Christmas 1: Happy New Year!


Christmas 1

Isaiah 62:10-62:3
Luke 2:15-21

Lord Jesus, Light of light,
you have come among us.
Help us who live by your light
to shine as lights in your world.
Glory to God in the highest.

Happy New Year Church Family! Blessing on your 2024. How are we feeling about the turning of the calendar? None of us can be too certain about what 2024 holds. That is either good news or bad news depending on how great your need for certainty is. The world and its various governments are not proving to be much help. Mother Nature is adding to the chaos. We have personal challenges and situations that can make life difficult.

On New Year’s Day 2020 I posted this quote from the American bible teacher and writer Beth Moore on Facebook: ‘We have no idea what the coming year holds but this I can promise you based on the unsurpassed authority of Scripture: our God’s going to be faithful. He’s going to be good. He’s going to love us and be our light in the darkness. He’s going to keep His word. He cannot do otherwise.’

This is still very much true as we head into 2024. Many of us have no idea what is coming. We can be sure though that God will be faithful, He is going to love us, He will be our light and He will keep his word. Amen!

While we may be straining at the lead into 2024, I was rather pleased at the Gospel reading we have this morning. Have we not just heard this story?! We might want to move on and look ahead; it is New Year’s Eve after all! The lectionary wants to keep us grounded in the Christmas story for one more Sunday. What might Mary and the shepherds have to say to us on the cusp of a new year?

Luke in his Gospel, writes about the people who respond spontaneously to a divine message with trust and unselfconscious enthusiasm. Mary is the most supreme example of this. Mary has already been visited by the Angel Gabriel and given birth to Jesus. Mary knew that her baby would be special and different; probably not that special and different until the shepherds appeared.

She is likely beginning to understand all that she has been told and there is much more to come. The arrival of the shepherds forces her to ponder what it all means. What she was told in private is now being made very public.

There is something in how Mary accepts the news she is given; I do not think it was automatic ‘this is amazing!’ Her pondering and reflection indicates that we too, probably more than we should, can ponder and reflect on what God is saying to us. We must live out our faith so that it is evident to those around us. This takes some pondering, reflection and prayer.

The shepherds at first are afraid of the angels. This is the common experience of those fortunate souls who encounter angels. It would probably take a big shock for a shepherd to become fearful; they lived in the outdoors and protected the sheep from predators that sought to kill and eat them. They lived in a constant state of uncertainty. Shepherds would not expect a sky full of angels.

The initial fear of the shepherds is quickly turned into excitement and energy. We learn about them from their reaction: they did not question or disbelieve, or react with cynicism, or drag their feet or ponder. They take the message and they act on it.

How do we act on the Good News of Jesus?

The shepherds hurried to see the baby. Are we in a hurry to tell people about Jesus? The shepherds became the first witnesses as they told everyone in earshot what they had seen and heard. It was as simple as that. There was no great theological debate or treatise. No lectures or sermons. Just a report of what they had experienced. Telling people about Jesus does not need to be anymore complicated than that.

In the world (most broadly) and in many lives (most specifically) there are many people living in darkness. The Good News of Jesus is needed more now than ever before. What difference does Jesus make to you? This might be the question to ponder as we move into 2024. What difference do you want Jesus to make to you in 2024?

Christmas is a time of hope, hope that lasts; hope that is beyond what we can imagine and it overcomes our limited vision. Jesus is the light of the world that overcomes the darkness.

Isaiah 61 is talking about a time when God’s favour will come and a messianic figure (the Messiah – Jesus) will bring freedom and health to his people. There is a vision of a future where every nation shall see the glory of God. God will do great things not only for his people but for the whole earth.

John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford wrote, ‘Christmas is that wonderful time when we enter into another world. Just temporarily we bask in a different glow, and old hopes are reinstated, and the world is a little less chilly. But if it’s true that at Christmas we enter into a different world, it’s also true that for Christmas to be authentic another world has to enter us. ‘Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’

As we take a last look at the Christmas story may we know the hope and salvation in the baby Jesus as told to the shepherds by the angelic host. Hold onto that hope and share the message of salvation.

