Expectation & Expectations

Reader Christine preached this sermon on the third Sunday of Advent in 2022, in which the focus was John the Baptist. Here it is for you again:

This Sunday is about Expectation and Expectations.  Same word, subtle difference.

Isaiah is giving hope to those who have been exiled and who will eventually return to Zion.  His expectation is for the Redeemed to move into a land full of blossom where they will be able to rejoice.  “Where waters shall break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”  The expectation is that the people will be happy.

James also is talking about expectation and using the image of a farmer waiting “for the precious crop from the earth,” it also about the ability to be patient and to wait for things to happen.

Expectation is something we all have as we prepare for any event, such as waiting for Christmas.  Knowing there’s something special going to happen, and although it can be a busy time of the year and quite stressful too for some, it’s the time of the year when we are more likely to get in touch with friends and family that we have not heard from for a while.  It’s a time when many people are more generous to each other and those in need.

It’s also a time when we may give others a bit more leeway, especially children.  No-one really minds if they’re a bit later to bed as we draw nearer to the Christmas holidays. There is a sense, expectation that this is not an ordinary time and although the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ maybe lost to a few, there are those who understand the real meaning and the joyful expectation of that very special day.

Expectation and be both rewarding and disappointing.  For those who go on holiday aboard, I’ve only actually been once, but the expectation is that it will be warm if not hot.  If you’ve booked into a 5* hotel, everything will be done for you, cooked meals, clean rooms, no washing up to do! And entertainment if you want it.  All this so you’ll be able to enjoy a relaxing holiday in the sun, unless, of course it turns out like one of the “Carry on” movies.  I’m thinking particularly of “Carry on abroad” when a group of people get to the hotel everything seems fine.  However, their expectation of a good holiday is about to turn into chaos.

For the younger members of the congregation.  The film is about a party of neighbours who arrive at their destination and the hotel is still in the process of being built.  To make matters worse the builders begin working, nosily, in the early hours of the morning.  The owners are new to the role of hoteliers and have not entertained any guests up until this party arrive and every dish on the menu is fish and the cooker doesn’t work properly.  There is no glass in the windows, the bathrooms are between rooms with no locks on the doors and so basically everything begins to go wrong. 

Now don’t get me wrong, the film is good and I would class it as a ‘feel good film’ with lots of laughs and silly antics; but if this sort of thing happened to you when you were expecting to have a good time you would certainly feel very disheartened, angry and upset.  Also, in this day and age a lot of people would get sued!!!

So, let’s sort our expectation and expectations.

Expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, summer holidays for instance, expectations is the belief that it will be the best holiday ever!

The O.T. and the N.T. are filled with expectation and expectations.

When Jesus was born, Simeon and Anna were waiting for the Messiah.  Simeon in particular knew he would not see death until he set his eyes on the Messiah.  The babe in arms may not have been what he had expected, but he knew immediately that this baby was the chosen one, the Messiah.  Anna couldn’t hold her joy in, she had to tell everyone she met.  She knew this baby was different, he was the One.  The Kings who found Jesus, we know did not expect him to be born in a stable their expectations were that they would find him in a Palace, and John the Baptist, who proclaimed, make way for the one who is to come, sent a message to Jesus asking him, “Are you the one who is to come” even though he knew in his heart that Jesus was the Messiah, but his expectations of what Jesus would do may were probably much different to what Jesus did. 

Many people had great expectations of Jesus, of who the Messiah would be, what He would do or what he would be like.  They expected him to make some kind on kingdom on earth where he would be an earthly King and it took them quite a while to understand that this was not to be.  They had to let go of their preconceptions and learn about Jesus and listen to his teachings.  Every day was a learning curve for the disciples and those closest to Jesus, but for some the disappointment of what he was not doing indicated failure or weakness and this maybe how Judas felt.  The expectations Judas had of the Messiah were not lived up to and I think the betrayal of Jesus was more disappointment than malice.

Jesus disappointed a lot of people who had their own expectations of what the Messiah would do or not do, but for those who let go of their expectations, their lives were changed for ever.  We only have to look in the Bible to find many people whose lives were changed once they let Jesus into their life.

I suppose all of us have our own ideas and expectations about how to celebrate Christmas, whether that’s on our own, with family, friends or even going away, but sometimes we can have very set ideas of what Christmas should be like. 

I used to think that Christmas dinner should always include Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, it didn’t ruin Christmas if there wasn’t any, but it wasn’t quite the same, so what’s our Christmas pudding? what expectations do we put on ourselves on our children, spouses and partners?  What expectations do people have of us? 

The people expectations of their Messiah didn’t match the way Jesus came into the world or what he did or said, so nothing then was quite the same or matched the expectations of the people, they either accepted him or they didn’t.

Whatever expectations we have, if we can let go of these, we can prepare to celebrate in the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, because no matter what we do, however stressed we get or how hard we prepare; no matter how organised or disorganised we are; Christmas Day will come and for everyone who is willing to accept Christ as our Saviour he will come and enter every open heart.  

Let us pray:

Come, Lord Jesus, come and enter our hearts so that when we listen to your words and follow your examples, when we try to look at others with your compassion then we pray that we will find a joy and hope that exceeds all our expectations through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Sources used: The Preacher (October 2022)

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