Advent Week 1: Hope

Posted on November 29, 2016 by Lahna Pottle
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s,

For a lot of Schools workers, Advent is a great opportunity to talk about Christianity in schools and to engage students with thinking more deeply about this time of the year.

We want to resource and inspire Schools workers across the nation to engage with advent. So here on the blog each week in the lead up to Christmas, we are going to take a look at the different common themes of the advent candles, and reflect on what it means for our schools work.

The first theme is Hope and what a fitting theme to talk about.

2016 has been a year of massive change, and no matter your political beliefs, this year has been one of pain, confusion, and darkness for a lot of people. From terror attacks, to war, the refugee crisis and political uproar. The effects are being felt by everyone, and most noticeably minority groups and the most disenfranchised in society.

It can feel overwhelming at times, and our students will inevitably have picked up on this feeling of darkness.

Yet at this time of the year, the church gathers to celebrate light coming into the world. The Lord of light and the bringer of hope. For me, often this story has felt, well, like a story. It feels nice and warm and fuzzy, but it doesn’t always pack the punch. The nativity story becomes about a straw manger and shepherds with tea towels on their heads. I forget the true meaning of why Christ came down and took humanity upon him.

When we remember the truth about Christmas, we cannot help but be affronted with hope.

Into the midst of Roman control, into poverty, into the lives of 2 teenagers, into the brokenness of humanity, the light of the world came. Christ came to give hope that life could be different, he came to give us life in abundance, freedom from the chains of the law, freedom from slavery to fear and control. He came to bring light into the darkness.

For many of our students, the only light advent brings is the twinkle of fairy lights around a tree. The darkness of our world can feel all-consuming, and it can be hard to imagine that God could bring any hope and light.

But we know that God is bringing hope, in the offer of life he brings, but also today in small ways we may not be noticing. As C S Lewis proclaims, “Aslan is on the move”. For some students, maybe they have never heard the true grit of the nativity story, never considered it anything other than a fairytale. Perhaps for some the God of hope has been drowned out by the stories of despair.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the light in the world to keep standing up against the darkness. Here are some beautiful things to have come from this year, maybe they will spread a little hope.

  • We’re closer to having successful vaccines for lung and brain cancer.
  • New chemotherapy breakthroughs have increased the 5-year survival for pancreatic cancer from 16% to 27% (and is getting better)
  • Scientists figured out how to link robotic limbs with the part of the brain that deals with intent to move so people don’t have to think about how they will move the limb, it can just happen.
  • Child mortality is down everywhere and it keeps going down. 
  • Thanks to the ice bucket challenge the gene responsible for ALS has been found, meaning we are closer to an effective treatment. Let me rephrase that: we are close to getting a treatment for a very bad disease because a lot of people got wet. 
  • A solar powered plane circumnavigated the world.
  • Michael Jordan donates 2 million to try and help bridge connection between police and the community.
  • Tiger numbers are growing.
  • And manatees.
  • And pandas.
  • Pakistan has made strides toward outlawing honour killings.
  • 70,000 Muslim clerics declared a fatwa against ISIS.
  • Pokemon Go players went insane with placing lure modules near hospitals for sick kids.
  • California is now powering over 6 million homes with solar power, a record in the US
  • Volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in 24 hours.
  • World crime as a whole has drastically declined in the last couple of decades.
  • Coffee consumption has been proved to help curtail cancer and suicide rates.
  • Speaking of coffee Starbucks figured out how to donate perishable food in a food safe way.
  • 500 elephants were relocated to a better, safer and bigger home.
  • We made massive strides in Alzheimers’ prevention
  • The ozone layer is slowly starting to repair itself and all the work we did to get rid of those aerosol chemicals was actually worth it. 
  • A new therapy developed in Israel could cure radiation sickness.
  • The Rabbinical Assembly issued a resolution affirming the rights of transgender and non-conforming individuals.
  • Precision treatments for cancer are hitting clinical trials and working.
  • Dentists are once again providing free care to veterans who need it.
  • The Orlando Shakespeare Festival showed up with angel wings to block funeral-goers for the Orlando Pulse victims, view from anti-gay protesters
  • We may have cured MS
  • Rise Women’s Legal Centre opened
  • Death by heart disease has decreased by 70% in the United States
  • Two brothers saw colour for the first time thanks to specially-designed glasses
  • Pope Francis spoke against society’s obsession with physical beauty while dedicating Mass to the disabled community
  • Portugal ran its entire nation solely on renewable energy for four days straight
  • A retiree is launching a project to transport 80 endangered rhinos to an Australian reservation to save the animals from poaching 
  • An Afghan teacher has been delivering books via bicycle to villages that lack schools
  • Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
  • 200 strangers attended the funeral of a homeless WW2 veteran with no family
  • A teen battling cancer married his sweetheart
  • Bank firm pays for college tuition for the children of employees who died in the 9/11 attacks
  • New medicine has been shown to increase melanoma survival rate to 40%
  • Over 800 Boko Harem Hostages were rescued by Nigerian Army
  • Toys R Us is Offering Quiet Shopping Hour for kids with autism this holiday season
  • Volunteers made special tiny Halloween costumes for NICU babies
  • A 4-year old befriends a lonely man and helped him heal after losing his wife 

The hope of Christ is through his gift of everlasting life, and in the life we see him bringing in the every day. Remembering the truth of the nativity and listening for God’s work in our world, can help bring hope to a hopeless world.

What gives you hope as you work in schools?

How do you share hope with the young people you work with?

  • Amanda Wilson

    Wow it's good to read so many positive things when sometimes all you hear is doom and gloom, nationally and internationally.
    I reckon all newspapers ought to have a "sunny page" where they give us some cheery news that makes us feel good. It would probably help with their sales too!