Sounds of Iona – December 2023

Candles in Iona Abbey

My favourite time of year is Advent. ’Don’t start singing carols until the Sunday before Christmas (at the earliest)!’ I used to say (and still do).
Advent is a journey to be embraced, not a service station to be sat in until the big day comes.

A few years ago, when I was learning Spanish, one particular, everyday word entered my vocabulary which fuelled my love of this liturgical season.  The word was esperar, a verb meaning ‘to wait’; but it also means to hope, and to expect. And in that one word, esperar, my love for Advent is summed up.   It is a time of waiting – with hope and expectation.

But, what are we waiting for? What are we hoping for? What are we expecting? not just as individuals but as community. What are we expecting, hoping, waiting for in the life of the world, the church?  In the life of our family and friends and in our own lives?

Today, right now, it feels like we’ve been in Advent for years. There is so much which has to change: our relationships with those we disagree with, our relationship with those who are different, our relationship with the earth and its resources. But there too is hope and expectation in the waiting.

Day by day, whatever we are looking forward to, whatever we are anxious about, we can go forward, as individuals, with friends, colleagues, together, in the sure expectation that God is with us. God is holding us when we need to be held, letting us go when we’re ready to fly, always our companion on the way.

“The people were full of expectation …” wrote Luke. Let that continue, whatever is ahead of us. And even if our expectations aren’t fulfilled as we want or hope, let us live, open to the surprising possibilities of life in all its fulness.

Eternal spirit of Esperanza –
in our waiting, our hoping, our expecting
as God’s people together –
Ask much from us
expect much of us
enable much by us
encourage many through us.
Advent is a season of hope for new beginnings…
Incarnation is ours to embrace.


Thanks to Caro Penney, Iona Abbey Warden, for this contribution to Sounds of Iona.
Ruth Harvey is away.

Photo credit: K Scott/Iona Community

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