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Mary #adventbookclub

Luke 1:26-38 (CEV)

An Angel Tells about the Birth of Jesus

26 One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee 27 with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. 28 The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. 30 Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, 31 and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. 33 He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not married!”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. 36 Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. 37 Nothing is impossible for God!”

38 Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.


You don’t expect to meet an angel do you?  Not an actual real one?  Maybe someone who does something good and we tell them they’re an angel, but not An Angel.

How did I know he was an angel?  Good question.  I guess there was just something about him.  I just knew.  Knew that this was God and this was serious.  If I’d known what he was about to tell me, I might have run away; but well, you know, when God speaks, what can you do?

Am I expecting to see
and hear you Lord?

Am I expecting you
to come into my everyday life
and bring news
that changes everything?

Am I expecting you to come
and change me
beyond comprehension?

Am I ready,
for you to work in my life?

Let me stop,
and allow you to work,
that I
and the world
may be changed.


Join us reading Walking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell from SPCK Publishing this advent.  Be part of #adventbookclub, share your thoughts here, on your own blog (and let us know we’ll link to it), on Twitter using #adventbookclub or on the Adventbookclub Facebook page

My Servant

In our time and place, we probably think of having a servant with bad connotations.  It takes us back to a time when people with too much money had people, who they kept well and truly in their place and subservient, doing tasks that they were quite capable of doing themselves.  We only have to think of programmes such as Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs to see people being dressed, having their meals brought to them and served or generally being waited on hand and foot.

But a servant, in its most basic form is

a person who performs duties for others

And so Isaiah introduces us to The Lord’s Servant

Isaiah 42:1-9 (CEV)

The Lord’s Servant

42 Here is my servant!

    I have made him strong.
He is my chosen one;
    I am pleased with him.
I have given him my Spirit,
and he will bring justice
    to the nations.
He won’t shout or yell
    or call out in the streets.
He won’t break off a bent reed
    or put out a dying flame,
but he will make sure
    that justice is done.
He won’t quit or give up
until he brings justice
    everywhere on earth,
and people in foreign nations
    long for his teaching.

I am the Lord God.
I created the heavens
    like an open tent above.
I made the earth and everything
    that grows on it.
I am the source of life
for all who live on this earth,
    so listen to what I say.
I chose you to bring justice,
    and I am here at your side.
I selected and sent you
    to bring light
and my promise of hope
    to the nations.
You will give sight
    to the blind;
you will set prisoners free
    from dark dungeons.

My name is the Lord!
I won’t let idols or humans
    share my glory and praise.
Everything has happened
    just as I said it would;
now I will announce
    what will happen next.

Here is One that God has chosen to do a task for him.

Not a menial task, or something that he could easily have done himself had he tried, but the one that God has selected as the bright light to bring his hope to the world; to ensure God’s justice and freedom is seen.  This isn’t someone who is going to create a lot of noise or wreak damage, he isn’t going to destroy tiny flickers of light, he is going to work for God – and he won’t give up until the task is complete.

Of course, Isaiah is prophesying about The Messiah, God’s Chosen One – Jesus.  And we recognise all that he came to do within this passage.  But, we too are called to be God’s servants – to be people who perform duties for him.

We too are asked to protect the weak, bring life, shed God’s light, seek justice and set free those who are held down.

That is my task in the world, what God is calling me to do.  Wherever I am, whatever pattern or form my life takes, that is my basic calling – to work for God in my place.

I know that there is work to be done,
your work.
I want to work for you,
to do the things you ask of me;
to be someone
who bring life and light
where I go,
to protect the weak,
serve the vulnerable,
work for justice
and bring your freedom.

None of this I can do by my own,
so as I acknowledge that it is your work,
I pray for your strength,
your wisdom,
and your equipping power

We are called to be servants

Take Away

I’m writing this to try to clarify some of my thoughts, and for anyone who is interested to know a bit of my story.


I used to be a Circuit Minister.  That means I was stationed, in Methodist parlance, to a Circuit, where I had pastoral charge of five churches.  Two of them were 15 miles from The Manse – but not in the same direction!  I had plenty of involvement in schools, in the different communities and with the older people.  I had opportunities to lead all varieties of worship, to try to work out how to make God relevant to different people. I loved it.  I was fulfilled, excited, challenged and everything felt so “right”.  I’m not saying I got everything right – far from it, I made some spectacular mistakes and misjudgments, but that was part of it.  Part of living and learning and walking in faith together.

Then in 2005 I got flu.  Not, ‘I’ve got a really bad cold’ flu, proper full-blown, knock you off you feet flu.  I took to my bed, wearing my coat – partly because I was shivering despite the fever, and partly because I had no energy to take it off on crawling back from the doctors.  And there I lay, well until they came to install our new kitchen, when I had to make it downstairs!

The problem is, I never got better.  The fever went and the head ache and even the sore throat.  But the cough, the total exhaustion, the not being able to think straight  stayed – and were joined by some other friends like excruciatingly dry eyes and other problems that have come along since either caused by or part of the rest.

Eventually it became clear that this was going nowhere, and after a couple of trial returns to work, it wasn’t going to happen any time soon.  And so the decision was taken that I would retire early on ill-health.  I am eternally grateful to the Methodist Church for its care and provision for us, that meant we were safe and had a roof over our heads.

Yet, to have to leave, to have to give up a ministry I had trained for, that we as a family had sacrificed so much for (and got so much more back!), that felt so right, was so part of me… To have to leave behind a community, a friends network, our children’s friends was, and still is, so hard.

I see that my earlier experiences and theological explorations had taught me about how to cope and live with the physical issues and constraints, but what about losing me?  The me I had become, the me that had been formed in a furnace?  The me that was called and equipped?  The things I enjoyed?  The things that made me feel alive?

And so I am stripped of all that.

Landed in a community not of my choosing.  A community I cannot join in with to make any contacts.  With no ministry.  No energy.  No voice.

And yet, I still stand by those words,

We walk by faith, not by sight

and always, always, singing this song:

because I have nothing else at all to hang on to.

Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. We want to put it on like clothes and not be naked.

These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. So always be cheerful!

As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. But we live by faith, not by what we see. We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord. But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him. 10 After all, Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies.

That was 2007 – I’ll share the next part tomorrow – but that might be a bit harder…