Advent 4 – Sunday December 18th Mary and Angel Gabriel

2 Samuel 7:1 – 11, Luke 1: 26-38

Love, openness and forgiveness




 Image courtesy of BBC Nativity 2010

What vision of Mary do you have in your mind?

What kind of picture of this young mother do you have?

Is it that serene and graceful woman, often shown much later in life that Mary actually was, gazing with love and awe at baby Jesus?

Or is it of a good looking young girl, with lots of dark hair, and full of character, wondering how, where and why she has been given this enormous and immensely special task?

The BBC series on the Nativity had an amazing portrayal of Mary. And it brought in so many aspects that would have been there but are not mentioned; how on earth was she going to tell Joseph, what would her parents think, how would their friends and the village understand, what would the rabbi and the synagogue say?

In Luke, we are told that the Angel Gabriel visits Mary and says, ‘Greetings Mary, the favoured one? The Lord is with you.’

Why did God chose Mary?

We know that she often visited the synagogue and was a good Jew, but we know little about her family and upbringing.

Betrothed but not yet married, Joseph a good and honest carpenter and of the family of David.

I think it is something about God being with us all, we are not dependant on status, wealth or other worldly marks of being better than others. God had decided to send his only Son for all people and to show that he cared and loved even the weakest and poorest amongst us.

The story goes on with the shepherds, the travel of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem on a donkey, the birth at the stable, the wise men from the east, who were not Jews.

Ordinary people, ordinary places, young girl and husband to be, travelling late at night.

And so God gives Mary this huge task. And in the TV programme we see her struggling with this, she does not know what it means, or how it will work out, but she accepts the call and answers Gabriel with,

‘Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.’

Later on in the story Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, to find out if she also is expecting a baby as Gabriel had told her. They talked together and the Magnificat was said between them by Mary.

It says it all about this young girl, about love and acceptance, openness to hear God’s word and be in the right place to carry out God’s call and forgiveness for all those who were unable to understand what was to take place.

And in the background must have been Joseph, waiting for her return, anxiously and to get ready for their marriage together.

I would love to have known how he did feel when Mary returned carrying a baby in her womb. A man at that time would have found this very difficult. When did he start to also believe that Mary had conceived through the Holy Spirit?

In Matthew, chapter 1 verse 20, we hear that an angel appeared to Joseph. Joseph was about to release Mary from her betrothal. What anguish and pain had gone through their minds? He was going to do this quietly so Mary was not exposed to public disgrace.

Public disgrace! Son of God about to be born and into public disgrace!!

What does this say about so many rules that there are?

The Magnificat , found in Luke; a song of joy and celebration, the sharing of a dream, all nations and all people to be blessed and it was about to happen. Definitely something to shout about!

Luke 1

My soul doth magnify the Lord :
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded :
the lowliness of his hand-maiden.

For behold, from henceforth :
all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me :
and holy is his Name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him :
throughout all generations.

He hath showed strength with his arm :
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat :
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things :
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel :
as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.

And now as we get very close to Christmas on this last Sunday in Advent it is a wonderful time to think about all the good news that Mary brings for all people, her love and openness, her acceptance and trust, her forgiveness and perseverance and her answer to God’s call.


Revd Sue Martin


Advent 3 – Sunday December 11th  Shepherds, Sheep and Angels,

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-end
John 1:6-8,19-28



Image from Christmas Journeys

Advent as the season we are well into now and looking forward to Christmas, only a week away. Still time to do all those unimaginable jobs that need to be done, or if you are anything like me, still time to make the mince pies and finish the shopping.

So this morning let’s first of all slow down the advent season and take a little time to look inwards and at our hopes and fears for the years ahead, to look outwards at a world in need of hope, both in this country and abroad and to look towards God for his direction and love.

