Throughout Advent there will be a reflection or prayer from various voices throughout the Church. They will be published on social media and on our website.
Tuesday 24 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh.
“The street artist, Banksy, has installed his version of the nativity in The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. ‘The Scar of Bethlehem’ depicts the manger scene with the West Bank separation barrier as its backdrop. The star is replaced by a bullet hole in the wall which lets light through.”
“We build barriers when we are afraid. Barriers protect but they also hem us in. They exclude the enemy but also those who might be our friends.
“Banksy’s Nativity reminds me of the menace that threatened Jesus at his birth. It reminds me that babies in that town continue to be born in the shadow of fear and division. Yet it also reminds me that our Advent longing dares to find fulfilment in the Christ-child, that in him ultimately all barriers shall be broken down.”
Come, O Prince of peace,
Calm our fears, heal our wounds, fulfil our longings
And in the child of Bethlehem break down the walls that divide and hurt us.
May your star of hope shine bright and clear
for all who look for light this Christmas.
Monday 23 December
The Rt Rev Ian Paton, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane reads ‘Advent Calendar’ by Rowan Williams.
The poem focuses on God coming as a vulnerable child, a frail human being, to share our weakness as well as to show our glory. It is especially relevant as an image in a world where children and childhood are at risk from war, poverty, and abuse, and from a climate crisis that will impacts on their future. In Jesus God has come to share all of this. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Saturday 21 December
Today’s reflection comes from Stuart Little, one of the organisers of the St Magnus Way, a pilgrimage walk on Orkney.
“The developing of the pilgrimage walk, the St Magnus Way, has been a wonderful way to engage with a wide variety of Orcadian people and organisations. Enthusiastic support from many church denominations, Orkney Islands Council, local Community Councils, Historic Environment Scotland, Schools, Army Reserve Volunteers, RSPB, Voluntary Action Orkney etc. and an eclectic variety of individuals has been a most encouraging aspect of the impact of the walk on the local community. Clergy and pagan wedding celebrants, Councillors with opposing political views, single folk and families, teachers and pupils, young and old, visitors and locals find that while working or walking together dialogue naturally flows. It is good to walk and talk. It is healing to walk and talk.”
A prayer by David McNeish, prayed by people as they begin the St Magnus Way.
In every beginning there is always before
To every previous action, a prior thought.
To each milestone, an intention.
The journey begins, and begins, and is always beginning.
This gathering place receives us,
From every place and background.
Many steps have led to this point.
Places and people we have been,
Lead us to now.
Lead us to this next stride.
May our footprints leave a greater impression
on our hearts than on the earth.
May our walking lead us on deeper journeys,
The discovery of new vistas,
And fresh encounters.
Let this pilgrimage
Mould us and shape us,
Inform us and reform us.
Speak to us, in stillness and in motion,
The revelation that in every beginning,
God has already begun.
Thursday 19 December
A prayer, written by parents of children who attend St. Ninian’s Stay and Play Family Support Group, Dundee. The groups is based in St. Ninian’s Scottish Episcopal Church and is for parents or carers with children aged 0 – 5 years.
The world is a horrible and dark place at the moment and our lives are often stressed and pressurised. When we are feeling low, we thank God for our Stay and Play Group which is a place of hope where there is colour, fun, laughter and a variety of experiences to help us grow and cope with life. Hands are held out to welcome us and friendships are formed by parents and children.
Lord Jesus you came into the darkness and offered friendship.
You came into the darkness bringing light and still do.
Come into our lives this Christmas and give us hope for our world.
Wednesday 18 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rt Rev Andrew Swift, Bishop of Brechin.
“We are approaching the end of our journey through Advent. The world around us arrived at Christmas many weeks ago: the bright lights shine in the streets, tinsel decorates our homes and carols and Christmas music are loud and repeated in supermarkets and shopping streets.
“But the world is really still in Advent, waiting for the light of God to come into so many lives that struggle, lives that are blighted by war, by insecurity, by climate change… The tinsel of our early Christmas arrival is a distraction from our yearning for God.
“The wisdom of God, our Lord of Lords, the Key of David: the ancient words of Advent worship guide us through these last days of Advent towards the light that is coming into the world. The light of God will bring peace, will restore and reconcile all that is broken in humanity.”
God of all wisdom,
As we live in the darkness of this world,
Remind us again of the promise of your Son.
May his peace and glory restore our broken world
And bring reconciliation and love to all people.
We ask this in name of the coming Lord,
Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Tuesday 17 December
In today’s advent post, The Rev Liz Crumlish reflects on the Nativity display at St Ninian’s Prestwick.
“Each year, St Ninian’s, Prestwick builds a tableau of the characters traditionally associated with the Nativity story. Week by week, through Advent, new characters emerge until on Christmas Eve, with the Christmas Eucharist, the Christ child completes the Nativity scene. And the wise ones, who are the first to start out on the journey reach the crib on Epiphany. There’s a main road that passes the church garden and members have delighted in hearing conversations on buses about this portrayal of Christmas – a witness to God among us. The wise ones are following a star and have been travelling some time Prophets, Anna and Simeon wait hopefully and expectantly in the temple Shepherds are going about their business as usual unaware of impending drama The Emperor has called for a census Herod hears a rumour of a threat to his power Occupying forces continue to unleash terror While the oppressed look for a Saviour The long awaited Messiah What about us? Will Advent shine a light on our hopes and fears? The One who was in the beginning with God invites us to travel expectantly into the light.”
Monday 16 December
Today’s Advent prayer comes from Phoebe Pryce, one of the Diocese of Edinburgh’s under-18 representatives on the Scottish Episcopal Church – Provincial Youth Committee.
Loving God, in this Christmas season please help us to occasionally take a step back from everything going on around us, from parties, presents and politics, to think about what Christmas really means. Through this time of stress, joy and celebration, we ask that you gently remind us of your presence and help us to know you better through the celebration of your birth.
Sunday 15 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rev Amanda Fairclough, Priest in Charge of the West Highland Region in the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles.
“Our thoughts turn to home during Advent. Where will we spend Christmas Day? Who shall we see? What shall we bring? When may we leave?
“Many look for a temporary home in the Western Highlands. Refugees have been welcomed, loved and are now missed. Tourists seek new sights, sounds and experiences. Returning visitors chase memories and reunion with the wild beauty of this place.
“Like that foothill town long ago, we prepare for our numbers to be swollen as the season dawns. We will share our home with the lost, the weary and the pleasure-seekers. We will give shelter and hospitality and rest.
“And, as God prepares to make his home amongst his people once more, may we also share God with them, in hope, peace, joy and love.”
Friday 13 December
On Saturday 7 December young people from across Scotland slept in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh as part of the national ‘Wee Sleep Out’ campaign to help raise money for Social Bite, so far over £2000 has been raised.
Today’s prayer comes from Annabel, aged 11, who slept in the Cathedral on that night. The image is of a shelter made by the young people, made from scavenged materials.
Please God, bless and keep safe the thousands of refugees, running from war. Please provide shelter for the many homeless people. Please give them warmth and hope. Amen.
Thursday 12 December
Today’s reflection, on the day of the UK General Election, comes from the Rev Dr Jenny Wright, convener of the Provincial Church in Society Committee.
“During this time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child, the candles on our Advent Wreath remind us of peace, hope, joy and love. These kingdom values draw our attention to God’s otherness; the promise of what is to come breaking into the here and now.
“As we go to vote today, we remember that God’s ways are not our ways; where there is division, we are called to seek peace; where there is misery, hope; where there is anguish, joy; and where there is brokenness, love. Because we remember Jesus’ words: What you did for the least of these, you did for me. So we vote with this in mind, for we do not vote only for ourselves, but for our communities; not only for our friends, but for strangers; not only for today, but for all the tomorrows.”
God of all,
Help us to remember those who are outcasts
those who are brokenhearted
those who are weary
those who are afraid.
May we grow evermore in your likeness so that
we boldly preach your peace, your hope,
your joy and your love in our words and actions.
We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Wednesday 11 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson, Bishop of Argyll & The Isles. In November 2019, we recalled the fall of the Berlin wall, 30 years after it fell.
“Light a candle in a dark room and the flame may appear fragile but it is attractive. In the midst of the darkness the pool of light provides an oasis of vision, warmth, security, peace. The darkness loses its power to fill us with fear. The darkness remains around us but the fragile flame gives just enough light to take one step at a time, just enough warmth to encourage us to move, just enough security to make us feel we are not alone, there is Hope.
“Hope is what Advent is all about. In the darkness of a world in which there is so much suffering, the fragile flame of Hope flickers in small acts of kindness and generosity. In the darkness and the shadows we feel inside us the fragile flame of Hope flickering to show us that peace comes not from the absence of violence or anger or hatred, Hope comes when the fragile light of faith allows us to see that those shadows, are just that, shadows caused by the light of love which burns within us, in the yearning to be held, to be secure, to know we are not alone.
“That is the love Jesus was born to show in His story is my story in the love we share we know God for God’s love, whether we are always able to recognise that fact, that light or not.
