2017: Advent Hope #1

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
Rev. Kim Hurst, minister in Valetta, Malta, has prepared a series of blog posts for the coming week on the theme of Advent Hope to comfort and encourage us, featuring thoughts and poems and prayers.

To introduce the theme, I’ve selected a Scripture verse, a resounding hymn, an intriguing comment by a 91-year-old and a prayer about building our hopes on God, our Rock.


Heb 10:23  (NRSV)

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.”

A hymn

All my hopes on God is founded,
all my trust he will renew;
safe through change and chance he guides me,
only good and only true,
God unknown,
he alone calls my heart to be his own.


A while back I was looking for inspiration for a new song. Reading through a blog post on brainpickings.org I came across this intriguing comment by the 91-year-old aunt of the American writer, Dani Shapiro.

“I once had a terribly difficult period that lasted twenty-four years. … And it was so important to realize that I didn’t know what was on the other side of the darkness. Every so often there was a sliver of light that shot the whole world through with mystery and wonder, and reminded me: I didn’t have all the information.”

The truth is we don’t have all the information, but thanks be to God, we have enough to keep our hopes up.

As Rebecca Manley Pippert writes in her book, A Heart for God: “We know that God had the first word and will also have the last. We know that God will take our difficulties and weave them into purposes we cannot as yet see. And when he is done, the day will be more glorious for our having gone through the difficulties.” (p. 224)


May we long
not for the smoothness of sand
which looks good, and feels flat,
and is easy to walk on
but will not withstand a storm.

May we build our hopes
on you.
Though you may not prevent the storms,
you keep us firm
within them.

So even if we’re battered,
we cannot fall
except deeper into a crevice
in the rock;
deeper into you.

by Jane Grayshon
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #250


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


2017: Advent Hope #2

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Isaiah 9:6–7  (NRSVA)

6 For a child has been born for us,
            a son given to us;
     authority rests upon his shoulders;
            and he is named
     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
            Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
            and there shall be endless peace
     for the throne of David and his kingdom.
            He will establish and uphold it
     with justice and with righteousness
            from this time onwards and for evermore.
     The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


What do you hope for during Advent? The hope of so many during Advent is that Santa will bring them the ideal present or that Christmas dinner will be cooked on time and yet surely the true hope of Advent is a time when God’s kingdom as described by Isaiah becomes a reality in the lives of us all.

Poem: Advent

In the services of Advent
No one listens to what they sing
Of a child born in a manger
Who came to be their King

In the festivities of the season
No one has the time to pause
To reflect upon the Christ child
They’re too busy with Santa Claus

In the merriment of the celebration
No one stops to question why
We are stuffing ourselves with turkey
Followed by mince pie

In the noise of the parties
No one can hear the voice
Of the Angels singing “peace on earth”
As the heavenly hosts rejoice

In the busyness of Christmas
See them rush right by the stall
In which lies a little baby
Who came to redeem us all

So in this season of Advent
Let us pause to remember Him
Whose birth it is we celebrate
Whose praise it is we sing


Lord, as we journey through this season of hope let us hold on to the promises we find in scripture and look for your coming among us afresh and the establishment of your kingdom of justice and peace among all nations. Amen.


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


2017: Advent Hope #3

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Luke 1:24–25  (NRSVA)

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”


Have you ever given up hope? Sometimes God answers our prayers when we have almost given up hope of an answer. Elizabeth had given up hope of conceiving a child and yet with God all things are possible.

What hopes do you have that are yet to be fulfilled, what prayers await an answer? Do not give up hope, trust in God!

Poem: Elizabeth’s Diary

Dear Diary,

      Things are quiet round here at the moment, but what do you expect when Zechariah’s lost his voice. And he says it’s women who do all the talking.
      Still can’t believe I’m pregnant, at my age, what you would call a miracle I suppose. Thought I felt it move today; maybe it’s just indigestion.
      Got a letter from our Mary – Poor lass is pregnant. That Joseph should have known better. Anyway she wants to come and visit for a while. Don’t blame her. A baby is not the sort of secret you can keep in a place like Nazareth. She should be here any day now.

Dear Diary,

      Mary came today and I definitely felt the baby move. It wasn’t indigestion; more like dancing to me. When I told Mary she began to sing a beautiful song like the one Hannah sang in the scriptures. I’ve a feeling this baby of Mary’s is going to be even more important than Hannah’s Samuel. Mary says she conceived of God and amazingly I believe her.
      Zechariah still said nothing but I know he thinks this is really special too.


Father, we thank you that all things are possible and that our times are in your hands. We bring you the hopes and desires of our hearts, trusting that your purposes will be fulfilled in our lives. Amen


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


2017: Advent Hope #4

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Luke 1:26–33  (NRSVA)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’


Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected gift of hope? Sometimes God’s plans for us surprise us because we have not even formulated a hope. Mary’s unexpected visitor brought her news she was unprepared for and yet that news brought hope to the earth.

The words of an Iona carol come to mind: “God surprises earth with heaven/Coming here on Christmas Day.” Allow God to surprise you!

