Recently Kristin and I found out we were expecting our second child. That revelation brought with it a flurry of activity! Expectation changes behavior. Overnight her diet changed – more fruit, more protein, and pre-natal vitamins. We began to think about names. We began to make mental lists to make sure we were ready for the arrival of this new baby. Expectation changes perception. Suddenly she understood why she was over-tired. She understood why she was more emotional than normal. When she viewed those emotions and feelings through the lens of pregnancy it all made sense. Expectation changes priorities. Because we are expecting, we are intentional with what she eats, we are intentional with how late we stay out, and we are intentional with preparing for that which we expect.
In the midst of this I think of Mary. Betrothed to be married, she was expecting. She was already making her plans; she was already in the middle of rearranged priorities. She was expecting a wedding. Then the Angel Gabriel stands before her and tells her of a new expectation (Luke 1:26-38). Mary humbly accepted and her life forever changed in an instant! Her thoughts became preoccupied with this new baby. The scriptures say that “Mary pondered these things in her heart.” How frightening it must have been to be pregnant and unmarried in those days. The stigma surely followed her throughout her life. But God’s priorities superseded the approval or understanding of people.
Today, we are far removed from that ancient story. In this season of Advent, we remember that Christ became a human to save us from sin and reconcile us to God. We use Advent as a reminder, and are grateful for God’s mercy to us. It is easy to forget that we too are a people who live in expectation. At mass we proclaim the mystery of faith together, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again!” Generations have passed, and it may not seem likely that Christ will return in our lifetime, but Christ will come again. We celebrate Advent not only to remind us that Christ has come, but also to stir up expectation. Expectation changes everything. How will our thoughts, actions, and priorities change as we expect the return of Christ? Will we, like Mary, spurn public perception in favor of living out God’s priorities? Let us be a people consumed by expectancy!
Homework this week: Examine your priorities, thoughts, and behaviors through the lens of Christ’s return. How will a sense of expectation change your life?
Well, my Christmas lights are up. And it’s a big deal, even if the display is a little puny. You see, this is the first year I have ever put up Christmas lights. It is the first year I have ever put up a tree.
For many years growing up I helped decorate the tree. Some nights I would even plug in the lights so that, by my action, the world could see our wonderful decorations. But this year is different. If I did not put up the tree, there would be no tree. If I did not put up the lights there would be no lights. The weight of responsibility for Christmas Spirit at my house lies squarely on my shoulders!
Here we are, approaching the third week of Advent. We have been brought here by the traditions and liturgies of years gone by. We have participated in their cry “Come, Lord Jesus.” We have lit the candles that have been provided. But this year it is time for us to adopt the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus,” for ourselves. This is the Advent that we make it our own. Not simply participating in the rituals we have seen all our lives, but absorbing them, adopting, appropriating, and assimilating them
Advent provides us the opportunity to remember the hope, love, joy, and peace that Christ offers to us all. But it is up to you and me to grasp each of those gifts and make it our own. This is the cradle of the Christian faith. This is the incubator in which the Kingdom hatches.
This is the true meaning of Christmas:
Christ comes that we might have and give hope.
Christ comes that we might have and give love.
Christ comes that we might have and give joy.
Christ comes that we might have and give peace.
This ancient hymn has, for some time, been my favorite song. The haunting melody bears the familiar pain of the exile, and yet this song about deep desire and current pain is filled with hope. Not just any hope, but hope of deliverance. It is the hope for the return of God.
Emmanuel had been here before. Adam and Eve walked with Him in the cool of the day. But those days are long forgotten. The years of rebellion had pushed them so far away that all they had left was an ache to be remembered. O come, O come Emmanuel! Can you identify with this song? Christ came and brought about our redemption. He walked with us in the cool of the day. But years of rebellion have pushed our world to the edge of evil. Listen to the echoes of wars and conflict. Those wars happen between countries, but they also happen between family members, they happen between friends. A thousand shattered relationships make us cry out, “O come! O come, Emmanuel!”
We are exiled, caught between the already and the not-yet. We already have our redemption from our sins, but with creation we groan for the redemption that is to come. We already have seen Christ come in victory on the cross, but we long for His victory in the skies. We already have seen God implement His Kingdom on earth in Christ through the Church, but we long for His rule and reign to be seen and acknowledged by all. O come, o come, Emmanuel.
Homework this week comes in three parts. Pray for the Peace of Israel. Pray for the return of Christ! And “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”