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. 

In the Waiting Room

Read and reflect on Psalm 13.

Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD. —Psalm 27:14 NKJV

The phone rang while my husband and I were having supper. It was our youngest son, David.

“I’m on my way to the hospital,” he said. “I broke my arm playing first base.”

My heart sank. After enduring shoulder surgery and months of physical therapy a year and a half earlier, David, a pitcher, had worked hard to get back in form. The coach for his summer league team had been playing him on first and third bases for the games between his starts, planning to use him on the mound for the must-win games.

Nearly three hours later, David called back. The bone just above the wrist on his left arm—not his pitching arm, thank heaven—was broken clear through and was out of place.

“I have to come back to the hospital tomorrow for surgery to put the bone back in place,” he said. “I might need pins.”

After we hung up, I packed my bag for the next day with plenty of reading material, a crossword puzzle book, bottles of water and juice, and fruit. I knew it would be a long day in the hospital waiting room. There was nothing I could do but wait for the outcome — and worry how we’d replace the income from his summer construction job. Now, instead of playing in the big tournament or putting away money for school, he’d be nursing a broken arm, waiting for it to heal in time for fall ball.

More time is spent in life’s waiting rooms, I think, than on the field of play. Like the psalmist, I often cry, “How long, O LORD? How long? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1)

I don’t like being benched in a waiting room, but I’m learning to deal with it. And I’m learning to deal with the disappointment, confusion, frustration, and anger that accompany the waiting. Oh, the emotions aren’t as intense as they once were, but still they pop up, undermining the faith that’s the foundation of my life: “Do you really believe God protects you and those you love? Maybe you didn’t pray enough. Maybe it’s all a lie.”

That’s when I open my Bible and do my faith-strengthening exercises. I like Psalms for low-faith times because the writer plumbs the depths of emotions that we, too, experience. Voicing his anguish and looking for answers that seem too long in coming, he reaches a turning point, where his questions collide head-on with faith: “But I trust in your unfailing love; and my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5–6).

Maybe waiting time isn’t wasting time, after all. For the lessons learned in the waiting room and the work God does in us while we wait are much more valuable than the answer we think we should have. For the harder a thing is to attain, the greater will be the triumph.

When the questions are hard and the answers don’t come, when my faith falters and my beliefs grow brittle, remind me, Lord, the waiting room is where faith grows best. Amen.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay