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An Unexpected Advent

Not quite what we were anticipating!

by Dan Rogers (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To examine the meaning of the season of Advent.

Preparation and materials

  • Before the assembly, you will need to have prepared three tins of food.

    Carefully open three different tins of food, such as beans, fruit and peas, put the contents in three separate containers and wash the tins. Next, swap the contents of the tins and carefully reseal them using sticky tape. If you can’t make this work effectively, only open the tin partially so that the lid is still attached by a hinge, pour in the contents and then push the lid back down. It’s advisable not to include all the liquid and to be careful with the edges of the lids: theyre sharp!

  • You may wish to arrange for a student to read the Bible passage found in Isaiah 9.6–7.

  • Note: please be aware of your schools health and safety policy and check with the school about any allergies of the students present.


  1. Explain that today’s assembly is about Advent, which is the period of expectation leading up to Christmas.

  2. Show the three tins of food that you have prepared.

    Ask three volunteers to open the tins, reminding them to watch out for sharp edges.

    Ask the volunteers whether they found what they were expecting in the tins.

    Explain that what is in the tins doesnt match up with what is on the labels!

  3. Ask the students, ‘What are you expecting for Christmas this year?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Give examples of unexpected presents that you have received. For example, One year, I expected to get . . . but I got a . . . instead! Another year, I got a . . . but I was only expecting a . . .

    The point is that sometimes, we get things that we are not expecting.

  4. Read, or ask a student to read, the Bible passage found in Isaiah 9.6–7. It is a prophecy about the coming Chosen One, whom the Jewish people called the Messiah.

    For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders; 
    and he is named
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
    His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
    for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onwards and for evermore.

  5. Based on this prophecy, the Jewish nation was expecting its coming Chosen One to be a powerful military ruler, so when Jesus came, some were disappointed in him. Some of them even totally rejected the idea that Jesus could be their Chosen One because he wasn’t what they had been expecting him to be.

    What they didn’t realize was that what came to them in Jesus was better than what they had been expecting, and hoping for, in a powerful ruler!

Time for reflection

This Christmas, maybe we will get what we hope for and maybe we won’t. Maybe our expectations will be met in the way that we thought they would and maybe they won’t.

Sometimes, we get things that are different from what we were expecting. Christians believe that God often gives us more than we were expecting.

Dear God,
No matter what we want,
No matter what we think we need,
Help us to remember that when you came,
You were not what people were expecting.
Help us to recognize the love and care that lie behind everything that we are given this Christmas,
And please help us to be thankful.

Publication date: November 2019   (Vol.21 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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