by Steve Wetzel
“And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:12-13
Expecting the Unexpected
Assuming you are reading through this devotional on the second Sunday of Advent then there are over 2 weeks left until Christmas morning. 19 days. 456 hours. 27,360 minutes. 1,641,600 seconds. Give or take a few depending on your family’s traditions. Ask any child waiting for Christmas morning and this is how it is described. They are literally counting the seconds until it’s Christmas. This kind of excitement can be contagious and our culture embraces it. Halloween wasn’t 24 hours gone when all the shelves of trick-or-treating candy miraculously transformed into Christmas versions. We love the feeling of expectation...especially when it's something wonderful like Christmas. The Biblical word for this is “hope”
I keenly remember being asked as a child what I “hoped” to get for Christmas. When I was 8, I hoped it was a Millennium Falcon complete with Han Solo in the driver's seat and Chewbacca riding shotgun. Not world changing in reality, but to me, that expectation, that hope filled me with a giddy joy.
- Take a moment and go around your family and ask each other what you hope to get this Christmas?
Our expectations and hopes can be funny things. Feed the hope and expectation enough and they can shape our experiences, especially when the day of expectation comes and it's not what we expected at all.
- Can you think of a time when you were disappointed about something you had high hopes for?
I can also keenly remember the years opening a present under the tree and feeling that disappointment when my expectations weren't met. The reality I had built up in my head just didn’t match up. As we read through the scripture about the Christmas story you have to wonder if that’s how the Israelites might have felt when God unfolded the story before them. Isaiah wrote the words about the coming messiah and the restoration of our broken relationship with God somewhere in the years 701 to 681 B.C. Jesus’ birth didn’t happen until 1-4 B.C. Several hundred years is a long time to wait for expectations to be revealed. The exact nature of what and how that hope was to be fulfilled is what dominated the jewish thought. Jewish scholars had high hopes. Jewish zealots had high hopes. Everyone was waiting for God to act, but God rarely acts on our time table, and when He does, it rarely unfolds how we think it should.
In the book of Luke (Chapter 1: 26-33) we have the story of Mary being told that she will bare a child and that child would be the long awaited messiah and God’s son. Surprise!! Very few of us could know the emotions that would be going through Mary’s mind at the time, but it’s a good bet that the plan that God’s angel outlined to her was NOT what she was expecting. It’s not what anyone was expecting really. The jewish people were suffering under oppression and wanted freedom lead by a king...not an infant born to an unmarried couple from a town in the middle of nowhere.
Mary could have been disappointed. Years of expectation dashed. Instead, she chose to celebrate. She sang, she worshiped, and she marveled in God’s plan despite it being the unexpected. That is what Christmas hope is about. We celebrate God’s plan. We celebrate His provision. We marvel at God’s fulfilment of our hope even if it’s not how we thought it would be.
- Take a moment and as a family go around and ask each other what you think God will do this year. How will He surprise you this year? In what ways do we expect great things from God?
- Look up and read as a family the words in Isaiah 25: 6-9
Isaiah continues in chapter 25 (v 6-9) to talk about the feast and celebration that will happen in Heaven at the end of days. When God’s story is finished, we will feast with Him and celebrate. This year as you celebrate together as a family, do so looking forward to that final day.
This year, be like Mary and sing, worship and celebrate knowing that our hope in in God, and God never disappoints.