Poem: Mary’s Diary

Dear Diary, the strangest thing happened today,
I was in my room, I’d just started to pray
When from the sky came a blinding light
There stood an Angel shining bright
I wondered how could this be
As the Angel spoke to me
He said “Mary be not afraid”
“In your womb God’s son is laid”
I wasn’t afraid, I was terrified
I was sure the Angel must have lied
I knew I couldn’t be pregnant you see
Why did this have to happen to me?
But the Angel promised it was true
My son would be the King of the Jews
Of all women, God had chosen me
This child would set his people free
What could I say, I couldn’t say no
So all I said was “Let it be so”.


Lord God, you so often surprise us. Thank you for the unexpected gifts which bring hope and joy into our lives. Amen.


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


2017: Advent Hope #5

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Matthew 1:18–21  (NRSVA)

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Joseph was looking forward to seeing his hopes fulfilled as he married his fiancé and they started a new life together. Then, in an instant, everything he had hoped for was taken from him. His hopes were dashed, or were they? He received all he had hoped for but not in the way he expected. It reminds me of these words from a prayer written by an anonymous Confederate soldier in the US civil war: “I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.”

Poem: Joseph’s Diary

I wonder what would you do
If something like this happened to you
The wedding was only a few weeks away
We were all prepared for our special day
When Mary who was the love of my life
The woman who was to be my wife
Told me that she was to have a child
Any other man might have gone wild
Because the baby she carried wasn’t mine
She told me God had given a sign
That she hadn’t been with another man
This was all part of God’s plan
Well I didn’t know what to do
Being a good God-fearing Jew
So I decided to send her away
She could go to Elizabeth’s and stay
While I organised a quiet way
To call off the wedding with least affray
Then an Angel visited me
The brightest light you ever did see
He told me what Mary said was true
He told me what I had to do
To believe the message of this Holy one
Her child would be God’s own Son
I wondered if I was going insane
But the wedding was back on again


Father, sometimes I feel my hopes have been dashed. The things that I long for elude me and yet I know that you have plans for me, plans to give me hope and a future. Help me to trust in your purposes. Amen


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


TIP … from the blog
Theme: God makes all things new (Prayer sheet)

2017: Advent Hope #6

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Isaiah 11:1–3  (NRSVA)

1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
      and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
      the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
      the spirit of counsel and might,
      the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
   He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
      or decide by what his ears hear;


Have you ever been told the same thing by several people? God had sent prophet after prophet to tell his people Israel about the one to come, the one they called the Messiah and yet the people still did not understand. Often we have to be told something many times by many different people before the information drops from the head to the heart, before we begin to hope for what is promised.

Poem: The prophets

The prophets promised a Messiah
Would be born to save the Jews
But the people never listened
To their message of good news

They promised them a future King
Who would rescue Israel
They promised he’d save the gentile too
That didn’t go down so well

They said a child would be born
In Bethlehem in Judea
That his mother would be a virgin
And he’d be named “God is near”

They told them the Messiah
Would be born of David’s line
That God would send his servant
At the appointed Time

They told them of the servant
Who would suffer and die
“Surely not our Messiah”
Was the people’s cry

For they wanted a Saviour
A great and mighty King
Who would lead forth his people
And bring the kingdom in

The people wanted a warrior
To lead them on to victory
They didn’t want a preacher
Who would die upon a tree

But the prophet’s message was clear
Through the centuries it came
The promise of a Messiah
Immanuel by name

God would send his son
The Servant King
To carry his people’s burdens
To redeem the world from sin


Father God, you sent your prophets to your people Israel and yet they refused to listen to their message and missed the promised Messiah. Help us to listen to the message of your prophets today so that when you come among us we are prepared and ready to respond.


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


TIP … from the blog
Children’s prayer #1

2017: Advent Hope #7

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Luke 2:28–32  (NRSVA)

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29       ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
                according to your word;
30       for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31       which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32       a light for revelation to the Gentiles
                and for glory to your people Israel.’


What do you hope for this Advent? Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah and he lived in the hope of that promise being fulfilled. When he met the baby Jesus he knew immediately that he had not waited in vain.

In his prayer of thanksgiving, Simeon also prophesied that Jesus would not only minister to the Jews; he would be the hope of the Gentiles too. That gives hope and a promise to me and you. The child of Bethlehem, the Christ upon the cross, Jesus the Saviour of the world, our Redeemer.

Poem: Advent hope

Advent, a time of waiting in expectant anticipation
For the celebration of Messiah’s birth
For the visit of shepherds and wise men
For Angels singing peace on earth

Advent, a time of earnest preparation
For the return of the king
For the establishment of his kingdom
And the peace that it will bring

Advent, a time of trusting and hoping
For God’s promises to come true
For the love of God to fill the earth
Beginning with me and with you

Advent, a time which God has set aside
For each to watch and pray
To seek a deeper understanding
Of his purposes for us each day.


Our hope is in the Lord.

Lord, help us to hold onto our Advent hope as we journey with you through these days, getting our hearts ready to welcome Jesus this Christmas.

Help us to listen for your word and be directed by your spirit so that when Jesus returns he will find us ready for him. May we truly be servants who act upon your word and live in hope of your coming to reign.

Come Lord Jesus!


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer