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Expectation v.s. Anticipation

[John] said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.  John 1:23

Expectations can be dangerous.  Of course, they can be good, too, but there seems to be some kind of let down lurking in the background when we place expectations on someone or something.  For example, we may expect our boss to give us a raise, and that very well could happen.  When that expectation is met, it’s great, and we are happy.  However, if the boss says to the employees, “Sorry, this has been a tough year, I can’t give any raises, much less bonuses” we would be upset, discouraged, and disappointed.

John the Baptist was an interesting character who was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.  He was an in-your-face type of guy who didn’t mince words and was highly confident in himself and his mission.  John expected God to carry through, and yet, later in the gospel of John, we find John the Baptist in jail asking Jesus if he really WAS the one.  Jesus didn’t fit his image of who the Messiah was to be.  John the Baptist was, after all, only human.  Was he let down by his expectations of God’s Messiah?  Maybe.  We don’t really know for sure.  What we do have in the scripture from John 1:6-28 is a confident John the Baptist who recognized that God had sent him to do a job.

Maybe “anticipation” is a more accurate word for us.  We can anticipate and still be let down, but somehow anticipating something leave open some room for margin of error.  By that I mean that we don’t get as hooked into what WE expect and want to happen as we leave the door open for God to work in the world in God’s way, with the idea that we can accept the outcome more graciously.  I anticipate that God will work through me, but I don’t know how.  I anticipate that God will continue to work in the world, but I leave some flexibility for movement and new ideas and new events to mold and shape me as I live out my calling.

Expectations, when they are rigid and inflexible, will often set us up for discouragement, disappointment, and sometimes anger.  Anticipations leave possibilities open.  There are times when we definitely DO need to expect something from someone or a situation, and then there are times when we just anticipate that SOMETHING will happen one way or another.  May God surprise us wonderfully as we approach the last week of Advent and as we are reminded once again to prepare our minds and hearts to keep welcoming the Christ into our lives, not just at Christmas, but every moment of every day.


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