, and the conditions of the day still uncertain.

Then I got a cold, and the weather turned colder, wetting, darker, and I gave up – but I keep telling myself I will try again in Spring when the conditions are better.

As I joruney through advent 2021, I am finding the conditions around me really challenging. The pandemic began 18 months after I began ministry here on the Sussex Coast and now 22 months later the pandemic is still with us. I think sometimes we forget how much of an upheaval the pandemic has been, turning every aspect of our lives upside down, and challenging every assumption of what normal means.

In ministry right now there are many pressures around us and among us. There are practical uncertainties. There are quesitons about what activity to resume, and how to do it. There are questions about whether the conditions around are right to do something new, or additional, or to resume something else.

And all that comes within a culture that recognises the decline of the church in the UK and a sense of urgency that we must seek growth, numerically and spiritually.  

I’m finding this period the hardest of all the periods of the pandemic so far. This seemingly endless period of of tentative, anxious, uncertain emergence from lockdown and transition to work out how to ‘live with covid’ when we don’t know how to do that well yet is exhausting, and draining let alone factoring in the advent of Omicron and all the anxieties about the future of the church.

I’ve been feeling this for a while, but only more recently begun to make sense of it enough that I can begin to articulate it – largely because last week I actually did have the quarter days I had put in my diary – rather than let other expectations and demands crowd out the space.

Then at the end of last week God has encouraged me through a Fuelcast Video that reflected on Gabriel’s words: ‘Do not be afraid’. I encourage you to watch it if you can by clicking this link

‘Do not be afraid’ – the opposite of this is to fear. I’ve realised that all the conditions of ministry I’ve mentioned above have been feeding a sense of fear within me. In the video Tim suggests fear can kill faith & stifle holy creativity because our eyes become focused on the circumstances we find ourselves in, rather than on Jesus. 

That has lead me to think again about Sabbath, divine and holy rest, offering space for contemplation, basking in God’s presence & opportunity for healing and wholeness. I’ve been pondering whether my focus should be more heavily on rest, on my being, on our wellness – rather than on activity and concerns about the future. 

That seems ironic given we’re in December and I have a whole host of Christmas activities to plan for! 

But as the video reminds us – God’ timing is perfect and will bring things forth at the right moment – if we are making space for God – and we do that through pausing, resting, Sabbath-ing.

Advent is a season of waiting that quite often the church pays some level of lip service to in it’s drive to make the most of the opportunties for mission and outreach. And as admirable as that may be, I wonder whether our desperate rush to get to Christmas means we skip Advent’s spiritual reminder that time is God’s. That just as God’s people both patiently and impatiently waited for Emmanuel, God’s moment came.

Perhaps we need to focus more heavily on rest, on recover, on being compassionate to ourselves, each other, to the church – to allow ourselves space to turn from fear to faithfulness, and trust that God’s moment will come.

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.


PDF Download

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

Downloadable PDF

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

Downloadable PDF

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)

PDF Download