Anticipating Advent: God Exceeds Our Expectations

So much of the advent season is built upon anticipation…

In a very practical way, we look forward to annual traditions. I always anticipate the breakfast casserole that my mom makes. I anticipate the lights, the smells, the sounds, and the family. Many of us are full of expectations (or others of us full of dread) about the songs, the presents, and the decorations. Often times these expectations are not all met in any given year… but we are full of them.

From the perspective of the church calendar, advent is a season of Anticipation for celebrating Christ’s incarnation and second coming. Throughout advent, there is a constant looking both backward and forward toward the coming of Christ. The Scripture readings from week to week build in a crescendo toward the moment of declaration: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” We wait for this moment… at Wiser Lake Chapel, we frequently do this through the holy chaos that is the Hallelujah Chorus. After our season of patient anticipation we join with the angels, singing with all our earthly gusto “…and He shall reign forever and ever.”

But, the message throughout Scripture is not just of a God who meets our expectations… the message of Scripture is of a God who exceeds expectations. Even in our best Christmas seasons, the perfect twinkling of a light, the most anticipated of presents, the most fulfilling of family times are only small tastes of the plans that God has for us. The fact is that God is not simply in the business of meeting our expectations… through a baby birthed among farm animals, God disrupts and exceeds our expectations. The invitation of the Advent season is not only an invitation to anticipate, it is an invitation to have our expectations upended for the rest of the year… for the rest of our lives. The baby becomes a man who teaches and heals… and the man who teaches and heals, dies… and the man who dies has risen again. In Advent, we anticipate, but we also bring ourselves back to a place where we can be shocked and amazed…reminded that our expectations are too small for a God who is too good. Our earthbound, yet heavenward, hallelujahs are not geared simply toward a God who meets expectations, but to the glory of a God who exceeds them.
~Ben Gibson

 

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Anticipating Advent: Making Room

The halls were quiet. The nurses glanced at me with knowing smiles, encouraging me with their calm presence.

“Breathe quicker when it hurts more -don’t hold your breath,” they told me as I clenched in pain.

We had waited nine months for this day. With hearts full of anticipation we had cleared out the spare bedroom to make room for our baby, we’d purchased clothes to wrap him in, hung up decorations, and delighted in our excitement for this life. Nine months is a long time to wait! God has intricately woven the gift of waiting into our world. As we grow up, we discover that the anticipation is often times a large part of the gift itself. Planning for a vacation, a birthday, or a child –it’s the planning and waiting that delights our hearts. If we aren’t careful, this world can overwhelm us with all the things we have to do and blind us to the joy we receive from the waiting.

Towards the end of Mary’s pregnancy, she traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph. Luke 2:6-7 tells us “while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” We cannot overlook the innkeeper in the story. Because he made no room for them, he missed out on the most important event in history –the birth of the Savior of the world.

How many times have we missed out on unexpected gifts from God because we haven’t made room for him? I have to reflect on what is filling up my mind and heart, and resulting in less room for Him? Like the innkeeper, we often fill ourselves to capacity and miss out on Jesus. Making room for Jesus means anticipating the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the season of advent.

The moment I saw our son’s face my life changed forever. The months of preparing for him, the sleepless nights, the changes in routine, were all worth it. My hope this advent is to make room for the gift of Jesus Christ our King, and accept the greatest gift He will ever give to us, the gift of life in Christ!
~Emily Larkin