As Advent began I found myself sitting in the congregation at Cumnor URC near Oxford. For once I was able to sit and listen as my wife, who is also my chaplain, led the worship. This was an opportunity to receive and to listen.We sometime hear comments that the seasons of the year are no longer distinct, with warmer winters and wetter summers, but when we fail to mark the distinctive seasons of the liturgical year we are in danger of losing our way. Advent is not only about preparation it is about paying attention to our needs. Unless we know our need of God to come and save us from ourselves then incarnation has little relevance. The beginning of the Gospel, as Mark so eloquently puts it, is not in the stable but in the cry of the prophet for the people of God to be comforted. The following Sunday I was with the congregations of St. John’s Warrington and Elmwood Avenue. The church was set out for a musical to be performed in the afternoon which gave the opportunity for different lighting and seating arrangements. Being disturbed from our usual comfort zones is a good reminder that God comes to answer the needs of the world and not to save the church. If the church can be used to bring hope and healing, joy and fulfilment to the world then that is cause for celebration. If the church becomes too pre-occupied with its own needs and spends its time pointing backwards then the future is not in it and it will die. The Word of God is always future orientated challenging us to imagine a future that is shaped by the life of the one history calls Jesus of Nazareth and who we know as the Christ child. The church with a future is not the one that seeks to imprison people with the prejudices of the past but the one that entices people to dream of what might be possible with God at our side.