“30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall we remember. It took the might of the Soviet army to build the wall. It was demolished by old women and children- carrying candles.”
Tuesday 10 December
Today’s reflection comes from Heather Zajac, Development Manager for Scottish Churches Housing Action
“Lord, in a time of much disunity, we thank you that when it counts, we unite. We thank you that where we see pressing need, poverty and injustice, churches come together with one resolve. Thank you for churches and Christian communities uniting as one against homelessness.
“Lord, You said, “Where I am, there will my servant be also”. You noticed and helped people who were poor, marginalised, ill and ignored. Thank you that when the churches’ people hear of need in their community, they respond and help with open hearts. This has been our testimony through 25 years as a charity setting up projects through-out Scotland, to help people who are struggling. Without local church support it cannot be done, but we find that support is unfailingly given.
“Thank you for the possibility of a befriending project in Paisley, to support people experiencing homelessness, or those in danger of losing their home. We are inspired anew by the interest from Paisley Abbey church members in a project which could develop to involve other churches locally, along with housing and health professionals, building a community hub.
“At this time of year we think of a couple desperately seeking shelter, the young woman expecting a child. Someone offered a stable, a rough place, but it was all that was available and welcome enough, somewhere to rest off the street. Little did the owner know what Child was born there. Thank you for the helpers, who give of themselves, not always aware of the lasting miracle they have sown in someone’s life.”
Monday 9 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rev Kirstin Freeman, Rector at All Saint’s, Bearsden in the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway.
“There on a busy street, on a bench facing the large Christmas tree sparkling with lights that had been turned on with great celebration a couple of days earlier, he sat.
“There he sat; staring at the tree and lights, unaware of the traffic rushing by or the people passing as they sighed and changed their heavy shopping to the other hand.
“There he sat; calm and serene amidst a busy scene which can be seen in countless high streets up and down the land.
“No, he didn’t need any company. Yes, he was fine. He just liked to sit there, to look at the tree and remember someone different with each twinkling light, yet still he offers an invitation. You can join him if you’d like.
“In silence eyes trace the invisible cord from light to light. The hum of the traffic vanishes into the early evening as there, there on that bench heaven bent down to earth and earth was raised to heaven; a rehearsal for the memory yet to be celebrated and a foretaste of the reality yet to be fully realised.”
Sunday 8 December
Today’s reflection comes from the Rt Rev Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney.
“These tiny fragments of tile were once complete and whole, part of the floor of Chertsey Abbey. Like other such tiles, they were laid in the middle ages. Often, once an abbey or church was no longer used, they would be re-purposed and laid in a grand house or home. Over the years these tiles have been broken and fragments lost.
“As it is with these tiles, so it can be in our lives – individual and collective. Over the years, moving from place to place, we become broken, and pieces go missing.
“This time of year offers us an opportunity to bring broken pieces together. We begin with ourselves in the presence of God, acknowledging our need, and waiting for God to come to heal us. We have the chance to bring together friendship groups or our family, through the festive season ahead. We can invite those from whom we have become estranged, we can include those who for whatever reason have been excluded.
“These broken tiles remind us that once gathered together the fragments reveal their original pattern, but sadly some pieces are lost forever. At this time of year, we particularly notice those who are no longer with us, part of our lived pattern in church and family. It is in these moments that we look to God to come and hold what remains together, to hold together broken things.”
Christ is before all things, and in Christ all things hold together. (cf 1 Col 1:7)
Friday 6 December
Today’s reflection comes from Ros Brett, Lay Reader and Mission Enabler in the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, also involved in a small charity offering peer support for people in Cowal identifying as suffering from mental well-being issues.
“Once I found myself preaching to people I did not know well on Jesus’ healing of Legion (Luke 8:26-39), and Elijah’s burnout (1 Kings 19:1-18). Having a long-standing scientific and personal interest in mental health, I indulged myself a little. I was thanked profusely by a woman in the congregation – her husband had been diagnosed with dementia and was profoundly depressed.
“Mental ill-health is different for every person, but it may harm relationships, impair the ability to work, producing financial difficulties, and even deeply affect one’s faith. And then there is the stigma – in the workplace, in social situations, and, yes, in the church. Those passages said to me that God offers to those in psychological distress compassion, care and – in time – perhaps also challenge. That is what is needed from us. But first of all, open-heartedness. People were afraid of the man who called himself Legion – Jesus was not. May we, also, not be afraid to open ourselves to those for whom peace and mental well-being is elusive.”
Thursday 5 December
Today’s reflection comes from St Oswald’s Church, Maybole.
Wednesday 4 December
Today’s reflection and prayer come from David Bradwell, the Co-ordinator of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees.
