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Sunday Worship 28th November 2021: Advent Sunday

Welcome to this morning's Sunday Worship service led by Paula Dawson (in church and via Zoom).

We normally worship in church each week and also via Zoom, with a recording of the Zoom meeting published by Monday morning. If you are not currently on our mailing list for Zoom please contact Rev Christine:

Click below on the play button to start this morning's service video.

God Bless x

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Rev Christine Fox:

Thank you to all those who have been part of arranging this week's service.

Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.


“There will be signs,” Jesus said

(from the gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Luke 21:25-36).

When I was a child one of the signs I always looked forward to was our angel.

Every year about this time my Dad would go up into the loft and bring down a

box which contained our angel. It was made of card, and was created as an

outline of an angel. All along the bottom of its dress was a series of little

numbered doors. Yes, you’ve probably guessed – it was an advent calendar.

We didn’t have a new one every year. Every year, my Mum painstakingly

folded closed each of the doors, sometimes with the help of a bit of Sellotape

(this was before the days of bluetac!) Every day in advent we opened one of

the doors to find the same pictures, the same bible verses as we did every

year, but it was always special. It had been a present for us from Mum’s

Norwegian penfriend and was one of our treasures. Every year we counted

down the days to Christmas with it. Just getting the box down from the loft was

always a sign that Christmas was getting closer. That’s what Advent was all


I always loved Advent as a child. The choosing, buying and wrapping of

presents, the writing of cards, the smells of interesting and special cooking,

the sense of excitement amongst everybody, the carols, the decorations, the

familiar traditions, the sense of continuity and a kind of certainty when it rolled

round again. Advent was a time of expectation, anticipation, and excitement.

Yes, it meant Jesus would be born in Bethlehem but it also meant grandparents, presents, and Santa Claus. I looked forward to the future one day at a time.

Then something happened. Somewhere along the way life got really real and

Advent changed. Advent was no longer just the season before Christmas, a

countdown. Instead it began to describe the reality of my life and world. The

gospel texts about the destruction of the temple, war, earthquakes, famines,

plagues, and betrayals took on new and often very personal meanings.

Advent became a season of change, letting go, and looking to a future that

was not yet clear or known. I’m not exactly sure when it began or how it

happened but I know it did, and it continues to do so. All the signs are there.

The night I realised that I kind of had everything I wanted and wanted nothing I

had. I thought I had done all the right things and yet everything felt wrong.

“There will be signs,” Jesus said.

The pain and brokenness of a relationship which had been so important to

me, the guilt and regrets, the dreams that were replaced by a list of could’ve,

would’ve, and should’ve.

“There will be signs,” Jesus said.

The day I discovered that a close relative has an incurable illness, which will

mean a slow and very distressing deterioration of his faculties.

“There will be signs,” Jesus said.

Reading the headlines and feeling like my prayers are unable to keep up with

the pain and the needs of the world.

“There will be signs,” Jesus said.

Waking up with the world each morning of the past week and wondering,

What’s next? Where will it happen? When will it take place?

“There will be signs,” Jesus said.

Any one of these, all of them, or a thousand other things just like them. These

are just a few of my Advent stories, stories about how my life has been

changed and the world as I had known it ended.

What are your Advent stories?

I’ll bet you have them. I’ll bet you could tell stories about the day your life was

changed and your world ended. I’ll bet you have lived through seasons of

change, letting go, and stepping into an uncertain future, maybe even a future

you did not want.

I sometimes wish Advent was as simple and easy as opening a little door on

the calendar, maybe (with the calendars which are so popular now) eating a

piece of chocolate, and knowing that Christmas is one day closer. But it’s not.

You and I both know the world is not that simple and life is not that easy.

Maybe that’s why every year on this day, the First Sunday of Advent, we

always hear a gospel text (Luke 21:25-36) that seems to describe the end of

the world and the signs that will accompany that ending. This is not just a

story about Jesus and his disciples. This is your story and my story. We experience it in our lives. We see it in our world. And today the Church

declares it to be the good news of Christ.


The First Sunday of Advent always focuses our attention on the future. It’s a

theme that runs through today’s gospel and the entire season of advent.

Many of you know that the word advent comes from the Latin word meaning

“to come.” So something or someone is coming to us in this season. We most

often think of what’s coming as Christmas and the birth of Jesus. And it is but I

also think it is bigger and more than that. In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of

the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. I think that’s a

metaphor for the future. Perhaps it helps to think of Advent as the coming of

our future, and a time when we prepare, as best we can, if we can, for that


What comes up for you when you look toward or think about your future?

