1st Sunday of Advent – Expectations

She gave birth to her firstborn . . . and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. – Luke 2:7 (NIV)

My husband’s a hard worker, so I try to ease the workload around the house when I can. Sometimes, though, my efforts make more work than if I’d just let him do the job in the first place. 

Wanting to surprise him, one year I decorated the front deck with pine garland and white Christmas lights. That was the first year we had a deck to decorate, and the coffers had taken a hit with building front and back decks that summer and re-roofing the house. So the least expensive garland and light string I could find, I got. 

I wanted him to come home from work and “ooh” and “ahh” over how it looked or at least show appreciation. Instead he said nothing. When my husband says nothing in a situation like this, I assume he doesn’t like it and he doesn’t want to say anything because it’ll just get him in trouble. Which it did. Because I squeezed the truth out of him—so I really shouldn’t have been mad, right? 

After a couple of days, I broached the subject, and we discussed how the front deck decorations could be improved. I do admit, he’s a much better decorator than I am. He has both the eye and the touch. My decorating philosophy is the same as my baking philosophy: throw it together and hope it turns out right. 

“It’s not that I don’t like it,” he told me. “It’s just not what I expected.”

Expectations—that’s what this was all about, not who was right and who was wrong. I expected him to lavish praise on my efforts and was disappointed when he didn’t. He expected thicker boughs, something that stood out more, and was disappointed when the reality didn’t match the vision. Once we talked about it, the air cleared.

Expectations weren’t met when Jesus came, either. He was born not at home, but in a town 70 miles away, in a stable because the inns were full of travelers coming to pay their taxes. No family gathered around the new parents to rejoice with them, only strange shepherds and even stranger foreign dignitaries. And when He grew up, Jesus didn’t fulfill the expectations of anyone but His Heavenly Father. Even His death caused crushing disappointment for all who expected something different. But the reality was so much more than they ever could have dreamed! 

Be careful of expectations. They can be good, but they can also be dangerous. 

When we expect something of ourselves, our expectations can drive us to be better persons. But when we expect something of someone else, expectations can be dangerous because we’re so focused on what we expect—what we want—that we’re blind to the reality in front of us. 

And sometimes, like with the birth, life, and death of Jesus, the reality is so much better than the expectation.

When things don’t turn out the way I expect, Lord, remind me that in Your hands the reality is exceedingly abundantly above all I could have asked for or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). Help me to live in such a way that I meet Your expectations of me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Luke 1:26–38.

© 2012 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. 

Why Mistletoe?

We love, because He first loved us. –1 John 4:19 AMP

I had a doozy of a time finding mistletoe one year. Maybe it was because I was looking for it Sunday morning before church so I could use it in my sermon, “The Symbols of Christmas.”

That and I still needed to get a sprig to hang on the ceiling beam between the kitchen and the dining room, which has become a Christmas tradition in our home. Truth be told, rarely does anyone smooch under it. But I still like to hang it up.

How did mistletoe, a symbol of love (which we celebrate on Valentine’s Day), become associated with Christmas?

Legends about this evergreen plant go back to the ancient Druids of Britain, who believed mistletoe had special healing powers and used it in their winter solstice ceremonies. Actually, “mistletoe,” in the Celtic language, means “all heal.”

When Christianity took root, pagan practices and beliefs were condemned, and mistletoe was all but forgotten until the 1800s, when Victorian England revived the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe as a sign of love, romance, and good luck.

When I researched mistletoe, I discovered it’s actually an aerial parasite, having no roots of its own. To survive, mistletoe attaches itself to a tree, from which it gets its nourishment.

Like love.

Love, whether romantic love or brotherly love, doesn’t exist on its own. All love originates from, and gets its nourishment from, agape love—divine love. Agape is the highest form of love, transcending all other types of love. It is the love of God for man—unconditional, unlimited, sacrificial, selfless, giving of itself regardless of circumstances. God’s love is the tree that sustains us—physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

Interestingly, agape (pronounced a-GÁP-ē), can also be pronounced əˈɡāp, which refers to the mouth when it is “wide open with wonder and surprise.”

Such is the love God has for us—it should leave us with mouths wide open in wonder and surprise that the God who created the universe—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—loved each of us so much He left His throne in heaven to take on human flesh, live a sinless life, and give Himself up as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for our sins so we could live in heaven with Him forever (see John 3:16).

Such is the love of God.

And like the mistletoe is an evergreen, so God’s love is eternal—it always was and always will be (Psalm 136). It’s unlimited (Psalm 36:5, 108:4). And it is mine.

God’s is the love from which all other love springs and is sustained. We love, you see, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And like the mistletoe cannot survive without being attached to the tree, so our love cannot sustain itself. God’s love is the tree that feeds us, gives us life, and enables us to love.

And just like the meaning of mistletoe is “all heal,” God’s love is the healing salve we need for all our wounds—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Wow. All that about a sprig of evergreen we hang up in our homes at Christmastime and for the most part forget about.

A sprig of evergreen that reminds us of the love God has for each one of us—nourishing, life-giving, and eternal.

May each sprig of mistletoe I see this Christmas season, O God, remind me of the love that sent Your Son from heaven to earth so that we may have heaven forever. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 John 4:7–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons­, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.