The air is crisp as we drag in our tree, the first tree in our first home. We string the lights and set up the few decorations we’ve managed to cart around with us these roaming years.
And then we all step back to look. You can almost feel the room fill with wonder and the sense that this season, anything could happen.
Everywhere you go, that sense of expectancy fills the air. Because isn’t that really what stores are selling? It’s not games and clothes and new phones. It’s the building of expectations, the sense of desires just on the verge of being fulfilled. It’s Norman Rockwell moments we’re all painting in our minds as December 25th draws closer.
So we come hurtling through the Advent season and into the final days, frenetic to meet the expectations on ourselves, our gift giving, and our memory making.
And yeah, it’s good to have some dreams, some hopes, some desires about a future yet realized. But could it be that the weight of those expectations often ends up crushing us in the worst ways and stealing our joy right out from under us?
This truth dawns on me slow one Sunday as I’m sitting there battling the waves of disappointment that threaten to overwhelm:
My Expectations rob me of being surprised by my God, my Man, my children, my friends….yeah, pretty much everything.
Because once you have it set in your mind’s eye that there’s only one way to do things, it can be hard to see how any other way could be good. Or, gasp, better. And miracles can be happening right around you but you’ll miss it for the shortsightedness of your one-track dreaming.
Like who expects a baby in the place of a conquering King? When you’ve been subject to hundreds of years of slavery and exile, you start to think there’s only one way out of this dead-end story. And it sure isn’t going to be found lying in a manger.
When the heavy of life is breaking you in two, you’re praying for that sword-wielding, fire carrying Christ, not some helpless Messiah that can’t even feed himself.
And if you’re expecting salvation from an Enemy dark, who is stalking you ruthless, would you really start touring the local stables to see if maybe your Champion is hiding out there?
Our Abba, He’s never been about doing it the way people expect. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that He defies expectations, upends tradition and generally, picks all the wrong people for His Kingdom building.
How else do you explain calling up a man with a thousand excuses and a quick temper to lead a people out of slavery? Or a song-writing warrior with a wandering eye and poor parenting skills as the royal root of a holy lineage?
Then there’s the sulking prophet with a whale of a story, the former prostitute as great-grandmother to a king, the murderous evangelist and the big-mouthed denying Rock of the Church.
And that teenager shrouded in scandal but carrying the Hope of the World.
The arrival of the Messiah babe, yeah, it didn’t fit anyone’s expectations and there’s still a whole lot of people stumbling around with eyes wide shut, looking for the answer but refusing the truth.
I wonder, would I, with all my expectations, have also missed the miracle?
Because who picks a helpless human as a champion for humanity? And who entrusts two homeless parents with the Savior of the World?
God, that’s who.
He comes at us this season as He has every year, defying expectations and breaking down barriers. He comes to bind up our broken hearts in the swaddling cloths of a babe laid in a manger, to dry our tears of disappointment and to extend an invitation:
Let go of your ideas of what answered prayers and holy here on earth should look like and let Me surprise you, in the darkest valleys and the radiant mountain peaks.
Let me open your eyes to the miracles unfolding in the most unexpected of places.
I let out a long exhale and know that this is what I need. Not striving for present over perfect, not godly goal planning or running down long lists of gift counting, but a deep internal shift. Letting go of all of it and fixing my eyes firmly on the humble stable as throne room to a radiant King, expecting only to be surprised by a Father and his Carpenter-Son who loved me to the Cross and back.