Expectations. We have many great ones, but an expectation is not a guarantee. Just something we think is going to happen.
Take for example, a recent Christmas gathering I attended. There was the usual buffet of high calorie/high fat/high sugar finger foods (READ: This is not a good time for me to have my yearly check-up blood work, which occurs next week). White elephants were dancing around the room, and for once, I managed to snag a really cool thing on the final steal (strike 3 - changes of hands - you're out and you get to keep it). And then gifts were handed out by various people. I expected to receive a certain thing, yet I did not. Many others did. But I did not.
Expectations faded into blankness. Surprise. It wasn't a guarantee. I just thought I knew what I would get. Now, I know, 'getting' is not the most important thing at Christmas. Giving is much better. But in this situation, I assumed the conclusion of the event, but my assuming was along a different route than the actual outcome.
Many gifts still changed hands. Delight was evident and shared by all, as well as holiday joy and camaraderie. But the great expectation did not occur as expected.
As I was pondering expectations and how that impacts all sorts of things, I began to think of the Christmas story. Actually, I was thinking of many, many years BEFORE the Christmas story. Prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, and the new King who would save His people, Israel, and be the Savior for His chosen.
Generations of scholars and descendants from the line of David studied the scrolls and Scripture and wondered about the coming of the Messiah. They prayed and waited excitedly for the Messiah to appear. They anticipated a wondrous event. Each generation thought the Messiah might come on stage during their lifetime. They had great expectations for what they imagined the Messiah would look like, how He would live, and what He would do to help the people. Great expectations.
Lo and behold, the Messiah came. But He did not come as expected. Instead of an adult, fully grown King and Holy Leader ready to set the world in order, a tiny baby was born. Quietly and in the most lowly place possible. God with us. Surely that was not the plan? How far off could expectations be?
A Messiah? Yes. In the expected format? No way. Actually, the Messiah was so different from what was expected, many refused to believe that Jesus was He, the Promised One, the Messiah as foretold. And then, after the Messiah arrived, most people did not know it was Him until He was 30 years old. Even then, the Messiah, God's Son Jesus, was not what was expected. He did not raise up armies to defeat the enemies and lead His people in triumph.
Quite the opposite. He allowed Himself to be defeated (to all outward appearances), even to the end of dying on a cross in a cruel and humiliating experience.
Again, lo and behold. The Messiah arose from the grave. Fully Messiah, fully God with us, and fully human, once dead, but now alive. Was He as expected? Certainly not. He was much better than expected. Jesus IS much better than expected. He IS the Great Expectation.
Would I have mis-expected how the Messiah appeared if I had lived back then? It's pretty easy to look back in time when I have a complete Bible detailing the full story for me (plus a great concordance and study notes). Since God had such a wonderful surprise for us when He sent Jesus, I probably would have been in error with my expectations.
I know the story. I believe what happened. If I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, then I must also read the end of the Book, and more expectations are in order! Jesus, the King, the Messiah, will come back again! He is coming!
Another Great Expectation. Probably not exactly how I expect it, but it will be a wondrous surprise that surpasses all that we can expect.