I hope that for New Year’s 2024 we want the dear Christ to enter in. Let us pray to overcome fear and complacency, cynicism and lack of faith. Let us continue to pray for peace and justice in those places where it is so badly lacking.

I will finish by reading Psalm 148 which is set for today…

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.

6 He established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.[a]
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and frost
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Christmas Day: Comfort in the Manger


Christmas Day – Set 1 

Isaiah 9:2-7 

Psalm 96 

Titus 2:11-14  

Luke 2:1-20

Lord Jesus, Light of light,

you have come among us.

Help us who live by your light

to shine as lights in your world.

Glory to God in the highest.


It is good to hear that story again! We can read it any day of the year of course. But somehow it feels better, maybe more real on the day.

There are so many moving parts: 

  • The Government: those with power making those without power move around to be registered like cattle, 
  • The loyal and devoted Joseph and the young, heavily pregnant Mary awaiting the birth of their firstborn son
  • The inn and the innkeeper (probably a family home) with no empty space
  • The shepherds living in the fields, watching over their flocks by night
  • The angel of the Lord and the great multitude. Glory to God in the highest heaven indeed!
  • The wisemen came a bit later so don’t get a mention today – this isn’t a bad thing! It helps us to remember that Christmas is a season and not just one day.  

I am not sure which parts of this story warms the cockles of your hearts the most.

Mary & Joseph & Jesus 

I love this little line tucked into verse 6: ‘the time came for her to deliver her child.’ The time came. Again, we can receive Jesus at any time and anywhere, but he was grounded in a time and place. 

Mary and Joseph did not have an easy time but they remained faithful despite all the uncertainty they faced. They believed the angel who visited them to tell them about the baby. They travelled to Bethlehem on the orders of the Roman government. 

We don’t know if they travelled on a donkey or not – but it is a nice idea!     

I do not think that any parent could imagine that the description of their child would include: ‘For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Most babies are cute, good eaters, bad sleepers, or take after mum or dad or great aunt Beatrice. 

The baby born unto us has come to bring us hope and is the tangible sign that God really is with us. Not against us or indifferent to us – but with us. God with us brings us hope. 

With the coming of Jesus to earth, God has ceased to be distant and removed and too awesome to encounter. Instead, with Jesus’ arrival God becomes intimately involved in his creation and in our lives too. And when God is with us then there is hope. 

Angels & Shepherds

I love to picture the angels and the shepherds in the field. The Good News coming to those on the margins, the outsiders first in a burst of light better than any firework display we could imagine. 

There was nothing subtle about this announcement. It was a dark, probably ordinary night for those shepherds. Nothing but a few baas here and a few baas there, the stars for light, each other for companionship. 

Then this great angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining around them. Utterly overwhelming! When was the last time you were truly overwhelmed by something good? 

I know people who have been utterly overwhelmed by bad stuff – at home and abroad. War & violence in Ukraine & Russia, Gaza & Israel. It was sad not to see a Christmas Tree in Manger Square today. Rather a nativity made of rubble. Unemployment, sickness, divorce, death. Many people at Christmas find themselves utterly overwhelmed by the darkness of this world – more than usual. 

Christmas is a time of hope, hope that lasts; hope that is beyond what we can imagine and it overcomes our limited vision. Jesus is the light of the world that overcomes the darkness.

John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford wrote, ‘Christmas is that wonderful time when we enter into another world. Just temporarily we bask in a different glow, and old hopes are reinstated, and the world is a little less chilly. But if it’s true that at Christmas we enter into a different world, it’s also true that for Christmas to be authentic another world has to enter us. ‘Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’

Wherever you find yourself in the Christmas story this day – spend some time at the manger, bow a knee and gaze again at the baby who came at the right time and in the right place to bring us hope and be with us.  

Christmas Midnight Mass: Light & Life & Love

December 24, 2023 

Isaiah 52:7-10

Hebrews 1:1-4

John 1:1-14

Holman Hunt’s Light of the World

This, tonight is the meeting place. 

