It seems more lists are kept during the Christmas season than any other time of year – gifts & groceries, cooking & cleaning, naughty & nice. But one list written in invisible ink between the margins of all the others is a boldface EXPECTATIONS list.
- Trendy ornaments: flocked or foiled or rustic or plaid?
- Silly games: hiding pickles in trees and elves on shelves.
- Time-tested recipes: Gramma’s pie and Edna’s green beans.
- Sacred traditions: the once-a-year-to-make-them-happy candlelight service.
A tireless effort to make everything perfect is often a cover-up for all that’s not right. Checking off To-Do lists might be satisfying, but there’s no way to fulfill the expectations list. It’s invisible, remember?
That’s why this whole idea of “redeeming Christmas” is so intriguing to me. More than anything, I long to redeem my expectations this year. What if I put less stock in making things happen than enjoying what’s going on around me?
expectation: noun; a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
The Christmas story is ripe with expectation. Mary was expecting, after all. It was obvious.
But the story of Jesus’ birth is far from a series of predictable outcomes. Set amid the backdrop of 400 years of spiritual silence in a godforsaken desert town, an angel invites a naïve, young woman to participate in the redemption of all humanity. Without hesitation, she agrees.
Who would have expected that?
Mary. Her belief was so strong, in fact, that she was willing to risk her life on this one expectation: that the Spirit of God would come upon her and she would become the mother of the Son of God.
Mary’s closeup view that first Christmas should influence my unwritten list. Mary seemed to have a sense of wonder that we all long for during the holidays. I like to think of that as a hopeful expectancy instead of a rigid expectation.
Reading this passage in Romans today sums up my feeling of expectancy as I choose to redeem my expectations about the holidays with a wonder of God’s holiness. Will you join me in reading and praying these hopeful Words?
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Romans 8:22-25 The Message