Advent: What are YOU Expecting?

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What are you expecting this Christmas?

Expectations. We all have them. Some of them are good. Others? Not so much!

The problem with expectations is that they often carry a predetermined concept of a preferred outcome. “God, I expect you to do ‘X,’ and I expect you to do it like this by then…” When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, it can lead to disappointment, frustration and hurt. Yes, even with God.

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Expectancy, on the other hand, is a simple attitude of faith, hope and trust that looks to God and says, “God, I don’t know what you’re going to do. I don’t know how or when you’re going to do it. But I know that you are good and that your plans for me are good, so I choose to trust you regardless.”          

Luke 2 introduces us to two people who lived with a simple attitude of expectancy. Their names are Simeon and Anna. They’re two of my favorite people mentioned in the Christmas narratives.

Church tradition indicates that Simeon may have been 113 years old, and that Anna was probably around 104 years old. We’re talking “senior citizens” on the “senior” end of the scale.

Simeon had outlived all of his contemporaries. It’s possible that loneliness was one of the biggest battles he fought. Can you imagine what 113 years of life in the first century would do to an individual?

According to how you translate Verse 36, Anna had only been married seven years when her husband died. Instead of remarrying, Anna made a decision to pour all of her passion and devotion into a lifelong relationship with God. She had lived the last 84 years as a single woman. Something unheard of in the first century.

I’m certain Simeon and Anna had their own expectations about what their lives would look and be like. But somehow, they surrendered these to God, and lived with a simple attitude of faith, hope and trust.

Here’s how the Bible describes Simeon:

He was righteous and devout — a very good man, a lover of God who kept himself pure — and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. He was a man in touch with the Holy Spirit. 26 The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.Luke 2:25b-26

What a description! Wouldn’t you love for God to describe you like that?

 Righteous…

     Devout…

         A very good man…

              A lover of God…

                  A man who kept himself pure…

                       He was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to rescue Israel…

                             He kept in touch with the Holy Spirit…

Simeon’s expectations were simple: “I want God. I want to see God show up. I long to see my Redeemer.  When it comes to certain outcomes, they’re out of my control, but I can choose my attitude… And I can choose to put my faith, trust and hope in God.”

Anna’s expectations were similar.

After [her husband] died [Anna] chose to worship God in the temple continually. For the past eighty-four years she had been worshipping God with night-and-day prayer and fasting. —Luke 2:37

Did you get that?

After the loss of her husband (In the first century, a husband was more than a lover and friend, he was your security and safety net. An unmarried woman in the first century was incredibly vulnerable.)

After the loss of her husband… Anna chose not to become broken, bitter, jaded, hopeless and cynical. She also chose not to remarry. Instead, she determined, “I’m going to take the one and only life God has given me, and I’m going to make my entire life an offering of worship and devotion to God.”

When we meet Anna in Luke 2, she had spent 84 years worshipping God with “prayer and fasting.” That’s expectancy! That a simple, beautiful and inspiring attitude of faith, hope and trust…

It paid off! In Luke 2, she met baby Jesus, just as Simeon was talking to Mary and Joseph!

Her response? After 84 years, it’s predictable. More worship!

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I know life can be hard and difficult. I’m certain it was more than a little hard and difficult on Simeon and Anna. But somehow, they surrendered all of their expectations to God, and lived with a beautiful attitude of expectancy.

What are you expecting this Christmas?

I believe there are four things you can expect that are reflected in the traditional themes we remember at Advent. 

1.   You can expect HOPE.

Hope is possible in this broken world because our hope isn’t in politics, programs, or personalities. It’s in a living person. Our hope is in Jesus!

 

Here’s what Simeon said when he saw and held Jesus:

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”Luke 2:29-32 NLT

This hope sustained Simeon for 113 years!

2.   You can expect PEACE.

The Hebrew word is “shalom.” It means so much more than the absence of conflict or war. According to Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. shalom is “the way God wants things to be” or “the way things ought to be.” It means “to make complete, restore or to make whole.”

This world is broken, but the hope of the gospel is that God is ultimately going to set this whole mess right! He’s going to restore “shalom.”

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,  as you have promised…” Luke 2:29
Simeon’s peace was tied directly to the presence of Jesus! So is ours.

3.   You can expect JOY.

I love the fact that when Simeon saw Jesus, his first response was to break into song! Imagine that! Simeon — a 113-year-old man began to sing! We call it Simeon’s song. When Anna saw Jesus, Jesus began to worship, too!

Some people get old and grow bitter. Others get old and grow better.

Simeon and Anna got better! Part of their secret was that they didn’t place their own preconceived expectations on God. Instead, they lived with a simple attitude of expectancy… They chose to trust God, even at 113 and 104 years old, respectively.

Here’s what joy is:

Joy is a deep, abiding sense and the confident expectation that God loves me, God is with me, God is for me, and that He is always working everything together for my ultimate good and His great glory!

And, according to the Bible, that kind of joy is possible even in the face of pain and suffering. Simeon and Anna experienced it!

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4.   You can expect LOVE.

The stories of Simeon and Anna are stories of two people whose lives had been captured and transformed by the reckless and relentless love of God. Their response? Love. Love that expressed itself in worship and devotion.

What are you expecting this Christmas?

You can expect love! I love the words of the prophet in Jeremiah 31:3.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!” —Jeremiah 31:3

This Christmas, why not choose to follow the examples of Simeon and Anna.  

Surrender your expectations to God.

Expect hope. Expect peace. Expect joy. Expect love.

Expect Jesus.

Want To Go Deeper? Read the story for yourself in Luke 2.