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Advent Unwrapped: The Gift of Encouragement

By Jennie Pollock | 26 November 2018 | Comments (9)


At the start of our Advent reflections this year, we join Mary as she is given the most terrifying news an unmarried Middle-Eastern girl could have heard (Luke 1:26-38). She was to have a child, and it seems she understood this meant ‘now’, not once she and Joseph were married.

But that wasn’t all. Decades of sweet nativity plays with adorable six-year-olds mumbling their way through the angel’s lines can rob them of their power in our minds. Just look at the exalted phrases in verses 32-35 (emphasis added):

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end. … The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

The whole course of history was about to shift, almighty God was about to enter the world, and he would start deep inside Mary’s body. Most of us would be terrified merely by the idea of the ‘power of the Most High overshadowing’ us! That kind of thing tends to bring nations to their knees, let alone lower class teenage girls.

But then the angel gave Mary the gift of encouragement.

He imparted courage into her heart by giving her truth to hang onto. In verse 30 he had set the scene by telling her not to be afraid. But it wasn’t simply a command, or an empty reassurance, but an encouragement based on truth. Mary did not need to fear, because she had found favour with God.

Then after his big announcement he encouraged her further by reminding her of a truth she already knew:

Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail. (vv 36-37)

He didn’t just say ‘trust me’, but reminded her why he could be trusted. He pointed her to the evidence of her own eyes – Elizabeth’s miracle baby – and to God’s character – his words never fail. Mary had a terrifying road ahead of her, but these two truths proved that she could trust the God she already knew as she travelled along that road.

Encouragement, then, is not just about saying “have courage” in a vacuum, but about turning our eyes to a truth that we may not have spotted, or may have temporarily lost sight of. When we call out “You can do it!” to a friend struggling with a task or challenge, they find that our words build that truth in them. When we sit and weep with a hurting friend, we remind them of the truth that they are not alone in their struggle. And when we point them to the scriptures we help them to tap into the same truths that strengthened Mary. Encouragement doesn’t deny people’s pain or the challenges ahead, but it points to bigger, wider, stronger truths to cling onto within the pain.

We probably all know people who need a bit of encouragement at this time of year – either in the truth that they will still be loved even if Christmas isn’t ‘perfect’, or in facing deeper struggles with health, finances or loss. Who can you give the gift of encouragement to this advent, with the truth of your presence, of God’s presence, and of his trustworthiness?


Posted by Jennie Pollock

Jennie Pollock is a freelance writer and editor. She lives and worships in central London, a gift for which she is forever thankful. In her spare time she loves exploring the city's culture, dancing, providing hospitality... and curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. She blogs at and tweets as @missjenniep



November 26, 2018 8:42 AM
After a weekend of hurt, God sent the words I needed to pull myself and the rest of the family up to face our challenge. Thank you.


November 26, 2018 9:15 AM
A very thoughtful blog post.
A beautiful explanation of encouragement.


November 26, 2018 12:00 PM
Spot on! Our Lord does not always remove difficulties when we ask -- but he keeps his promise to be with us always by strengthening and encouraging us.

Phillida Goad

November 26, 2018 12:10 PM
After a night of sleeplessness and fears it was so good to be reminded WHY we trust in God - thank you


November 26, 2018 2:16 PM
Thank you for this. I am facing some mental health struggles at the moment and a friend reminded me only this weekend that God is big enough to take my doubts. That I should keep reminding myself of the truths that He speaks about His promises for me. And this is one such truth. He did it through Mary to save all of us and I can trust that.

Karen Altman

November 26, 2018 4:12 PM
Thank you for the reminder.

Neil C

November 26, 2018 8:30 PM
Thank you so much for this thought provoking post of encouragment Jennie.

Thank you also to Stewardship for giving us the ability to share comments, and to the people so far that have shared their personal responses to this.

Take care Judith, Phillida and LJ. You will be in my prayers tonight.

Myra Rao

November 26, 2018 10:59 PM
Loved this first Advent installment. We do need to be constantly reminded that God is always with us and his promises are true. The blog by Jennie is just what I need to share at our Guild meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
I am looking forward to my daily dose of Stewardship treasures!!


November 27, 2018 9:54 PM
Everyone needs encouragement, not just those who appear to struggle. We need to offer encouragement to anyone in a leadership role because it can be lonely trying to make the right decision.

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