Expectations. We all have them. We have expectations for our relationships, for events, holidays, and special occasions. We have expectations related to our jobs, our academic pursuits, our communities, our government, our church, our health and just about every part of our lives.
Our expectations are not always realistic, and when they conflict with the expectations of others, such as a spouse, they can lead to significant frustration and relationship challenges.
Expectations tend to reflect our hopes and personal desires. We often project our hopes on others, when others have not necessarily committed to helping us fulfill our personal desires. Again, conflict arises. We have just come through the Thanksgiving season. Anyone out there disappointed in family members or plans that went awry during Thanksgiving? If so, there is a direct connection to unfulfilled expectations. What we hoped for may not have become reality. Life is filled with such disappointments.
In the Christian Church, Sunday November 29, 2015 represents the beginning of the Church year. November 29 was the first Sunday of Advent, to be followed by three more Advent Sundays. The Advent Season will end on Christmas Eve, as the time representing our expectant waiting for the coming of Christ comes to an end, and we then celebrate the birth of our Savior!
Many churches and home will take the Advent journey with the help of an Advent wreath, usually consisting of three purple candles, a rose colored candle and a white center candle. Each Sunday one of the purple and rose colored candles is lit to represent Hope (1st Sunday), Love (2nd Sunday), Joy (3rd Sunday – the rose candle), and Peace (4th Sunday). Anticipation grows each Sunday as one candle, then two, then three and then four burn bright. Each Sunday we get closer to the awaited event! The white center candle is the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, to celebrate the long-anticipated birth of the Christ.
I find myself dwelling during this time of the year on the life and teachings of Christ, in which common expectations were not fulfilled. He did not arrive in military might to conquer a nation or overthrow a political party or government. He was born in a humble manger. He did not ride into Jerusalem on a white stallion, but on a young donkey. He did not urge us to repay evil with evil, but to turn the other cheek. He preached that the first will be last, and that the one who was servant of all would be the greatest in Heaven. He turned the world’s expectations and values upside down. It was almost as if he asked the world, “Well, what did you expect?”
May this Advent journey bring you opportunity to examine your expectations and allow the Christ to bring them in line with the values of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you wait expectantly for His birth, you might be surprised by hope, love, joy, peace and His very presence, bringing redemption and transformation in ways you had never imagined! We shouldn’t be surprised, should we, when His gracious work surpasses our wildest dreams! I can almost hear His voice asking in response to our look of wonder, “Well, what did you expect?”
Joan and I wish our district family a Blessed Advent Season and a Merry Christmas!
Brian E. Wilson
Southern Florida District Church of the Nazarene