Welcome to Advent! As most of you will know, this is my favourite time of the year. It filled with joy and expectation and busyness. This year all of these things will be present, but it will also be filled with much more. Relief, anxiety, uncertainty and wonder. All of those emotions remind me of what it felt like to be an expectant mother. Not all of us get the opportunity to have those feelings personally, but we can feel them as we watch and journey with other mothers that we know. Our journey through Advent and on to Christmas will be viewed through the eyes of some mothers who gave birth to some important people in the Bible. Each of these mothers, and their children, bring an element of our Advent themes with them, that of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Today we hear of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, the priest who anointed King David. This is a story we’ve explored before, but to briefly remind you Hannah was unable to have a child. Her husband, Ramathaim, had another wife, Peninnah, who was able to have children, and this caused Hannah great distress. Remember, the role of the wife in those days was mainly to produce children and if they were barren, without child, they were considered forsaken by God. But Hannah had hope. Every year when the family would travel to Shiloh to worship God and every year Hannah would pray to the LORD, weeping and pleading for a child. She had the hope that one day her words would be heard, and her tears seen, and that God would give her a child. And that is what happened. Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Samuel. Samuel was given in the service of God, just as Hannah had promised, and became a great priest in that service. Samuel trusted in God, even when he didn’t understand or see what God was seeing. He was the priest who anointed the young boy David who eventually became the great King David. The hoped-for birth of a child gave Hannah recognition as a woman of worth, one who was loved and cared for by the LORD. It is with this hope we enter into Advent and the waiting and expecting of the birth of the Son of God. Added to this waiting and expecting for us this year is the hope of being able to gather and worship together. The hope that as we come out of the restrictions that have forced us to remain apart is that the community around us, and broader, will be kinder, more considerate and filled with love. These are indeed great hopes to bring to this advent time.