We all have a future and we all deal with it in our lives. Some look toward the

future with fear, anxiety, and worry. People will, Jesus says, faint from fear and

foreboding of what is coming upon the world. When have you felt like that?

Others look to the future with hope, eagerness, and optimism. They stand up

and raise [their] heads with anticipation and expectancy. When have you

jumped out of bed ready to get the new day started, and excited about the

possibilities of what might be? I’ve heard it called it being ‘journey-proud’.

Being too excited to sleep, wanting to get going. When have you been


Most of us, I suspect, live with both of those outlooks. Which predominates for

you today? What is the future you dread? What is the future you want and

anticipate? What parts of your life are fearful and what parts are journeyproud?


of which it is, the expectation of the future can prevent the present

from closing in on us, from closing us up. Advent prises open the present by

promising us the possibility of something new, the chance of something

different, something transformative.

I am not talking about the foreseeable future but the unforeseeable future.

We all have both. Most of us think at the end of a day, ‘Now, what am I doing

tomorrow?’ Or we will talk about what we want to do on the weekend, for

summer holiday, or even retirement. We’re talking about the foreseeable

future, the future we are planning and have some control over, the future

toward which we are working. With prior planning, common sense, some

work, and a bit of luck we can have a reasonable expectation that the future

will be as we plan. It’s within our reach and control. Most days I come home at

night having lived the future I planned days, weeks, or months before. It was


While we can plan and prepare for the foreseeable future, the unforeseeable

future comes ‘like a thief in the night’. It takes us by surprise. It’s completely unknown and unimaginable. We can’t understand or make sense of it. We are

at our wits’ end, seemingly pushed beyond the limits of what is possible,

without power or control. We’re not prepared for what is happening. How can

you prepare for what you cannot see, know, or understand? It’s those times in

our life when we say things like, ‘Not in my wildest dreams could I have

imagined or guessed that,’ ‘No, that’s not possible; it can’t be’, ‘God only


I’m betting every one of you knows what I am talking about. I am betting every

one of you has felt the unforeseeable future prise open and forever change

your life. Surely, that’s how Mary felt at Gabriel’s announcement that she

would give birth to the Son of God. She felt the impossibility of a future she

never imagined. ‘How can this be?’ Haven’t you also asked that question?

And let’s not forget the context for today’s gospel. Jesus and the disciples

have just left the temple, the centre of religious and civic life, when Jesus

says, ‘Not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down’. It’s

something they never could have imagined. Hasn’t there been a time when

you felt the stones of your temple being thrown down? Unimaginable,

unforeseeable? Yes, but not impossible.

The unforeseeable future always holds the possibility of the impossible. The

unforeseen future is, however, always unfolding, always calling us forward,

always asking of us a response. So let’s not be too quick to name or judge it

as good or bad, joyful or sorrowful, desired or unwanted. We just don’t know.

We cannot name the impossible.

To name or judge the impossible would be to relativize it and close ourselves

off from the advent of God. In Advent the unforeseeable future comes to us as

a chance for something new, for a new birth, for the expectation, the hope, the

hope against hope, in a transforming future. Advent does not promise an

escape from the circumstances of our lives or the world. The promise of

Advent, the possibility of the impossible, is revealed and fulfilled in the midst of

those circumstances.

The foreseeable future falls within the scope of our power and possibilities.

Things are manageable and, for the most part, we know what to do. With the

unforeseeable future, however, there are no guarantees, no contracts or

certainties, there is a lot of risk. That’s why Jesus says, ‘Be on guard that your

hearts are not weighed down…. Be alert at all times. Pray.’ He’s reminding us

that the impossible is the realm of faith, hope, and love. That’s how we are to

live when ‘heaven and earth are [passing] away’, when there is ‘distress

among the nations’, and ‘when the powers of heaven [are] shaken’.

That means we do not give up when the sands of our life are shifting under

our feet. We do not give up when we come unhinged, when our ability is

driven to its limit, when we are overwhelmed, or exposed to something we

cannot manage or foresee. And we do not give up on ourselves or each other. I am not talking about rosy optimism or determined perseverance. I am talking

about staying open to the possibility of the impossible, to a future we could

never imagine. I am talking about the call of faith, hope, love, courage,

compassion, beauty, forgiveness, healing. Aren’t those the things that speak

to your heart and tug at your soul?

I don’t know what the future holds for you and neither do you. But I know this.

Those things I just listed – faith, hope, love, courage, compassion, beauty,

forgiveness, healing – are the voice of Advent. They speak the possibility of a

new life, a transformed life, and they call to us from the most improbable,

unforeseen, and impossible places of our lives. They will pull you into and

through the rest of this day. And when you wake up tomorrow morning, guess

what? They will be there, waiting for you and calling your name.

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