2017: Advent Hope #5


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

JOSEPH’S HOPE

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.’

Thought

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

Prayer

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

 

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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 #4


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

MARY’S HOPE

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.’

Thought

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”.

Prayer

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

 

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

 

2017: Advent Hope #3


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

ELIZABETH’S HOPE

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.”

Thought

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.

Prayer

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

 

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

 

2017: Advent Hope #2


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

ADVENT HOPE

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.

Thought

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

Prayer

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.

 

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

 

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.
 

HOPE WITHOUT WAVERING

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.

Reflection

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)

Prayer

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

 

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

 

2017: Advent Faith #7


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV UK)

24 ‘“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Reflection

Faith is not about a half-formed theory that might explain some things about the world … but about living our life, in all its real, messy, inconvenient, untidy, beauty – all its perplexing mystery and loveliness, all its crazy teasing, testing, hurting, laughing, crying wonder. Because life is like that every day – faith must be faith for that kind of everyday life.

Prayer

Lord, if we accepted your gift of a new heart and a new mind it would change everything: how we deal with other people, how we serve you in the world, how we build your Kingdom in the world. Take our “stubborn hearts of stone”, Lord, and make us your people. Amen.

 

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

 


TIP … from the blog
Balm to heal the world
A blog post inspired by this quote from World News in Prayer of June 8, 2017: “So again I turn to all the pieces of my faith – to hymns and scriptures, to prayer and worship. Maybe there is a Balm in Gilead, or a Blessed Assurance, even an Amazing Grace.”

2017: Advent Faith #6


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Jeremiah 1:4-10  (NIV UK)

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
      before you were born I set you apart;
      I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

6 ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

7 But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’

Reflection

A religion that skates over the top of our real experience of life is going to hold few attractions for the man or woman of our times.

We want a faith that addresses us where we are … reaches deep into the secret fears and deep-seated anxieties that are part of the reality of our personality … faith that brings strength or peace, or answers to nagging questions that refuse to go away.

Prayer

Lord, teach us how to speak about our faith in you – without arrogance or embarrassment – but with the gentle integrity of someone who knows the One they speak about. Amen.

 

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

 


TIP … from the blog
Circle me, Lord
includes a video of a 6-year-old sharing the benefits of encircling prayer when our faith falters.

2017: Advent Faith #5


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Hosea 6:1-6  (NIV UK)

1 ‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
     He has torn us to pieces
            but he will heal us;
     he has injured us
            but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
            on the third day he will restore us,
            that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;
            let us press on to acknowledge him.
     As surely as the sun rises,
            he will appear;
     he will come to us like the winter rains,
            like the spring rains that water the earth.’
4 ‘What can I do with you, Ephraim?
            What can I do with you, Judah?
     Your love is like the morning mist,
            like the early dew that disappears.
5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
            I killed you with the words of my mouth –
            then my judgments go forth like the sun.
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
            and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Reflection

This faith of ours is not about whether the cups and plates are washed right, or whether the correct procedural hoops have been negotiated; or whether we have “gone through channels”. It is about love – and love is risky and messy and disruptive and scary.

Prayer

Lord, you have no interest in the externals of religious practice and procedure – why did we ever think you had? With you, Lord it is all about the heart. Set my heart right with you … keep my heart right with you. Amen.

 

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

 


TIP
The wells of salvation
The blog post that inspired me to adopt a theme of the month.

2017: Advent Faith #4


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Micah 5:1-5a  (NIV UK)

1 Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
            for a siege is laid against us.
      They will strike Israel’s ruler
            on the cheek with a rod.
2 ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
            though you are small among the clans of Judah,
      out of you will come for me
            one who will be ruler over Israel,
      whose origins are from of old,
            from ancient times.’
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
            until the time when she who is in labour bears a son,
      and the rest of his brothers return
            to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
            in the strength of the Lord,
            in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
      And they will live securely, for then his greatness
            will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be our peace
            when the Assyrians invade our land
            and march through our fortresses.

Reflection

In those dark moments when we wonder if anyone cares, or if we matter to anyone, a feeling that crushes us and weighs us down … an emotional dead weight on our soul … in those moments of emotional confusion … when the outlook is bleak … the faith of the Church rings across the centuries, sending a message of confidence and hope into the very fibres of our soul: ‘a mother may forget her child’ (Isaiah 49:15), but God will never reject us, or forget how important we are to him.

Prayer

Bethlehem today is a bustling town full of issues and hurts, pressure points and broken dreams. Lord, comfort your children there, and in all the other Bethlehems, wherever the divide between possibility and reality is so painfully obvious.

 

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

 

2017: Advent Faith #3


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Micah 4:6-13  (NIV UK)

6 ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,
 
      ‘I will gather the lame;
            I will assemble the exiles
      and those I have brought to grief.
7 I will make the lame my remnant,
            those driven away a strong nation.
      The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
            from that day and for ever.
8 As for you, watchtower of the flock,
            stronghold of Daughter Zion,
      the former dominion will be restored to you;
            kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.’
9 Why do you now cry aloud –
            have you no king?
      Has your ruler perished,
            that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labour?
10 Writhe in agony, Daughter Zion,
            like a woman in labour,
      for now you must leave the city
            to camp in the open field.
      You will go to Babylon;
            there you will be rescued.
      There the Lord will redeem you
            out of the hand of your enemies.
11 But now many nations
            are gathered against you.
      They say, ‘Let her be defiled,
            let our eyes gloat over Zion!’
12 But they do not know
            the thoughts of the Lord;
      they do not understand his plan,
            that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing-floor.
13 ‘Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion,
            for I will give you horns of iron;
      I will give you hooves of bronze,
            and you will break to pieces many nations.’
      You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the Lord,
            their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.

Reflection

Real faith is always vulnerable to mockery by a world that sees only the superficial, temporal, material fact and lacks the spiritual insight to see deeper, truer, eternal values and realities at work in every situation.

To the eye of faith, God is never absent.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that no matter where we are in our life, or where we have been – your love holds out the promise of new beginnings. This changes everything! Amen.

 

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