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Unexpected Hope

Expect the unexpected

by Lee Jennings (revised, originally published in 2011)

Suitable for Key Stage 3 - Church Schools


To show that happiness comes in unexpected ways because God promises to be always with us.

Preparation and materials

  • Make up some lavishly wrapped boxes with disappointing items inside, such as a large box with a small, dull item inside or a glitzy gift bag with nothing but paper inside it.

  • Put some money inside a small, scruffy-looking box.


  1. Show the lavishly wrapped boxes and the scruffy-looking box.

    Invite some volunteers to come forward, and ask each of them to choose a present. Ask why they chose that particular one.

  2. One by one, ask the volunteers to open the present that they have chosen. When they see the gift inside, ask them how they feel. Most should feel disappointed or annoyed at you for stitching them up!

    Finally, ask the volunteer who has the small, scruffy-looking box to open it. Ask how it feels to be getting a good present.

    Thank the volunteers for their help and ask them to return to their seats.

  3. The Bible contains many examples of people being surprised. One is when David was chosen to be king. When God sent the prophet Samuel to choose the next king of Israel, he asked Samuel to go to the home of a man called Jesse, who brought out all of his grown-up sons except one. All of them looked strong and seemed to be potential candidates for becoming a king, yet God said ‘No’. Instead, God chose the youngest son in the family: David.

    Another example from the Bible of people being surprised is when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. People had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem and were excited about seeing him. They waved palm branches and came out on to the streets. The Jews were expecting a king who would come and set them free from the Romans. Many of them didn’t think that Jesus could save them, so they thought that he wasn’t telling the truth. This led some of them to take Jesus to court, put him on trial and then sentence him to death. They had expected something, and were disappointed with what they got.

  4. There are more surprises with these stories, though. If we return to the story of David, we see that even though God made an unlikely choice by selecting a little boy, David actually went on to become the greatest and most famous king of Israel.

    Returning to the story of Jesus, we find that Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of him. Jesus came back to life again, which surprised his friends as much as his enemies. Their sadness turned to happiness. Christians believe that Jesus is still alive, and cares for each one of us.

  5. Sometimes in life, we don’t get what we expect. Sometimes, people let us down, and sometimes, we can feel that God has let us down. However, God promises that he will never leave us.

    When Jesus came back to life, he said that he would send his Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us, which would be like having him still with us. This is what Christians remember at Pentecost: Jesus sending his Holy Spirit to be a helper for Christians in every aspect of their lives.

Time for reflection

Julian of Norwich, a woman who lived during the Middle Ages, said that God gave her a vision. In her vision, she was holding something about the size of a hazelnut. When she asked God what it was, God replied that it was everything that was made. When she asked God about the sadness that people live with, God replied, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Christians believe that no matter what happens, God can bring good out of a situation.

Dear God,
Thank you that you promise to be with us always.
Thank you that you promise to be with us in every situation.
When things are hard to understand, please give us strength, faith and perseverance.


‘Even if’ by MercyMe, available at: (4.16 minutes long)

Publication date: September 2019   (Vol.21 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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