I was listening to the Test Match when suddenly on Radio 4 long wave, the Daily Service broke in. It was an Advent service, replete with Advent hymns. I’ve not had to prepare a service in Advent for 2 years, so it was refreshing to listen and be reminded.

I used to find Advent hymns and readings strange: there are no chocolates, cuddly snowmen, gentle Jesus meek and mild or carols here. It was-at least initially- tempting to skip over them to something more accesible and understanable.

Now something about their strangeness speaks. I liktheye the fact that they are not immediately understandable, that they talk of overturning established ways of doing things and how they shatter my mild prose filled world with wild poetry.

And I like the waiting, longing and the Hope more; especially as I get older and am more aware of fragility:my own and others- life is so temporary and passing. Somehow the strangeness seems more ‘real’ than everyday life.

This is my favourite advent hymn- perhaps my favourite ever- redone by the unique Sufjan Stevens:-


O come emmanuel sufjan


Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. I have blogged extensively on Advent in the past: I was ‘inside’ it- 4 weeks of trying to think about what it would be like when ‘kingdom come’ & all mourning, sighing and crying will be over. 4 weeks of trying to sing carols, eat mince pies, think of original and different things to say that are brief but not trivial. 4 weeks largely without meetings but with plenty of worship planning and carol services and …mince pies.

This Advent will be the first time since 1991 (in 1992, I preached my first ‘proper’ sermon: thinking about it now, people were amazingly tolerant) when I haven’t had to prepare anything: in that sense, I am ‘outside’. Whilst there will be Christmas activities in the places where I work and I may end up leading some ad hoc carol services, I will lead no Advent services and prepare no Christmas Services.

I hope I will experience it in some way: either by being in churches (I went to one of the last services at a small chapel yesterday: it was bitter-sweet)or making an attempt to read some Advent passages and not get caught up in the frenzy of ‘It is nearly Christmas’.

Because it isn’t: it is Advent-.

In one sense I will miss it, but in another sense I won’t: when I go to churches I will get to see what all the fuss is about- I am hoping I will enter into it in a new way.


I am really trying to hold back the tide of Christmas & make it more ‘Advent-y’, but today I will largely fail.

Today is usually my most intense Sunday for services etc. This morning I am using this:-

Want to keep Christ in Christmas?

I am using this as it makes me think.

Facebook is ripe with different versions of the ‘we are being persecuted’ narrative among western Christians. I have lost count of the number of people who will share a post of a very ‘white’ nativity scene which has variations on the ‘People don’t want you to share this. Share if you believe that Jesus should be in the centre’.

Aside from the emotional blackmail in the request, I don’t think ‘people’ are that bothered, apart from maybe slightly peeved that you want to shout your beliefs at them. When did we lose the desire to share our faith face to face with compassion, dignity and care for the whole person; as opposed to ‘hiding’ in churches & ‘sloganing’?

That is why I like that quote so much.

Advent 3

The power company I buy my electricity from installed a ‘smart’ meter in this house last week.

I knew academically how much my electricity cost, but not exactly. Suddenly I realise just how much it costs to put the kettle on, keep a fan oven on, run the shower etc. This is doing 2 things to me:-

(1) Realising how much our lifestyle costs.

(2) Starting to reduce consumption.

I guess it is a bit like Advent: if you have any kind of faith, it is easy to drift along in a state of ‘tranquilised everydayness’ (my favourite Heidegger quote… put in at this point to show I am dead brainy) . and gradually ‘fall asleep’. Advent, with some of its strange, wild and unpredictable readings is meant to wake us up, in the same way as a Smartmeter does:-

(1) Realising how much laid back discipleship costs to ourselves/our community.

(2) Working out small steps on how to do this.

Trouble is, I like staying asleep…

Advent card: Advent 2

(You can buy this at

So, semi mischievously, I searched on ‘Moonpig’ for an Advent card. I had a mind to use it this morning.

I could only find two: one of them is above. ‘Advent’, here is Dec 1st: as any fule kno, Advent as we celebrate it begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. This year, that is the 30th of November.

I actually wanted to design my own card. I was looking for one that I could adapt. I would choose the most cuddly cartoon card I could find and put a speech bubble next to him saying ‘Repent; you brood of vipers!’

I wouldn’t expect it to sell; not even in churches. I only wanted to do it as an ironic statement; to me if no one else. It would just be to remind me of John the Baptist; the one who prepared the way & the one who we think about today.

I will cave in- although less and less each year- to consumerism and to consumption, but I need to hear John’s message about knocking down, making straight and putting God’s way first.

Maybe next year I will make time & have a bash on Publisher & send some Advent cards like that….


Advent begins today.

There was a time when this meant almost nothing to me: much of my formative Christian experience was in the evangelical wing of church and we didn’t really ‘do’ Advent.

Over time it has meant more: a holy rage against the facile nature of much of contemporary Christmas (I am not entirely ‘bah humbug’- I do like parties and presents. Single malt whisky since you ask) and the discipline of waiting.

I have a soft spot for the old advent hymns that we don’t sing very much any more. Although the language takes some translating, it is rich in imagery. I particularly like this hymn and struggle to sing it all the way through without gulping:-

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I very much like how Sufjan Stevens took hold of this song as well:-



waiting_to_catch_santa_claus_on_christmas_eve_rackcard-rb44c575137534516bbc204739878acca_vgvr1_8byvr_324.jpg (324×324)

I got sent this years ago. I think it is from As I get older, I am more attracted to written stuff, to voices other than my own. I use a lot of words; too many and it is good to listen and use those who are more adept than I am.

The stable:
It waits its turn

 The angels:
They wait for the chorus

 The stars:
They wait to guide

 The light: It waits to break through

 The prophets:
They wait to hear

 The Shepherds:
They wait to proclaim

 The wise ones:
They wait to visit

 The parents:
they wait to love

We wait to rejoice

 All are waiting for God

for God is not yet ready

But soon

very soon

Advent 4: the turning over of the powerful…

I got this yesterday from a Martyn Joseph mailing. These were some words that he had found inspiring. They are taken from a recent speech by Bono to university students in the USA. I thought they fitted well with Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55

“We’re going to win because we have dreams
We’re going to win because we are willing to stand up for our dreams
We’re going to win because we don’t understand politics,
We’re going to win because we don’t have a party political agenda
We’re going to win because we don’t play their dirty games
We’re going to win because the tears that come from our eyes actually come from our hearts
We’re going to win because the power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power”


An advent blessing

Every so often I get some worship resources sent to me from ‘Mucky Paws’. They are the work of one minister at I can never use them all, but their language is so fresh and different, I am often tempted. I am posting this old one today: it is much more upbeat than I normally post but this week has been harder than most, so I need to hear this as I watch and wait…

I wish for you

An advent blessing of incarnation


I wish for you the light

that was born in you

when God first spoke

your name


I wish for you the word

that echoed in heaven

when she heard of God’s plans

for you


I wish for you the time

to grow into what God imagined in you

in the first moment

of your creation


I wish for you the hope

that keeps you travelling

across whatever horizons

shape your life


I wish for you the promise

of incarnation

of birth and hope

and word and journey


I wish for you the advent

of life always coming true

through God’s own word

born in you today









Matthew 1:18-25


Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Christmas doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve (and not August 7th as most shops seem to think…).

Here is a collect from the Methodist Worship Book:-

‘Then will the glory of the Lord be revealed

and all will see it together.

Wait for the Lord, be strong and brave

and put your hope in the Lord’.

This is one of my favourite hymns- I prefer the longing of the Advent ones more than the sickly sweet Christmas carols- redone by Sufjan Stevens who captures the melancholy longing well:-