“No room! We have no space! Our beds are needed for people with money! We’ve got bills to pay!
“As we reflect on the story of the Nativity, we remember that Mary and Joseph were refused accommodation and only offered emergency shelter.
“And so we pray for all those asylum seekers in Glasgow who will be made homeless this winter following the Lock Change Evictions carried out by the Home Office and Serco.
“And we pray for all the charities, churches and agencies working to offer aid, advice and a safe bed for the night.”
keep our passion for justice alive with the fire of your Spirit
help us to remember always to show welcome to the stranger and love to our neighbour
strengthen those who are showing compassion to people living on the margins
let our hearts always be more generous than selfish
through Jesus Christ our Lord
Tuesday 3 December
A reflection from the Rev Dr Dennis Berk:
The shortness of daylight hours is not the only aspect of darkness that hangs heavily over us in this month of December. At the present time we also are drawing closer to another General Election which has been characterised by contentious debates where the antagonists’ accusations against each other leave a taste of bitterness in our mouths. With the competing political parties so acrimoniously divided and seemingly unable to find a compromise for reaching a united way forward leading towards a resolution of the current chaos and confusion, this year’s season of Advent may seem particularly bleak and dark.
In addition to the anxiety and stress that results from living in an increasingly fractured society, perhaps on a personal level you also are experiencing the oppressive weight of darkness weighing down upon you? When heavily burdened by heartbreak or tragedy, in agony and desperation you may have cried out: “God, where are you? Why don’t you do something?” When we are in a mess and feel completely overcome by the darkness we want someone to help us by sorting everything out and making it all better. This is especially true when bad news hits home by impacting us personally, either in our own lives or in those of our loved ones. At such traumatic times of distress, when a particularly painful or heart-wrenching experience seems likely to overwhelm us, we have an intense need for God to act of our behalf.
“Where is God?” we may cry out in near panic. When tragedy or trauma leaves us utterly broken and completely vulnerable, we can be too fragile and feeble to make a significant movement towards God under our own steam. Yet it is our personal struggles, with all of their accompanying doubts and fears, that actually offer each of us a gift by providing an opportunity for revealing how much we frail humans need God to move towards us.
Fortunately, that is exactly what God did through the miracle of the Incarnation. God tore open the heavens and came down to dwell amongst us. During dark days, when the Assyrians were looming threateningly over Israel, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold that God would come right into the very midst of our world. Much later Saint Matthew tells us in his Gospel that the divine child conceived and born by a virgin was named Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
So whenever life seems unbearably awful, and in the pain of dark despair you cry out asking “God, where are you?” may you remember that God is right here with you. The dark storm clouds are parted by the Light of Christ breaking through the blackness and coming into our lives. Emmanuel, the amazing gift of God Incarnate, is the hope that we look for with eager anticipation in this December’s wintry darkness. Advent is our journey towards that divine Light which illuminates even the frightfulness of the long nights that you may experience when your heart is heavy and your mind is troubled. Amidst the darkness, when you call out “Where are you God?” may you remember that ‘Emmanuel’ means the answer to that question is “God is with us.”
Monday 2 December
Maureen O’Neill, Director at Faith in Older People, who work with those of faith and none to celebrate the lives of older people and to develop a stronger awareness of the spiritual dimension to the well-being of older people.
‘Even as our outer nature fades (our bodily frailty), our inner nature is renewed every day’ (2 Corinthians 4.16).
We need to celebrate the lives of older people and the immense contribution they make to our faith communities. In doing so we acknowledge the losses, bereavements and diminishments experienced by many at some stage in older age as well as the gifts and wisdom they have brought us. Our friendships and involvement within congregations plays a critical role in building our resilience and sense of belonging. We need those around us to confirm our identity and place in relation to others and the wider world whether we experience physical or mental diminishment. We need to share our stories and spiritual needs so that those around us know us.
Advent 1 – Sunday 1 December
The first reflection, for Advent Sunday comes from the Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church:
“As we enter the season of Advent we are reminded of the importance of hope.
“At this moment our society is becoming increasingly fractured. Many of us are frightened. Many of us are alone. Many of us have lost trust in our national and local institutions.
“We worry for our friends and family. We are frightened for the environment. We are increasingly disconnected from those around us.
“During this Advent season we will hear stories, reflections and prayers on the many ways the Church responds to these worries and cares. We pray for those who work to help others, especially at this time of year. We are reminded of our duty of care to our neighbours. We pray that we can find the strength to do more.
“And we pray that we will never forget hope. That we keep the Advent Candle lit. The hope of the coming of Christ.”