Christmas Prologue from Cloth For The Cradle 

This, tonight, 

is the meeting place of heaven and earth. 

For this, tonight, 

is the stable

in which God keeps his appointment

to meet his people. 

Not many high are here, 

no many holy; 

not many innocent children, 

not many worldly wise; 

not all familiar faces, 

not all frequent visitors. 

But, if tonights 

only strangers met, 

that would be enough. 

For Bethlehem was not the hub of the universe, 

nor was the stable a platform for famous folk. 

In an out-of-the-way place 

which folk never thought to visit – 

there God kept and keeps his promise; 

there God sends his son. 

This is what we are here to remember and celebrate tonight: God’s keeping of his promise through the sending of his Son.

The Son that has been talked about, anticipated, longed for over centuries arrived as a Baby. We do not hear this part of the story in the readings tonight. We miss out on Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in the manger, the animals in the stable, angels, shepherds and the wise men. This is the familiar, the comforting part of the Christmas story. I hope you take a moment to appreciate our crib tonight. Baby Jesus has yet to make his appearance but he will! 

However, this is only part of the story. Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus move on from the stable and so must we. The Baby grows up and this is where the story picks up in John’s Gospel. John expands the story for us as he forces us to lift up our gaze to see the wider picture.   

John’s use of the ‘In the beginning’ is referencing the opening lines of Genesis ‘In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…’ This is to highlight that from the beginning of time Jesus was there.

When my nephew Riley was 5 years old, he and my sister had a bedtime conversation that went like this: 

Riley: ‘Mom, how old are Great Grandma and Great Grandpa?’

Sister: ‘they are both 90’ 

Riley: ‘Mom, when will they go to heaven?’ 

Sister: ‘I am not sure but Jesus will be waiting to greet them when they go.’ 

Riley: ‘Mom – how old is Jesus?’

Sister: ‘Well he was born 2000 years ago but Jesus doesn’t age and has always been around.’ 

Riley: (with all the exasperation of a 5 year old) ‘Mom – Jesus is a baby!’ 

It is quite easy to take this view whether we are 5 years old or not. Jesus was never meant to be contained to the manger. Nor did Jesus just appear one night in Bethlehem as if out of nowhere. Jesus has always been around ; part of God and the Trinity. He is more than a Baby!

John describes Jesus as The Word. That may feel like a big jump for us to make. The Word is God’s way of communicating himself and making himself known to us. The Word became flesh and lived among us. 

I wonder if you remember what your first word was this morning?

Or last Tuesday?

If you are married – what were your first words to your now-spouse the first time you met them?

Do you remember the kindest words that you have ever spoken to another person?

What has been the kindest word or words you have ever received?

What about any unkind or untrue words spoken to another person? Or spoken to you? 

Our words matter. Yet we tend not to remember the majority of the words we speak. Words have power. We know that by how they make us feel, think and act. We can watch our words influence other people’s thinking, feelings, and behaviour. We are responsible for our words – “but you said…” “remember when you said…” holds us to that! 

We get very excited at the first words of a toddler as they learn to speak. The first coherent utterance of a life is a big deal. Our first word or words often reflect that which is around us; ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’.  

What about the words of Jesus? 

We are told in the reading from Isaiah about the words the promised one would bring: He announces peace, good news, salvation and comfort. He sustains all things by his powerful words. The most powerful of Jesus’ words is love. 

If you go away from here tonight with one word let it be love. 

Jesus is the Word and the love. 

Jesus is also the light. 

Light shows the shape of things as they really are.

It is here that John the Baptist appears in verse 6 as the witness to the light, ‘so that all might believe through him.’ John the Baptist points to Jesus. We live in a dark world, in a dark society. You don’t need to spend much time looking at the telly or the papers to work that one out. I will spare us all by not expanding on that tonight.  

The world needs Jesus and his true light. We need Jesus and his true light to enlighten us. We need a light that shines in the darkness – that cannot be overcome by the world or by our own fallibility and weaknesses. We need the Word to guide and direct out of the darkness and into the Light. 

