Church of England Diocese of Norwich St. Peter, Sheringham

Message from the Minister: The Fourth Sunday of Advent

20 Dec 2020, 1 a.m.

2020 has not been a good year. Some of my family members contracted Covid. They suffered. It’s a nasty disease. We were all afraid for their lives. Thankfully they’re getting better now, but for three weeks they continued to deteriorate, and our fears grew.

Every day people suffer, and every day people die. I get it when people rail against God, when they ask why God doesn’t intervene to stop bad things from happening, when God doesn’t take away their pain.

I get it when people want God to make life fair. Some think that good people should be safe, while those who harm others ought to know the same suffering as they caused.

God, they believe, should do things differently!

We simply don’t understand God, do we? God doesn’t do things our way. God turns everything on its head. We give status to people who are talented, if they’re highly intelligent, or have skills in sport or music or singing or speaking or entertaining us. We look up to people who are rich and successful and confident and good-looking. We tend to look down upon those who are our servants, the people who clean up after us or cater for us. Sometimes we don’t look at them at all.

God sends a special messenger, his angel Gabriel, to tell Mary that she has found favour with God. All we’re told about Mary is that she is a virgin engaged to Joseph, of the house of David. She’s not special at all, in human terms. Mary is much perplexed. How can she have earned God’s favour?

Well, God does look at those who are willing to serve. God gives favour to people we look down upon. That is perplexing. We really don’t understand God, do we?

The angel says ‘God is with you’ and ‘Do not be afraid.’ These two statements are of vital importance. They provide hope. They’re something to hold onto when all seems to be falling apart, and that makes a big difference to our spiritual wellbeing. It gives us strength and courage and helps us to get through the fear. Mary would surely remember these words. Then the angel tells her that she will bear the Son of God. Wow. This message from God turns Mary and Joseph’s life upside down. It impacts on human life from that day onwards, making a positive difference. It brings light into the darkness of the whole world.

Nothing is impossible with God, who can and did come to us as a baby, to show us the way to serve, if we accept the invitation to do so. It doesn’t come with a promise that we won’t suffer, or die. It does come with the hope of eternal life, of true justice, of God’s presence with us, of there being nothing to fear: a promise that all shall be well, that one day there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more evil.

Are we, like Mary, ready to accept: to say ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’? Are we prepared to go out and make a positive difference, to bring the light of God’s love as shown to us in Jesus into the darkness of the world - this Christmastime and every day?


Julie Rubidge

Lay Minister