Newborns, Expectancy and Advent

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding a friend’s newborn baby. He was a mere 13 hours old and I have to say the sheer breath of calm and joy he ushered in was beautiful. To see friends becoming parents, and the elation and sereneness on the faces of my friend as she looked at him, as her husband held him, was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. (Thank you Abby and Tom for allowing me to witness that and hold the fantastic Fitz)

All week there’s been a build up of expectation, even as another friend awaits the arrival of her son whose holding out a bit on them a week after his expected arrival. It occurred to me the same feeling was overcoming me as well heading into Advent season. This expectation of the glory of the Lord. The celebration and elation of the birth of Christ 2,000+ years ago even now.

In doing some digging into expectancy, and what that word looks like (hi word nerd over here) in the Bible, it is so strongly correlated to hope throughout the Hebrew. They are linked and intertwined, and then I found this beautiful imagery of expectation. It is as one with an outstretched neck.

I don’t know about y’all but I LOVE THAT. Expectation is us stretching out to look, to see. It took me back to the days of going to parades in my hometown, and leaning out my head to see what was coming, to see if Santa was near at the Christmas parade, or the band was marching next in our 4th of July parade. You have to put yourself into it and truly feel the expectation in your body.

The expectation doesn’t come without a wait. It doesn’t come without some pangs of hurt, loss, strife, and suffering. Expectancy can be long and drawn out, but it’s still lingers. Hope builds in expectancy, confidence in the thing believed to be on the way. And just as my friends are now living out the fulfilled expectation of new life, so do we. The expectation of this season of Advent brings new life in joy, peace, hope. It ushers in the new life of Christ with us. In flesh now appearing. It brings confident expectation of new life not found in ourselves, but in Him.

All may be calm, it may be quiet as we wait in expectation. But may we lean out our necks to see the fulfillment of our expectation this Advent season in Christ’s presence with us.

Silent Nights

We are six days from celebrating the birth of Christ. This time of year is most often characterized by the hustle and bustle, songs of cheer and laughter in the air. It’s running from one party or program to another, squeezing in those last minute gifts and errands in order to have this perfect holiday scene you know never makes it to reality.

For me, in this season, I truly enjoy sitting in the quiet of my home with the lights of the tree sparkling in the dark. I love the stillness of it and the peaceful calm that seems to emanate from corners of the season. The world gets loud, it gets rather busy and hectic with so many people vying for my ears and often my eyes. It becomes overwhelming to this heart of mine and sometimes I just need to pull back to pull on peace and quiet.

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But I think I get a bit fidgety if the quiet goes too long when it comes to God. That’s when doubt seeps in rather than peace pervading. I tend to worry that He’s forgotten me, or that He doesn’t love me as much as He has said countless times in countless ways. I question His work ethic and His ability to hear my prayers.

I don’t often read about Zechariah outside of the Christmas season. I don’t dig into his story much in the beginning of Luke except as the precursor to the story of Mary, Joseph, and the Coming Messiah. If we’ve heard the story of the birth of Christ, we can probably give a brief synopsis of his precursor, John the Baptist.

Dad was a priest in the temple, mom was a lovely woman of God but both were without a child and advanced in age. Dad gets called to the temple as part of his rotation, an angel ┬átells him that “Hey, you’re going to have a kid. He’s going to be the forerunner for the coming Lord. He’ll lead Israel back to prepare their hearts.” (my interpretation, obviously) Zechariah doubted, he wanted confirmation…and so he got silence, for nine months. In one interpretation it says he was mute, meaning he could not speak, nor could he hear.

For nine months.

Silence inwardly and outwardly for that long probably led to some real moments of fidgeting in Zechariah’s life. But then he could see the visual confirmation of the promise from God-growth of human life in his wife, the fulfillment of a long prayed desire. Hope confirmed. Yet God allowed him to be silent until his son came into the world. His first words once he arrived? Praises to God.

For nine months he had time with God alone. Silent nights filled with discerning and relationship building. Discipline lived out, and doubt rooted out. This wasn’t punishment for him, but discipline from God to bring the doubt out of Zechariah and draw him in closer to Him.

How often do I forsake the silence for doubt? How many times do I take the silent nights for granted and turn to God in mistrust and accusation? What if the silence-no matter the longevity-is for my good and His promise to come to full birth? To wait expectantly in the hope of Him who gives good gifts to those that love Him? To root out even the slightest sliver of doubt that may pierce deep within and allow God to have the only voice in my life?

As we enter the final week of expectancy of Christ’s arrival into our world thousands of years ago, may our hope and expectancy be rooted in the hope of a Promise Keeper, a Listener, and a Heralder of Good. May our doubt and fear of unanswered prayers be uprooted and the silence of a holy God take it’s place.

Unmet Expectations

Back in February I wrote on quitting expectations, and over the last few weeks I have continued to have conversations about that same topic with different people. The most recent happened in the last two days with someone who is having a rough season of life.

When you are younger, you have these dreams of where you will be at 25, 30, 40 and so on. Then as you grow into adulthood, you find those dreams tend to morph into an expectation in your heart. To be at this goal, to have this, to be in that, to have that title. For many, including myself, I think the expectation underlying it all is to have life figured out at a certain point. I laugh when people think college graduates should have themselves completely figured out, the future planned entirely, and a mate to share it with upon the day they graduate.

For some that might be a reality, but in most cases it is far from it.

Somewhere in the dialogue yesterday, as unmet expectations of life at this point unrolled themselves, I found a different thought train leaving the station of my mind. All of these dreams, that changed to expectations, ultimately became idols of my life whether I realized it or not. When I compare them to the Biblical standard of expectations, I realize just how unholy (and ultimately unworthy) they are for my life. The expectations that God says are good and true for my life look vastly different than the ones I have crafted.

  • The Expectancy of His Command-Psalm 119:131
  • The Expectancy of His Reward Awaiting Us in Heaven- Colossians 1:4-6
  • The Expectancy of Eternal Life with Him- 1 Peter 1:2-4
  • The Expectancy of His Return- 1 John 3:2-4

I have to say, my expectations look like rags compared to this. They look cheap and meaningless when compared with eternity. Are expectations bad? I don’t necessarily think so. But I do think when they are set up as idols, when they are what we look to in order to measure the goodness of our life instead of Christ, they are bastardized for our own good. We naturally gravitate to the things which will bring us comfort, that we define on our own terms. We do the same for our expectations…we want them in our plotted way, on our terms, in our timing.

God wants nothing but good for me. Sometimes that looks like wildly unmet expectations that I have held too close to for security, as a measuring stick of my life. While I am no where near where I want to be in this, in releasing every single expectation I have crafted for myself, I am seeing now that it is a work that God is doing in me to allow me to see it first, and then to tear down the strongholds they have on my life, and in relation to God.