Finally, John’s Gospel makes some huge claims about Jesus and if we establish that Jesus is the Word and the Light there are consequences to follow. Does my life reflect the light and love of Jesus? Do my words reflect the Word?   

I want to be able to answer those questions with a resounding yes! But I know I don’t always get it right. But that’s okay. I suspect it is the same for you. As long as we stay in the Word and the Light – we have forgiveness, hope and a chance to do better.   

Our words matter. Those spoken in love, in hate, in jest, in seriousness, in passion, in anger, in fear, in sadness. What words would you like to be remembered for? Any word or the Word – that is Jesus?  

Tonight of all nights, the word is love. Know that you are loved by God. Beyond our limited vision, despite walking in darkness much of the time, regardless of what we think or believe or think we know. Love is the word. 


Advent 4: Gabriel & Mary

Advent 4 – Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89
Romans 16:25-end
Luke 1:26-38

Today is a busy day. It is a relief that the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve do not fall on the same day very often! It has gone by way too quickly.

The Gospel readings for Fourth Sunday always revolve around Mary as she completes the picture of our Advent journey. It seems that at this time of the year, we Protestants are okay to talk about Mary and even have a statue of her in church without great resistance!

I was looking back over the lectionary to see which stories of Mary are used on this particular Sunday. Year A is Matthew’s gospel account of the birth of Jesus in which Mary does not speak. Year C is Luke’s recording of the Magnificat. In full voice Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord who has looked with favour on her lowly self.

Year B (this year) has set Luke 1 which is the Annunciation; when Mary was visited by Gabriel who brings her the good news that she will bear a son. We hear Mary’s voice in this account as she and Gabriel discuss the situation.

One of the many things to appreciate this season is how the story of the first Christmas comes alive. We see it in the pictures on Christmas cards; we hear it in the words of Christmas carols; we see the drama played out in Christingle and Crib services.

Sometimes if or when we pick up the Bible to read it we can lose the sense of awe and wonder. Over the past 4 weeks, a small group of us have been meeting to look at the various characters in the Advent & Christmas stories – John the Baptist, Mary, a bit of Joseph and finally the angels, shepherds and wise men this past week. We have been taking a closer look at the many aspects of these people. Together we have looked at some of the assumptions and shared our own knowledge, thoughts and ideas.

In that spirit I would like to highlight a few parts of this amazing story this morning.

The angel Gabriel. Gabriel is a fascinating character; he is a Messenger of God. In any artistic depiction, Gabriel looks to be tall with huge white, feathery wings. He often has a trumpet or a lily in his hand. Angels are created beings of God as we are. There is no evidence to support angels being recycled souls of our dearly departed; however comforting this notion might be.

Gabriel appears in the Old Testament as he was sent to explain the visions that the prophet Daniel was having. Gabriel has been around for a few hundred years at least. Gabriel is now back on the scene. Six months before greeting Mary, God sent Gabriel to Jerusalem to foretell another unexpected birth to an elderly priest named Zechariah whose aged wife Elizabeth would bear John the Baptist. Prior to these visits approximately 400 years had passed since God had sent any message to earth. Then twice in 6 months Gabriel is called into service with life changing news for the most unsuspecting of people.

Now we move on a few verses and turn our attention to Mary. Mary the Virgin, maybe 13 or 14 years old, engaged to be married to Joseph. He was not a local though as his family came from Bethlehem, the house of David. Bethlehem is about 80 miles (a 2 hour drive or 5-6 day walk) from Nazareth.

How and why did Joseph’s family end up in Nazareth? It was not a particularly desirable place to live. People then did not tend to move around very much; you stayed where you were from. However the Bethlehem connection is rather central to the story.

Gabriel’s opening to Mary of ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you!’ I wonder what Mary was doing at that moment. Was she alone? Was she in her bedroom or our carrying water?

