Expectation. The word is forever tied to Christmas for me.
Ever since I was little, the Season stretched on for at least a month and served as the most anticipated event of the year.
The pile of presents under the tree grew almost daily. Covert moments of shaking those presents to decipher their content occupied time on nearly every one of those days.
The build up to the glorious chaos of Christmas morning became agonizingly slow the closer I got to the Day…as if time were standing still. The sheer ecstasy and relief that came when the waiting was over can hardly be described.
Expecting. The word is fully connected with birth for me.
Watching our children and grandchildren grow in the womb and burst into the world has absconded with the meaning of the word forever.
As we now wait for our sixth grandchild to enter this world we watch Lisa, the expectant mother, slowly grow, stretch, ache, weary and literally be taken over by the new life for whom we are all waiting.
The incredible demands placed on the body and soul of an expecting mom are impossible for anyone to understand who has not been one. Gestating a new life is consuming business.
Expectation is exhilarating. Expecting is quite the opposite. Expecting is hard.
Expectation allows passionate anticipation to increase while you wait. Expecting causes painful transformation to intensify while you wait.
The best things in life are most often those you wait the longest for. The worst times of of life are almost always those times you spend waiting.
Advent is about expectation before it is about fulfillment. It is about gestation before the consummation. About a womb before a manger.
The stretch marks of salvation.
Take a look at all of the main characters.
- Israel–spent generations waiting for Messiah, clinging to the promise, longing for rescue and looking for the Kingdom.
- Zechariah–after waiting for his turn in the temple, he spent a silent year waiting for his son to be born, his voice to be restored, his Savior to be revealed.
- Joseph–endured wondering whispers and all-out attacks waiting on truth, waiting for birth, waiting to consummate his marriage and then waiting in Egypt to go home.
- Anna and Simeon–maintained vigil all their long lives waiting to see a Redeemer, hold hope in their arms and see the future transformed.
- Shepherds–lived lonely lives on chilly hillsides watching sheep and skies for a sign that their marginalized lives could have meaning.
- Magi–trekked deserts in epic hunger to see the King of the Star who was the hope of the earth.
And of course, there was Mary. Her simple life was interrupted by a profound message and divine call. But before she birthed the Savior of the world, she carried him. Waiting. Wondering. Worshipping.
Everything in Mary’s world was changed by carrying the child who would change everything in the world.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law…” (Galatians 4:4, ESV)
“Fullness of time” indicates an emptiness in time for a long time.
- Expecting. The long struggle of holding onto promise when there’s not a hope in sight; believing for a miracle when only natural is seen; anticipating intervention when silence prevails.
- Expectation. The powerful confidence that longing will be satisfied, hope will be fulfilled, desire will be consummated and waiting will be worth it.
What turns sheer expecting into sacred expectation is the reality of Emmanuel–God with us. Jesus arrived as announced. Messiah came as promised. The Savior on time in time.
And this Jesus still comes to those who are willing to wait in the quiet trust that He delights in “Adventing”–showing up in person.
If Christmas teaches me anything it is how to be full in my emptiness. It saturates me with hope in my waiting…joy in my longings…peace in my searching…worship in my wonderings.
“Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Expecting with expectation.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee:
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.