For nothing will be impossible with God 

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.

I spent some time looking through art work of the annunciation of the virgin Mary whilst reading the gospel that we heard today. 
I really loved seeing all the different artistic impressions of Mary saying her precious phrase, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’

Some of the paintings portrayed Mary looking studious reading scripture as the angel appeared, in one painting Mary looks like she had just awoke to an angel at the foot of her bed, but my favourite painting was of Mary kneeling in a relaxed way, sitting back on her heels with her hands rested upturned on her knees, her eyes are soft and looking upwards filled with peace, as a golden light shone onto her face and around her.

What I love about the painting is the way the artist has managed to communicate Mary’s utter abandonment and devotion to the message she has just received. 

There is nothing else depicted in this painting but Mary and the golden light, and I think this is a wonderful portrayal of a deep encounter with God.

Over the past four weeks of Advent we have been waiting and preparing for the coming of our Lord in his humble crib. The moment where heaven touched the earth, where God dwelled with us as a beautiful newborn baby.
Today we wait on the precipice of that glorious event, remembering the moment where a young woman said yes, yes to God’s will and call on her life. A call that not only changed her life but changed the lives of all. 

And here we all are, saved by the precious baby grown and born from Mary’s womb, and here we all are on this Christmas Eve morning, in the time of her labour, in a church dedicated to her, a church that proudly shows the colour of Mary throughout the year.

But what does Mary’s annunciation, her acceptance of God’s will and call on her life mean for us here in Rochdale today?
I believe that we can encouraged by Mary who stood firm in her mission, who took on a call that would challenge her socially, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

We can be inspired to have the same courage that Mary herself had. To stand firm in the message that we bring, the Good news to all here Rochdale.

We are called to be open to God’s will just like Mary was, that on trembling knees we can stand firm in the hope that is set within us.

We are called to display the mothering role of our God, the God that gathers His people under His wings, the God that shelters us, the God that chose to come and dwell with us. We can be encouraged by the love that Mary sets out for us to see, that in the bleakness of the stable, joy is found.

For we know that joy comes through pain. I imagine Mary being in labour having to ride a donkey, or even walking, and it makes my body ache in sympathy.  

For Mary experienced that raw pain again as she watched her son die on the cross, to see him rise again and fulfil the message that was delivered to her. “For nothing will be impossible with God”

We can hold this passage close to our hearts as we walk into the new year with changes happening around us. Mary reminds us that we can be hospitable to the extraordinary, that if God’s angel arrived into this very church today, that we could listen and say yes to His will.

For nothing will be impossible with God.

You could say that our two churches, St Mary’s and St Chad’s are waiting for our own annunciation, that moment where a message is delivered in dazzling glory.

That we are in a time of waiting, we are changing, learning, growing.

That soon we will see and experience the refreshing life giving waters that began the birth.
And what can we do to ready ourselves for this labour?

We can remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and take courage from Mary that she recognises this fact and still said yes. She asks questions when the angel speaks of God’s plan, Mary asks How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The passage also says that Mary was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. But Mary knew deep in her heart of God’s plan and we here today can be encouraged by her discerning and trusting nature.

We can also do what Mary was doing in the painting I showed us earlier.

We open ourselves up to God and we talk to Him. We pray and we listen and we pray and we listen some more.

We do the dishes, we do the shopping, we change the beds and all the other normal tasks that we do, but with Jesus inside us as the hope that grows with hearts on fire with love for Him.

Mary always points to her son, the one born to save us, who’s body and blood was shed for us, who’s life we celebrate coming to dwell with us.

Let us take courage and inspiration from Mary and stand firm in our faith, let us travel together as brothers and sisters into Christmas and tomorrow when the Christ child is in the crib, let us keep his love firmly rooted in our hearts, so that we, filled with the hope and love of Christ, can give out the good news to all. 

We can be hospitable to the extraordinary, 

for nothing will be impossible with God.

Amen.


Image found on Pinterest.

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I will give you rest

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I spent one of the weeks studying in a conference centre in Swanwick with my theological college. We did 4, 1hour and a half lectures a day, covered three modules and worshipped three times a day. 

It was a brilliant week. One of the best moments of the week was on Tuesday where we had the afternoon off and my friends and I spent the time praying. Straight after the last lecture in the morning we stumbled across a fellow ordinand who was struggling with an issue in his placement. We asked if we could pray for him and soon he left feeling refreshed ready for a meeting with his formation tutor. 

The rest of the afternoon was similar, it felt like God had lined up various people for us to meet with and I was one of them. I experienced some deep emotional healing from some baggage I’d been carrying for a few years. As my friends prayed for me and another played music on the piano it felt like time had stopped. That time had no hold on us, the kingdom of heaven, the peace and the newness of life in Christ was tangible.

Today’s gospel reminds us of the liberating power of the good news that Jesus Christ brings us,

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ – Matthew 11:28-end

It’s very easy at this time of year to pile on expectations on ourselves, jobs that need doing, shopping to buy, relatives to entertain, services to plan, presents to wrap, food to cook. 

Christmas can be exhausting and it builds up and up and suddenly we feel like we are walking around with a weight that we cannot see and cannot let go.

Jesus reminds us that everyday we have the opportunity to call on him in prayer and leave our worries and anxieties at his feet at the cross. 

Leaving our burdens with Jesus and letting Him change us from within is an amazing experience. After my afternoon of prayer, we as a whole college shared in a Eucharist with healing and anointing. The air was thick with incense and our prayers and worship rose within the heavy scent. Each person left that service feeling relief from the burdens each were carrying, also with a fresh call for all to embrace the rest and wisdom from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah calls out to us to pay attention to the Lord’s liberating love,
Have you not known? Have you not heard?

those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

 they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

   they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28, 40:31
Like eagles we can soar, free from the chains of sin, free from our heart’s deepest secrets, free from hurt that grips us and hinders us from living a life that is filled with Christ’s light.
As we approach the third Sunday in Advent I pray that we can all find that sacred space where we can prepare for the coming of Jesus in his humble crib. 

 That we, like the shepherds, are so amazed by the arrival that we drop everything and follow that light. 

That we eagerly enter the simple stable, and on our knees peer into the crib watching the hope that sets us all free sleep in peaceful slumber, feeling that everything and everyone will be well.

Amen