The level of anticipation is growing as the “big day” approaches. For some, the countdown to Christmas begins at the 100-day mark or with the first dusting of snow; for others, it began on December 26 last year. Christmas comes with great expectations and high hopes. Sometimes, the circumstances and disappointments of the past have lessened the expectations and perhaps even replaced hope with fear. Listen again to the words of the Christmas carol: “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee (Jesus) tonight.”
Approaching that very first Christmas, a young couple found that life had taken a turn that did not match their own expectations. They had plans. Plans for a wedding. Plans for married life and a family, in due course. But things were changing. Things were not going as they could ever have imagined. An angel had spoken to them, informing them that Mary would have a baby and it would not be Joseph’s child. This was not what they had expected.
As the time came near for Mary to give birth, the required journey to Bethlehem for a census was not what they hoped for during these days. Without available accommodation anywhere in Bethlehem, they made themselves as comfortable as they could in a stable. And here, in a stable, away from their home and family, Mary gave birth to a son. This was not how they imagined the beginning of their family life or the welcome to the world for their son, Jesus.
We know how the story continues. This baby, born in a stable, would give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, calm a storm with a word and raise the dead. This baby was named Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. This baby would become a man who showed the depth of God’s love and power when he was crucified and rose again on the third day.
We know that all of this was more than Mary and Joseph could have ever asked or imagined. Their unmet expectations were surpassed by what God had planned for them and through them.
Christmas, the arrival of Christ in our world, changes everything—including my expectations. Unmet expectations are now no longer replaced with despair and fear, but with hope and anticipation of more than I could have ever asked or imagined. Now, because of Christmas, we can approach unmet expectations differently. Changes happen in the course of the journey of life. Some of those changes are the result of my own choices. Some are the result of the choices of others that have an impact on my life. And some are just the reality of life in a broken world. These changes can have a direct effect on my expectations.
Because of Christmas, I can expect the unexpected with certainty and hope. Certainty that nothing comes into my life that hasn’t been filtered through the Father’s hands and he will use to accomplish something beautiful in my life—his purpose (see Romans 8:28-29). Hope that will not disappoint because God has poured out his love into our lives through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (see Romans 5:5).
When the unexpected happens, accept that things are different than anticipated. Take time to analyze why things are the way they are and different from what you had hoped. Begin to anticipate what God has in mind. Choose to adapt your attitude and actions to embrace the even greater thing God has planned. This is how faith responds.
When life’s journey takes an unexpected turn down a darkened street, hear again the truth of the carol, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light.” He is waiting even there to meet you with your hopes and your fears, offering a “more than you could ever ask or imagine” life.
Commissioner Floyd Tidd is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
Illustration: Simon Treadwell/paperdove.co.uk