In our reading we hear about the conception and Joseph hearing from Mary that she is with child. There must be so much unsaid in this passage, but we know that Joseph stands by Mary and accepts all that he has to do. Quite a stalwart is Joseph, quite like the shepherds on the hillside, stoical and carry on with life at the pace that they know. No rush and no panic.

So what a surprise when the angel Gabriel appeared to the shepherds on the hillside that night near Bethlehem.

Shepherds the lowliest of the low, the people who were not of any kind of social class. But the first people that God chose to spread the message.

Second Sunday in Advent

Advent Calling!

 Dec 4th 2022

Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26

Matthew 3:1-10

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I was in the butcher’s yesterday and it seems to me like a place where there are often real snippets of information about people’s lives going on.

The conversation went,

“I’m going to have to be a bit more careful this week, Christmas shopping week, so it’s sausages instead of a joint!”

Whatever you feel about the economics of sausages re a joint of beef, it does have the point of preparing, getting ready, making sure that you have done what you can to make things right.

And so starts my sermon for the second week in Advent…

Advent calling, are you getting ready, what can you actually do to get ready, how much time do you need and is will you are going to do have the right effect?

My Advent reading this year is with Tom Wright, a great writer of commentaries and his journey through Advent with Matthew is making me think, so hope you are ok with me sharing some of that with you.

Matthew 3:1-10 is the place to be!

John the Baptist in the desert preaching in the Judean wilderness. By all accounts John was a wild character, clothes made from camel hair, eating locusts and honey and foretold by Isaiah that there would be a voice in the wilderness shouting in the desert.

Prepare the route that the Lord will take, strengthen out his path”

John was baptizing people in the river Jordan, they were confessing their sins, people were flocking to him. It was foretold and they needed to make sure that they were prepared.

But were they doing the right thing?

Let’s go back 2000 years, a hot and dusty desert not a road in sight and the king is coming. Much preparation to get the road ready, making it good and making it straight.

This message had been in the life of the Jewish people for hundreds of years and it was part of the great message of hope, of forgiveness and in healing this special nation after the exile.

In today’s language it is like the blue flashing lights of a presidential cavalcade, clearing the way ahead so the important person can get through.

But! Tom Wright argues that they were not ready 2000 years ago and the people knew that. It  was why they were coming for baptism and renewal. Over a 1000 years before they had crossed the River Jordan in exile and now they were coming back to that river and go through it again as a sign of complete renewal.

But John knew that in their hearts they were not ready.

The Pharisees arrived, they surely were in a good place, and they considered themselves to be unlikely of obvious sins.

But John says in verse 7,

‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to escape from the coming wrath, you had better prove your repentance by bearing the right sort of fruit! And you needn’t start thinking to yourselves,”

We have Abraham as our father” Let me tell you, God is capable of raising up children from these stones! The axe is already taking aim at the root of the trees. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is to be cut down and thrown on the fire!’

No mincing about there then! John was known to say it as it was. The Pharisees of course believed that they were following the rules, they were leading people in the faith, this chosen people, this holy nation.

But they were full of pride and righteousness.

You know the saying pride comes before a fall? They were certainly on the way to a large fall.

Their pride and arrogance was getting in the way of the preparation that God was asking for all to make before his coming into the world through Jesus Christ his son.

Humility was needed.

The coming of Jesus was not going to be through a cavalcade, a well laid out road, a palace with servants in obedience.

It was going to be at the same starting position as all humans, through a baby, a defenceless baby, and a child who was going to grow up in love and obedience with loving parents who would support him for as long as he wanted.

John’s warnings and starkness show the way for the ministry of Jesus. It was not what the Pharisees where expecting.

But it is a mixture of God’s plans and methods, from the Old Testament and into the New Testament and into our world today.

Tom Wright explains it as,

‘The comfort and healing of the kingdom message balanced by the stern and solemn warning that when God comes back he demands absolute allegiance. God isn’t simply the kindly indulgent, easy going parent, we sometimes imagine.’

