Romans 8:18-30 Luke 1:46-55 Luke 3:15-20
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, expectation is defined as “the act or state of anticipation; and having assurance that something will happen.” Which is a word that stands out to me as I think about the upcoming season of Advent and Christmas. Because in many ways this is a season filled with expectations. Whether it’s our own expectations we place upon ourselves or the expectations that come from others. There are many things we assume will happen or needs to happen to make the season perfect. And although expectations can help us follow through on things that truly matter, expectations can also lead us to feeling busy and sometimes overwhelmed. Whether it’s the expectation that we get
our lights up and house decorated, get gifts for all of the people we know and love, or do Christmas baking and preparing for family feasts. Then there’s the expectations we place on our faith as well.
Often, this is the time of year when we add on the very high expectation of joy and love, peace and justice. There’s almost a sense that this is the time of year all of these ‘happy things’ are most fully embodied and experienced. But often, these expectations do not express our lived reality, which can leave little room for the truths of our day to day lives. Yet when we are anticipating the arrival of someone or something It’s normal to have expectations. In many ways, it can’t be helped, it’s human nature. But sometimes these expectations can overwhelm us, caused us to ignore what we need, or feel like we must keep our grief, worries and concerns to ourselves. Which not only leaves us feeling alone, but can then overshadow our ability to see what God is doing here and now. Because although we have many scriptures that help us to understand Jesus and the meaning behind our Christmas celebrations,
there is always more to be revealed. Which is why it is important to be open to setting aside some of our expectations so that we can be open to the ways in which the Christ Child continues to enter into this world for us. And our scriptures today remind us of this. Both readings speak to individual expectations about Jesus: Mary’s Song proclaims her expectations and hopes for the child she carries; and in Luke 3, we are told that people were “filled with expectation” about the Messiah. They wonder if John is the One,
only to discover that it is someone quite different than John. IN both cases, the expectations held are wonderful, yet Jesus still surprises people. On one hand, we know he came to seek justice, lift up those in need and to share love. But he still didn’t do it in ways that were expected. Many expected the Messiah to be strong and mighty, ready to come in and save the people from oppression. But Jesus didn’t use his strength against those who sought to harm him, instead he healed, shared love and preached a message of welcome. Mary too, expected that Jesus would bring justice and life to her people, but I’m sure she never could have imagined that it would end with Jesus on a cross. And of course, who expects God to come to earth as a tiny, vulnerable baby? Yet this is how Jesus came into the world: a tiny, crying baby in need of protection, love, nourishment. A tiny baby that needed to first grow and learn the basics of life:
walking, talking, even eating! Before he could answer his true calling. He also came to a young, poor,
Jewish woman who was unmarried rather than being born in a palace surrounded by riches and endless power. And so as we prepare once again for the coming of the Christ Child, we are reminded that he continues to surprise us even today. For this is the beauty of the Incarnation, that Christ continues to be revealed to us in new and wonderful ways, entering into our lives and hearts when we need it the most.
But we must make the time to pause and reflect on what keeps us from seeing the Christ Child for who he truly is. To let go of our own expectations or those placed on us so that what needs to be revealed in us and for us, can happen. Where we become able to see what needs to be seen rather than what we
think should be seen. So as we look ahead to the Advent season I invite you consider what would happen
if you were to truly let go of all these expectations and instead just “wait and see?” Because sometimes to prepare for something we need to do more than just be on the move. Sometimes, we need to sit back and wait, see, observe, listen. We need to step back, slow down and let go of some expectations and
be true to ourselves and what we need this Christmas season. Because when we let go and open up,
it is then that the Christ Child enters in surprising ways. Which leads us to next week when we hear the call of John the Baptist to “prepare the way of the Lord.” A reminder that we are called to seek ways to prepare our hearts and minds for the Christ Child. So as we journey through this week, I want you to take time to consider this question. What does preparing look like if we include time to pause, wait, and see?
Take time to think about your own journey of preparation for the Christ Child. Are there expectations that need to be adjusted, or are there ones you can just let go of completely? As we prepare to mark the beginning of Advent next Sunday, make time this week to think about these questions. Make time before the rush of the season arrives to pause, wait, look, listen. Make time to create new ways of preparing for and experiencing the Advent of the Christ Child, that nourishes your soul. And as you prepare, hold onto the hope that he is coming, as he has always done. For the Christ Child enters into this world with all of it’s brokenness, violence, hatred and despair. He comes as a shining light in a tiny bundle with 10 fingers and 10 toes. He comes not just to dispel these shadows but to invite us to be light bearers too. So let us walk together in hope as we await his coming once again.
Sermon written by Rev. Tara Ann Gourson, November 2021.