Expectancy changes everything. One’s perspective, planning, and worldview are all shaped and often altered by the expectation of something or someone’s coming. I’ve thought much about expectancy recently as we are anticipating the arrival of our third son around Christmas Day. Our expectation of his arrival has altered our Christmas travel plans, affected the arrangement of our house, and even changed the way we think about the future of our family. While Christmas Eve isn’t necessarily considered an ideal due date, it will be special to count down the days until our son’s birth as we simultaneously count down the days until Christmas. As we await the birth of our little boy, we will joyfully celebrate the first coming of our Savior King with hopeful expectancy for His future return.
I’ve been imagining how Mary must have felt as she carried Jesus in her womb and anticipated the day of His birth. She, along with all the people of Israel, had for many years been waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah–the Rescuer–the one who would bring salvation and free the Israelites from oppression. Their expectation gave them hope to press on in faithfulness to God, despite hardship and uncertainty. Their expectation enabled them to have joy in the midst of pain and sorrow.
Christmas is the season full of joyful expectancy and anticipation. Everything–from the decorating and shopping to the parties, performances, and baking–is leading up December 25, the big day when we celebrate the season in full with friends and family. The excitement of the holiday season builds through the month of December and is made complete on Christmas Day. But for believers, the significance of this expectation and anticipation is so much richer than just the gifts, traditions, and even the family. Our expectation and joy in these things is just a pointer to a deeper joy and greater expectation in our hearts. The big day is greatly anticipated and greatly celebrated because it was on this day that God took on human flesh and came to live among us (John 1:14). It was on this day that a light dawned on a people living in a land of darkness (Isaiah 9:2). It was on this day that the many promises of God to His people began to receive fulfillment: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor 1:20). Through Adam’s original sin, brokenness and death reigned among humanity. But through the birth of Christ and one day through His death on the cross and resurrection, grace would reign among humanity (Romans 5). Jesus came into the world on that first Christmas Day to conquer more than the oppressive Roman Empire. He came into the world to conquer sin and death–much greater oppressors of humanity.
For believers in Jesus, Christmas is both a season of joyful celebration for what He has already done and a season of joyful expectation for what He will accomplish still. In a world still plagued by terror, violence, sorrow, injustice, and oppression, we celebrate Christmas with joyful expectancy. We rest in the truth that we serve a God who has always shown Himself faithful to keep His promises, and we hold on to the hope that Jesus will return again. This time, He’s coming to judge the world, make all things new and right, and reign forever. And our expectancy for this great return changes everything about the way we live today.
“Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.”