By Mandy Sayers
Lead Pastor, Glen Mar UMC, Ellicott City
Advent is a season of expectation as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child (again) and the coming of Christ in fullness, as in “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” It’s an unusual posture to be in, and an unusual season. We want to experience the Advent of our Lord anew and we want to cling to important traditions, and if we are old enough to have had losses, this season may bring up the “expectation” of a hard anniversary or a person that will be missing from our Christmas table.
This time of preparation is quite fraught for many of us. To sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in 2018 may seem particularly urgent for some or even frustratingly pointless for others who cry, “O Lord, how long?”
Again, we light the Advent wreath. Again, we decorate our hearths and homes. In a sense, we think we know just what to expect. Another Thanksgiving with our dysfunctional family, another choral cantata, another Christmas Eve, another Auld Lang Syne.
Advent comes to us in all its unruly chaos with a different set of expectations in mind. Advent invites us to open our hearts and lives, trusting God to do a new thing, looking for God to act in a way that defies our mundane expectations.
If we have an intentional Advent, with spiritual disciplines and preparations for the birth of Jesus rather than seeking the demise of our credit score, we just might see the God we did not expect, showing up around the edges, sanctifying the ordinary and making space for big and small miracles.
How will your church wait and prepare, not for the Advent We Expect, but the Advent God is Expecting? How can we turn the world’s expectations upside down this year? What would that look like for your neighbors, who may think they know just exactly what to expect, in a November election year, with the holidays around the corner like a test coming you didn’t study for?
When it comes to Jesus, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Like the last being first, and the first being last. Like sowing love instead of hate. Like being ready when the Holy Spirit blows apart our expectations in favor of God’s expectations.
Happy Advent. Expect the unexpected.
By Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill
I will always remember March 18, 2016, fondly. It was on that date, sitting in a doctor’s office, that my wife and I were informed that she was indeed pregnant.
It took a moment for the gravity of those words to sink in. Before we went into that office we were just two happy newlyweds having a great time. We were all about dinners out, trips here and there, romantic dates and all the things the newly married do.
After that announcement, we were suddenly something quite different. We were now expecting. It was a change of status that we were happy had happened, but the meaning of it all felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on us. Suddenly everything was different because something new was coming. Not here yet, but certainly coming.
When you expect something, you have to begin to prepare for its arrival. For us that meant wholesale changes to the life that we were living; after all, we were expecting. So, the house had to be redesigned; babyproofing began; new furniture arrived on a regular basis; offices became nurseries and man caves became play rooms. After all we were expecting.
The cute sports car that was great for date nights and romantic getaways had to find a new home and be replaced with a sensible family sedan; after all we were expecting. Maybe now was not the best time to take on big new undefined projects at work, or plan a fall vacation, or get rid of the life insurance policies; after all we were expecting.
Then, as we expected, but a couple weeks early, what we expected came to fruition in the form of a bouncing baby boy, and all of our preparation while we were expecting paid off.
Today, I invite you to prepare for what you expect. If you are expecting to get a spouse one day, start preparing now. If you expect a promotion on your job, start preparing now. If you expect a blessing from God, start preparing now.
To expect something is to know that it is on the way and patiently wait for its arrival. No matter what it is, no matter how long it takes, keep watching, keep knowing, keep expecting… and while you’re waiting, start preparing.