If you have ever had children, you know anticipation well. From the moment two lines show up to the day of the birth it is almost constant preparation. The nursery must be painted. Furniture needs to be arranged. Gotta check the baby development websites, everyday, sometimes twice or more. There are the birthing classes, bottles, diapers, baby showers, etc. So much goes into preparation, and then the day comes. It is a magical moment the first time you hear the baby cry, and for the next two years everything is surreal, mostly due to lack of sleep. But it is so much different than you expect. Don't get me wrong, it is amazing, but it is not like what you had envisioned.
Another birth that was greatly anticipated, but not what it was envisioned is the birth of Jesus. Advent is the season of anticipation of Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is focused on prophecy. There are more than 300 things foretold in the Hebrew scriptures about the One (Messiah) to come that Jesus fulfilled throughout His life. It seems that with all of those fulfilled prophecies there would be no disappointment or mistake who this Messiah was. But expectations are funny things. The more specific uncontrollable expectations, the greater risk of missing it or being completely disappointed. The expectation was for a great military leader and a king to take the physical throne of David. In contrast, Jesus was born to humble beginnings, and led as a servant giving of Himself to the point of a criminal's death.
John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Messiah, and even for him, Jesus as Messiah was a question mark. John sent his followers to Jesus with an inquiry recorded in Matthew 11:3,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
If anyone should know that Jesus is the Messiah, it is John. But it is understandable that he would ask the question. After all, preparing the way for One who has been anticipated for thousands of years is not something you want to get wrong, and the developed expectation that he was no doubt taught was much different than what Jesus looked like. Jesus wasn't the king or military leader they were looking for in a Messiah. The acceptance of reality and truth haven't changed much in the last 2000 years. Think about this,
What are you anticipating for Christmas? Maybe you envision a Norman Rockwell setting with a grand feast and warm fuzzy feelings about the people around the table. It could be big gifts under the tree with that perfect gift bearing your name on the card. Perhaps it is the look on your kid's faces when they see the gifts after Santa came the night before. There could be a more bleak outlook for you because hard times, unemployment, personal loss, or tragedy has struck. You may not even be able to envision any resemblance of happiness at Christmas. These are not the hooks on which to hang your hope and expectation.
So, as we enter the Advent season, maybe we should ask of our own expectations, "Are you really what I am anticipating? OR is there more?"
The hope that Jesus offers is not bound up in gifts we can buy or give. It is not found in a feast for the family. It is found in the historical reality that a baby was born in a miraculous way for a miraculous cause. He did not come to bring employment or warm fuzzy feelings. He came to die. Until our anticipation of Christmas is grounded in historic coming of a savior, and our hope is found in the salvation He alone offers; we are destined for disappointment and discouragement.
Turn your hope for Advent to Him. You may find a sense of contentment and peace you've never experienced before this Christmas. And along this journey you may discover a baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago fulfilling a new anticipation grounded in reality and Truth.