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Waiting with Expectations

by Kelly Ens, on behalf of the Transitional Leadership Team

As a child, I remember waiting (impatiently) to receive the gifts I wanted from my parents for Christmas. The 80s had fantastic toys, many of which are still popular today or have come back into the toy world for another round of popularity. There was much excited anticipation in the weeks leading up to Christmas when we would get to finally open those gifts! What would I receive? Would there be a few of the gifts I really wanted? I admit that I expected to receive a few of those toys.

In the church I grew up in, we lit candles on each Advent Sunday, with the culmination of a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. In fact, all my church experiences have included this practice, but as a child through much of my young adult life, it held very little meaning to me other than it being a tradition. I was distracted by the end goal: opening presents at the end of weeks of waiting.

In the last number of years, my posture and approach to Advent and Christmas has changed dramatically. The hope and promise of Christ’s arrival that we focus on at Christmas is significant and certainly should be celebrated! I missed out, however, on the richness and depth of the four weeks of Advent.

Advent literally means “arrival,” and the weeks leading up to Christmas are a period in which we are sensitized to the coming of Christ. We know the story of Christ’s arrival, the promise of His return, but we are also invited to be watching and aware for Christ’s arrival in our present circumstances. Another theme of Advent is the light of Christ overcoming the darkness in our lives and in the world, which is symbolized by the candle lighting each week of Advent, representing the increase of the light of Christ and its significance.

The nation of Israel was awaiting their Messiah – they longed for His coming, though His arrival was completely out of their control. What’s interesting is that despite their hope and anticipation of His arrival, many missed it. His arrival didn’t meet the expectations they had of their Messiah and many people could not lay aside their assumptions to let Him arrive the way He chose to. What ways do we expect God to show up in our lives? Do we miss Him because we have expectations for what it looks like for God to arrive in our midst?

We are well into Advent already, but the challenge or encouragement here is to practice waiting and be attentive to His arrival in our lives and in the world around us. Consider being open to seeing Him arrive in our lives in the ways He would choose, rather than under the expectations we currently have.

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! …Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed…” Isaiah 40:3a, 5a