But getting back to today, and this week ahead in Advent and the preparation we need before Christmas, and our celebration of the birth of Jesus, are we doing the right things?

Advent calling, are you getting ready, what can you actually do to get ready, how much time do you need and is will you are going to do have the right effect?

Thinking about the woman in the butchers, are we going to go with the sausages this week instead of t the joint?

 Can we take ourselves away from the glitter and spending for a little while to reflect and prepare for Jesus coming into our world?

Advent is a wonderful time of year and it does at the very least bring Jesus into many homes, through Nativities, cards, carols and the church services. I often think it is our job at this time of year to make sure that we pass on that understanding of what Christmas is actually about.

That wonderful togetherness and joyousness is a reflection of the joy that Jesus can bring into all our lives.

It isn’t a case that we have to stop enjoying the preparations, let’s all have a great time and make as much festive Christmas preparations as we can, let’s light up the churches, let’s light up the world and let’s light up our hearts with the knowledge that once again we find ourselves at this splendidly wonderful time of year.


Rev’d Sue Martin

Advent 1 November 27th 2022

The light shines in the darkness

Candle light in St Mary’s East Walton. Norfolk  by Sue Martin

Advent means the arrival or the coming.

Just as it’s getting darker and darker with the nights getting longer and longer, we start thinking about the light of the world;

All out of darkness there came light,…

The light of the world has come among us to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light from the collect.

What does that all mean, darkness, the works of darkness, the armour of light?

The world had been in a place where things were not going well, God had become very unhappy about what was happening on earth. No one appeared to be listening to him, so he decided to send his Son.

And here we are in Advent, getting ready, thinking about Christmas day and for us, as Christians seeking the message that comes with the arrival and birth of Jesus. So what do we do! How do we get ready?

Being prepared! Always a good plan. Are you one of those people who are prepared and ready or are you like me and never quite there yet! Somebody one said to me, “You must work well under pressure”

In the readings we hear much about the telling of the coming of Jesus, both in the arrival into the world in the stable amongst people who were not expecting this and through Mary and Jesus, far from their home.

The spirit of Advent is one that I love. That expectation, preparation and getting ready, always a time of hurriedness and a feeling that there is never enough time to get it all finished.

But is that not some of the joy that goes with it. Knowing that whatever we do we can never do enough to be ready for such a big occasion. It leaves us as humans forever in awe and forever in amazement that God did send his only Son for us.

Whatever can we do to get ready for that?

We can make sure that we don’t forget the important part, the hope and the light, that eternal promise. Looking for that person who is going to make all the difference.

Advent is a time for us to be reflective and find a little space to get ourselves ready. In the longer nights and the darkness that surrounds us, a good time to find a quiet corner somewhere or maybe a longer walk in the village or the countryside.

What are we doing to get prepared, what can we do?

We can rush around and make sure we have all the jobs finished, they will eventually be completed. Or we can add more and more every year until we overload completely.

But at what ever stage you and myself do get finished and feel that we are ready,

That is the time when  Christmas actually happens.

We can think about what it means to have a saviour in Jesus Christ, born for us all, born to save us from our sins and to be a light to the world.

And when Christmas actually comes, I will be sitting down, beside the fire, usually with a children’s book related to the Christmas story, a mince pie and a glass of warm wine and some carols playing.

So lets get ready, lets be prepared for Christmas. Lets get all the work finished.

But it won’t always happen neatly when we are expecting it.

The most difficult times don’t come when we have all the trimmings in place.

In our selves and in our souls we should be ready whenever we are called……Don’t put it off any longer, be ready, keep watch, all the spiritual gifts that you have been given look after them and keep them safe.

If we can help others to see the light too, the light beyond the sparkle, beyond the twinkling lights that’s great.

And then is the time to think and be prepared for all that we are about to receive, and to remember about that special night in the stable in Bethlehem.

Amen  Rev’d Sue Martin Diocese of Norwich