The Advent Collective – 21 December 2020

A daily reflection drawing from Advent Bible passages – to help us grow as we live out our faith in the everyday moments of life.

Hello, Welcome to the Advent Collective podcast, day 21.

Today is the 21st December, it is the winter solstice, the shortest day or longest night of the year. In about a week’s time we will begin to sense the change in the light as we slowly move towards spring and into a new year.

I don’t know how you feel about 2021, my sense is that there is some hope out there but also a lot of trepidation and a fair amount of anticipation – and who can blame us, 2020 has not been what we were expecting or planning for.

If you speak to anyone who knows me, they will tell you I love a plan, even the process of planning brings me a fair amount of joy! And I had a great 2020 planned out – 12 months ago I was about to start my second maternity leave, we were in the process of buying a new house – bit of a renovation project so a fair amount of 2020 was to be spent over seeing the renovation project, realising my interior design dreams and generally filling my calendar with coffee and cake dates, catch up with friends and some family holidays. Now not all of this has come to pass.

In today’s passage, Luke 1 v 26 -28 we meet Mary at a point where her plans are about to spectacularly veer off track. I think it is fair to say that the appearance of an angel and all that his message brought about were not what Mary had planned for her future.

In every nativity I have seen, or cartoon or film depicting these verses Mary is to be found at home; kneading bread, sweeping up, generally going about her day to day routine. However, God, through his angelic messenger breaks into the every day rhythms and routines of Mary’s life.

I think it is fair to say that the very routines of our lives have been rather disrupted this year, all plans out the window and whatever rhythms you might have had in place thrown off course. That being so I think there is something we can learn from these few verses.

God breaks into Mary’s life with a divine greeting of love and encouragement. In the passion translation it reads “Grace to you… You are anointed with great favour”.

I don’t know if this year someone has offered you a word of encouragement – I wonder how it made you feel?

For me, it is a powerful moment when a friend takes the time to see me and my situation and to speak a word of affirmation into it. How much more so must Mary have felt to have received this encouragement from God?

During advent I have reading from a book called “the art of advent” – the book takes a piece of art each day to further explore the advent story. One piece which has stayed with me depicts these verses – the painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner shows Mary in a simple room surrounded by the trappings of her everyday life, yet the scene is a beautiful one. Mary looks nervous and uncertain yet she is looking with shy confidence directly into the face of the angelic light. Unlike her relative Zachariah a few verses before, Mary’s conversation with the angel is much more practical and accepting. The painting shows a young woman, who having heard the opening encouraging words of God, is daunted but unafraid of the challenge before her.

As we will see in the coming verses whilst Mary expresses bewilderment and worry at the angel’s message their interaction concludes with Mary’s servant hearted acceptance of the plan, and further on her ‘magnificat’ is a hymn of praise to God for all he had done and will do.

In short she gently and gracefully accepts the monumental change to her plans. I think it is fair to say I have not accepted the changes 2020 has brought with such grace, I have been angry, stubborn, resentful and often daily irritated when all I had planned fails to work out as I wanted it.  So what about us at the turn of the year as we, however tentatively, start to make plans for the 12 months ahead?

Well I don’t know where you are listening to this podcast, maybe you are still making your way into work, or coming back from the school run or, you are getting ready for a day of zoom meetings – me I listen to the podcast over breakfast, with two children, which means I am generally having a ‘discussion’ about how much Weetabix needs to be eaten or the fact that lego does not make a suitable cereal bowl! Put simply this is the everyday reality of my life. And I believe that it is in this place, especially in this very odd covid season that God wants us to hear the encouraging words Mary heard “I know you, I love you and I have good planned for you.”

My prayer is that like Mary we can take heart from these encouraging words, to face into the coming year knowing that whether our 2021 plans come to fruition or not we can gracefully step into the new year with our hope in God’s planning, not the fullness of our calendar.


Father, I pray that you will speak a word of encouragement to each of us today. Help us to place our trust in you and your plan not those that we try to make for ourselves.