Reflections for the Four Sundays of Advent, and Christmas 1 – Year B

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications and is included here with their permission.

First Sunday of Advent

Ready and Waiting
Mark 13.26,37

Advent:  a season of expectation and excitement.  But also a season of unease and a sense that the world might soon be turned upside down.  We look forward to celebrating the birth of a baby.  But it’s an unusual celebration in a stable alongside animals and shepherds – men who are near the bottom of the social ladder.  They tell us that this baby is a Saviour, Christ the Lord.  But the parents themselves don’t look like royalty or anything very special.  In the quiet, in the dark and hidden away from public view, Jesus is born.

It’s quite a contrast to the messages we receive from the prophet Isaiah and from Jesus himself.  One day Christ the Lord will return and for that we have to be prepared.  His coming will also be met with celebration and his glory will be seen by everyone.  But it will be seen, too, with fear and grieving among those who just aren’t ready to face immediate judgement.

Nobody knows when Christ the Lord will return although as we see all the signs of his coming around us (wars, earthquakes, pandemic and famines) we might well believe it will be soon.  Whether or not that is the case Jesus wants us to be awake and ready to greet his reappearance as joyfully as we greet and celebrate his birth at Christmas.


Lord Jesus, as we prepare to celebrate your birthday help us also to remember to keep awake and to live each day in joyful expectation of your return when your power and glory will be seen by all people.  Amen.


Second Sunday of Advent

Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Isaiah 40.1-11 and Mark 1.1-8

People from all over the country flock to the banks of the River Jordan to see and hear this mysterious man, John.  Why are they attracted to him and his call for repentance?

Many, if not all, believe John could be a prophet preparing the way for the longed for Messiah.  His words, clothes and way of life support this idea and if it’s true then no-one wants to miss the appearance in the wilderness of God’s anointed one.

Perhaps many know in their own hearts a deep personal longing for a new and better way to live.  They hang on in hope to Isaiah’s words:  “Comfort, O comfort my people ….. speak tenderly to Jerusalem .. here is your God!” and in their bruised and damaged lives they long too for the care, guidance and gentleness of one who will gather them in his arms, carry them close to his heart and lead them gently into places of safety and refreshment.

We too might long for the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and for the fulfilment of his promise of forgiveness, tenderness and love in our lives.  If so let’s allow these words from Isaiah to touch our hearts and bring us the comfort and peace of believing that “the word of our God will stand for ever.”


Lord Jesus, you speak words of comfort to God’s people:  help us to allow you to gather us into your arms, to carry us into new life and to fill our hearts with your joy, peace and love.  Amen.


Third Sunday of Advent 

Will you stay or will you go?
John 1.6-8,19-28

I’m not sure I want to go back to Jerusalem now.  We came with orders from the highest level to find out who this John the Baptizer is.  We believed he was just a trouble maker and he didn’t exactly co-operate with us.   All he said was, “I am not” and “no” and then when we pushed him he gave us a strange answer.  “I’m a voice” he said, “calling God’s people to prepare the Lord’s way as Isaiah prophesied”.  I became genuinely curious then.  The others asked why he was baptising.  His answer felt to me like a rush of cold water from the river, like a baptism.  There’s someone coming who is greater than John and who in fact is among us.

My mind races.  If John really is the prophet preparing the way of the Lord I think I want to stay and see just who this more powerful one is.  I’ve got a feeling that one way or another the authorities haven’t heard the last of John and the one who is still to come.  My heart tells me God is calling me to be part of this so I am going to stay, be baptised by John and then wait to see if this is the year of the Lord’s favour and the Messiah really is among us.  Would you like to stay with me?


Lord Jesus, John’s voice calls us to repent so our sins may be forgiven.  Help us to respond to that calling and to prepare our hearts and minds for your coming at Christmas and when you return in glory. Amen.


Fourth Sunday of Advent

God at home amongst us
2 Samuel 7.1-11,16
Luke 1.26-38

David, having settled in a permanent home in Jerusalem, his own City, decides he should build a fine house for God as well.  But God has other ideas and, through the prophet Nathan, lets David know he doesn’t want a house and never has done.  God’s message reminds David that God has always lived alongside his people in tents and tabernacles.  He has been with them, guiding and protecting them and bringing them to the homeland he promised them.

Perhaps this is a timely reminder to us that God does not live in our church buildings.  God can’t be confined like that.  He is gloriously free, living alongside us, guiding and protecting us and leading us to our true home in his promised kingdom of eternal life.

Mary meets God’s angel in her own home and he tells her that God is asking her to allow her body to be, for now, the home of his son.  God surrenders his freedom in order to become like us, limited in time and space, cared for by an ordinary woman who says “yes” to God.

Where will we meet God this Christmas:  in our home? in the supermarket?.  Will he speak through a prophet or an angel?  a minister or our neighbour?  And will we be ready to say, like Mary,  “yes, let it be with me according to your word”?


Lord Jesus, you surrendered the glorious freedom of the kingdom of heaven to come and live alongside us in human form.  Help us to surrender whatever keeps us from following you in humble obedience to your call of love.  Amen.


Christmas 1 

Treasure to ponder
Luke 2.15-21

Mary has many treasured words to ponder now that her son has been born.  As she watches over him perhaps she is thinking again about the angel Gabriel’s words.  He said that her baby would be called the Son of the Most High and would reign over the house of Jacob for ever.  Mary asked then “How can this be?” and perhaps she still asks the same question – how can this baby, so little, so helpless and vulnerable, so humbly born, be the holy Son of God?

The shepherds though have just confirmed Gabriel’s words.  They spoke of angels proclaiming that the Messiah, the Lord had just been born in Bethlehem and giving them a sign, a way of knowing how to find the baby.

Now she and Joseph must name their baby with the angel-given name of Jesus and circumcise him to affirm his identity as a true child of the people of Israel.  It’s a name that means “God saves” and perhaps Mary again ponders that name and wonders how her son is to fulfil his destiny to save his people from their sins.  Perhaps it’s just as well that for now she doesn’t know the answer to that mystery.  It is enough for her that she loves this child, and will care for him and protect him whatever the future holds.  She trusts God to help her do just that.


Lord Jesus, you were born to save your people from their sins.  Help us to look to you when we carry heavy burdens of guilt and regret and to receive your forgiveness and the assurance of your love and compassion.  Amen.