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Advent – Season of Unmet Expectations

 December 20, 2022

Advent is a season of great expectations. We dream about the perfect gift or the perfect Christmas celebration with family and friends gathered in peace and harmony. More often than not, those expectations are not met, but that’s okay. Advent – a season of unmet expectations – has a lot to teach us about disappointment.

Unmet Expectations in Scripture

You need look no further than the Bible for examples of unmet expectations around Advent. The prophet Isaiah gives us words of great promise for a future time, a time of peace, when the lamb would lay down with the lion. He also foretells the rejoicing of the Israelites when they return from exile. Yes, I imagine there was rejoicing, but also great sadness when they witnessed the destruction that had occurred and realized how much work lay ahead of them.

Isaiah and the other prophets foretold the coming of a Messiah. Over the years I suspect the lore around this coming Messiah grew and grew. They imagined a worldly ruler who would restore Israel to greatness. What they got was Jesus, an itinerant preacher who eschewed worldly power and spoke of a kingdom yet to come and also within each of us. A major disappointment to the Hebrew people, so much so that many refused to believe he was the Messiah.

Life’s Disappointments

Life is full of disappointments. There’s the toy you longed for as a child that Santa didn’t bring you, or the one Santa brought but didn’t meet your expectations or was broken by the end of Christmas day. Then as a parent, there’s the toys you searched for, trying to get just the right gift to light up your child’s eyes Christmas morning, only to find out it wasn’t what your child had expected, or it was broke by the end of the day resulting in tears. Sounds like a familiar theme–broken toys and tears.

Despite all your efforts, you can’t get through Christmas, or birthdays, without some tears.

As adults, there’s the job we thought would be perfect for us but didn’t get, or that we got only to find out it wasn’t all we thought it would be. Rarely do we get perfection in life.

Or how about the job we “settled for” when we didn’t get our dream job because, after all, our family needed to eat. Only to have that position turn out to be much better than you had ever expected. We don’t hear a lot about “settling” for less than our dreams this time of year. All the Christmas movies focus on holding out for your dreams and not settling for second best.

I learned early to temper my expectations in order to lessen disappointments. The only problem with this is when you drop the bar too low, you are only half living. But sometimes settling can be okay, even better than okay if in keeping with God’s designs for your life.

Dealing with Unmet Expectations

It’s all right to have expectations. I doubt any of us can get through life with no expectations. It’s human to hope and dream and build up expectations about what we think our life will be, what the world will be. But hold them loosely. When those expectations aren’t met, let go of them. Perhaps what you got might be better than what you expected. What God has in store for us is far better than anything we can dream of ourselves.

Season of Unmet Expectations

Advent truly is a season of unmet expectations. Who expected a Messiah like the one we got? Jesus was a far better Messiah than any expected. Jesus walked with the poor, the common folk, and let them know their value in God’s eyes. He came for everyone, not just the rich and powerful. He taught us the true meaning of lordship. And he teaches us how to live meaningful lives of love and service.

I would rather be disappointed by not getting what I want, then to get what I want when God wanted something better for me. So welcome disappointment and the lessons you have to teach me. Welcome Jesus, the Messiah who disappointed the rich and powerful of his time but saved our world.

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