Mary is perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. There is a lot of meaning here: Mary is deeply agitated, she is taken aback, disturbed, anxious. One explanation that I particularly liked was ‘stirred up throughout’ by the appearance of Gabriel.

Some of us here know what it is like to be ‘stirred up throughout’. I know a lot of people who have been stirred up throughout this year. That news that comes unexpectedly that moves adrenaline at lighting speed: good or bad that shakes us to the core.

It is not just by Gabriel’s appearance but his greeting, his words that have caused her reaction. Mary’s reaction could be that she knew that this greeting was coming with an overwhelming challenge.

Paula Gooder in her Advent book ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting’ writes, ‘Gabriel’s greeting is somewhat reminiscent of the ancient Chinese proverb ‘May you live in interesting times’, which can be seen as either a curse or a blessing. In the same way, Gabriel’s greeting can either be seen as good or bad: to be in receipt of God’s favour, especially beloved and granted his presence, can only mean that Mary’s life is about to be turned upside down. She is surely right and sensible to be disturbed by this greeting.’

Gabriel then declares ‘Do not be afraid!’ Yeah okay! The phrase ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 366 times in the Bible. One for each day of the year and an extra for Leap Years. Do not be afraid is then followed with the sweet words ‘you have found favour with God.’ How did she do that? A 13-year-old girl from a poor, backwater town. What was it about Mary?

We can do all the religiousy, churchy stuff in the world but this does not mean we have found God’s favour. It isn’t in what we do; it is in who we are. We were created by God out of God’s love for us. In spite of everything that is unlovely in us. We can still find God’s favour. What we do should be an offering back to God out of our love as thanksgiving for his love.

Mary then gets the news that she is going to conceive and bear a son whom she will name Jesus.

Jesus. This was the first proclamation of our Saviour’s personal name since the beginning of time. Jesus. The very name at which one day every knee will bow. The very name at which every tongue will confess. A name with no parallel in any vocabulary. A name with power like no other name. Jesus.

Gabriel tells Mary, ‘He will be great’. Oh yes he is.

Gabriel then carries on with some details of what is to happen. Mary’s concern is for the practicalities: she obviously knew where babies came from. We see something of her innocence too. Gabriel has the answer for Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’. Come upon here means ‘to arrive, invade, resting upon and operating in a person.’

For nothing will be impossible with God, says Gabriel. If it is of God then nothing is impossible. Sometimes it is us who need a little more courage or imagination.

It is after she heard ‘that nothing is impossible’ – that Mary says ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ I sometimes wonder what our lives, our families, our community and our world would look like if this was our response to God. ‘Here am I’. And not just when the news is good or happy or the request is something that we really want to do. What about when the news is uncertain or just plain hard, comes with a price tag we do not want to pay. Or the inconvenience doesn’t seem worth it. ‘Here am I.’

As we finish out this Advent season and rush (in a matter of hours) into Christmas:

I hope that you will know the Lord’s favour upon you.

I hope the name of Jesus falls sweetly on your ears and off your tongue.

The Lord is with you. Nothing will be impossible with God.

Do not be afraid – The Lord is with you.

Advent 2: Make Straight the Paths

Advent 2 – Year B

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-end
Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
the prophets said you would bring peace
and save your people in trouble.
Give peace in our hearts at Christmas
and show all the world God’s love.

I love the season of Advent. I grew up in an evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and we were always big on Advent, big wreaths and candles in the church, special prayers and calendars at home all made for a growing sense of anticipation for Christmas.

Marking Advent goes some way in keeping my cynicism towards the commercialisation of Christmas low. It is very easy to complain about the stuff in the shops too early or how the Christian message gets lost today.

If we do not prepare ourselves and examine again what it all means, then how will we possibly be the Prophets of today who can share the Good News of this season with others? The second Sunday of Advent, over time, has been set aside to remember and reflect on The Prophets of the Old Testament. This focus gives us the opportunity to reflect on the way Jesus’ birth was foretold in the centuries before it actually happened.

The people of Israel that Isaiah is speaking to have been through the mill. The first 39 chapters of the book speak mainly of punishment and the exile of the people of Jerusalem to Babylon. Chapters 40-66 begin to speak of things turning around with messages of comfort and the end of punishment for Jerusalem.

Isaiah’s prophecy is telling the people of Israel to be on the lookout; there is a person coming who will prepare the way of the Lord (John the Baptist). They are to listen for the word of God and watch for the coming of the Lord (Jesus).

John the Baptist came out of the wilderness but not out of nowhere. There are many similarities between John the Baptist and Jesus: their births were both foretold in the prophecies in the Old Testament, their parents were notified by angels and both were surprises. The bible does not give any information about John after his birth until he bursts onto the scene in the opening verses/chapters of all four Gospels from the wilderness. John brings the message of hope for the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

The wilderness, biblically speaking, is often a place of transformation and preparation. Jesus is taken for 40 days into the wilderness at the start of his ministry, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness before they reached the promised land. The wilderness is also a place of loneliness, isolation and vulnerability. Christians can often speak of having those times in the wilderness when God feels distant, it can be a time of great doubt and despair. All you can do is wait and watch for God as though your life depends on it. This does not sit comfortably in the season of Christmas parties and carol singing.

John’s message is also about spiritual preparations for the coming of Jesus; there are two things, according to John, that we need to do.

Firstly, we need to clear a path for the Lord and secondly that path is to be straight. The original Greek word for paths here means ‘a beaten pathway’; a well-worn path, a path that has seen some use, has been established, walked on.

In a personal way God wants us to prepare a path to him. If you were to picture what your path to God looks like, what do you see? Is it well worn? Lightly tread? Is our path to God straight? I know that mine sometimes is more of a meandering path. I have taken the long way around! I vividly remember a sermon where a rather charismatic preacher suggested we should ‘go to the throne before we go to the phone.’

Have we made a path for Him to come and do a major and powerful work in our lives? I trust that God wants us to make a beaten pathway to Him. We also need to clear that path of debris; this can be anything that stands in the way of God being able to work in our lives fully.

There are ways that we can make a beaten path. Firstly, meditate on the fact that we need a Saviour. We all need Jesus. Our families, your children and grandchildren, need Jesus. Our friends and neighbours need Jesus.

Secondly, engage in sober self-examination. John’s first words when he appeared from the wilderness ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ It is also no coincidence that in Matthew’s Gospel, the first line of Jesus’ first sermon is ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (4:17).

This does not mean checking how many moles are on your back or how many wrinkles have appeared around your eyes (though there is a time and place for this type of self-examination). Rather, this is a deep internal examination of how we are doing spiritually. The Christian writer John Piper says, ‘Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter’. There should be time for honest self-reflection, where we invite the Holy Spirit in to show us where we need His help and healing the most.’

John’s call to baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins is a way of getting our paths clear and straight. I think that many of us would assign this kind of reflection to Lent and not Advent. Yet it is through John we have a gateway to the swaddled baby, fleecy lambs, singing angels and wisemen that we hold so dear at this time of year.

Confession and repentance bring a cleansing and a change of mind and heart can help us turn back to God. It can clear and straighten the path like nothing else can. It is not easy and may not seem to fit in the season of mulled wine and mince pies. They don’t taste as good as a clean heart and mind feel though.

Repentance needs to be taken seriously. It means stopping and turning around. Is there anything you need to stop doing? We can of course ask for forgiveness for the things we do wrong. Yet if we don’t get serious about stopping sin we cheapen forgiveness. It becomes worthless and meaningless. This is what John means in his demand that the Pharisees and Sadducees to ‘bear fruit worthy of repentance.’

It is hard but not impossible. We have the God for whom nothing is impossible. He will help and provide.

In this Advent season my prayer is that you will know the hope of Jesus the Messiah as we celebrate his birth and await his return. I also pray that amidst the turkey and tinsel you find time to deepen your need for the Saviour who loves and cares for you. May you also know his love and forgiveness this season too. As uncomfortable as it might be, some serious self-examination might be in order to. Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement be with you. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.