The Expectations of Christmas Wishes
The celebrations of Thanksgiving are gone and now we move quicklyÂ forward to the expectations of this year’s Christmas celebration. Today marks the first day of advent.
Advent is Latin for arrival or the coming of something that has great importance. It marks the beginning of the Liturgical Church year but it has greater significance than that as it is part of a thanksgiving celebration as we anticipateÂ theÂ glorious expectation of Christ’s return. Â Advent is historically documented as being celebrated by the early Christians as far back as 480 A.D. however it is thought that celebrations before this time period also took place. Advent, according toÂ historical documentation servesÂ two purposes; the first as a time of preparation ofÂ the celebratedÂ birth of Christ by works of penance and the second as a series of Ecclesiastical offices drawn up for the same purpose. Advent is often treated as a second lent and is sometimes called little lent. Churches that celebrate advent with the advent wreath, light the first candle today which is purple and is known as the prophecy candle. This first SundayÂ we celebrateÂ Hope with it full anticipation of the expectations of the great gifts of God.
As I began to think about the Hope of Christmas I reflected upon the anticipation and expectations of Christmas as a child. It often seems that today’s society has lost the joyful excitement of the anticipation and expectations of Christmas because we rush to the celebrated day rather than enjoy the anticipation along the way.
Do you remember the Sears Wishbook as a child?Â I remember vividlyÂ the excitement that came when that catalog arrived in the mail. It was huge, a good two inches thick but I wasn’t interested in the first half of the book andÂ when allowed I would immediately flip to the back of the book because that was where the toys were. And what glorious toys they were, all sizes and types of things I could only imagine could be produced from Santa’s workshop as I had never seen such wonderful and grand things.
Dog-ear pages andÂ circled items started the process to make the famed list that would go to Saint Nicolas.Â You had to be careful though because greed was not appreciated so selections were carefully made, whittling the list down until you had just those few items that were really going toÂ meet your hearts desires. I remember comparing them with my friends as we poured over the catalog together. By the time Christmas arrived the pages in the back of the book would appear worn from the constant touching and turning of the paper. The longÂ anticipation of preparationÂ and the great expectations that would come from it was never doubted. This wishingÂ process took what seemed like weeks of dreaming and the almost uncontainableÂ excitementÂ of the anticipation coupled with the expectations of good thingsÂ abounded from it.
The exciting anticipation of Christmas wishes somehow seemed easierÂ as a child asÂ my expectations wereÂ joyfully met upon the delivery of Christmas Day. Did all my wishes come true, of course not, but I do not ever remember feeling disappointed as when the wonderful day arrived somehowÂ the wishesÂ no longer mattered as the expectations of excitement and celebration of the day were certainly met in full abundance.
Somehow though over the years the expectations of my adult Christmases were not so greatly met and the wishes turned into dull disappointments. The preparations during the anticipation became world driven wishes with little true meanings and the expectations ended with much dismay. The expectations of Christmas as touted by the commercialism of the world, failed while the expectations of the behaviors of others, failed and the expectations of how life should be, failed. MyÂ Christmas wishesÂ lost their anticipation because of the continued failures of theÂ expectations.
The weakness of expectations resulting in the lack luster of anticipation is the word, wish. A wish, as defined, is a word for things that are not possible. Too often we use the word wish thinking that we are putting a synonym in for the word hope. Wishes and hopes are not the same thing as hope is only for the possible, as it is the trust of good things to come. The long-awaited anticipation of Christmas Day expectations were fully met as joy during childhood not because ofÂ Christmas wishes being metÂ but because of Christmas hopes.Â No matter what may really lie under the tree there was always the hope of something good.
Perhaps you too have lost your excitement for Christmas as an adult because you have mistakenlyÂ traded wishes for hope. Maybe your expectations have failed because your expectations have lost their patience orÂ they areÂ lost becauseÂ you are not anticipating it with new eyes relishing in the known meanings of the traditions and become excited to share it with others. This reminds me of a story I read of a preacher who lived near theÂ Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. He and his wife foundÂ the houseÂ to be a fascinating place filled with the riches of world treasures and a life styleÂ different fromÂ his own with a home unlike anywhere in the United States. The coupleÂ had visited many times and would often takeÂ guests for tours when entertaining. In the beginning they noticed new things and really enjoyed going and experiencing it over and over however through the years they recognized the same historyÂ rotely repeated from the tour guides. Now when guests come into town they simply give them directions to Asheville.
Christmas, as well as life, is like this too; in the beginning excitement spills forth with interest and the anticipation in each and every detailÂ but over time it seems nothing changes and so the ability to create joy gets lost as expectations are not met because we take our focus off of the hope of the trusted “God-possible” and place it in the weak wishes of the impossible world.
As our focus becomes disjointed the expectations fade and we depend more on wishes than hopes. When wishes become the focus we have to revisit how we approach things. Sometimes we can refocus on our own and other timesÂ refocusingÂ becomes forcedÂ because of circumstances.
One Christmas Bob had lost his job in the months prior to the season. Many people in the town where he lived had to move with the major employer of that area or face unemployment. Bob was one of the unlucky ones who had not been with the company long enough to be asked to transfer. As the plant closed down the town began to slowly dissolve too. Most of the service businesses closed and it seemed no one could afford to hire anything to be done anymore. The retail businesses that were still open were just trying to survive in the hopes that another company would move into the vacated building.
Things looked really bleak for Bob and his family. They knew they could not afford to buy anything for Christmas and they would have to do something different. The entire family began their Christmas preparation the day after Thanksgiving. They began to make their own Christmas decorations that they would place on their real tree that they would go and find in the woods. They decided to make hand-crafted gifts for each other and since they could not afford to buy wrapping paper, they saved the junk mail flyers and newspapers to wrap their treasures.
Christmas day came and the tree, homemade presents, and family preparationsÂ are ones thatÂ Bob’s three children remember and will for the rest of their lives. Things got better for Bob as he found a job. His wife and children fell into a regular routine but no one ever forgot that Christmas. It was not a Christmas of just a few minutes. This Christmas took a lot of creativity, hard work, and full preparation. The result was a confident expectation met through the anticipation.
God created the very same thing as He made the special preparations for the first Christmas. It too is a Christmas that will not last a few minutes but a lifetime. We can live confidently in the thankful anticipation of the hope of the final expectation no matter the circumstances we may face.
Our focus verse this week is all about the expectations of hope. The gratifiedÂ anticipation of the often silentÂ expectation is found in Psalms 42:5-6a
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again-my Savior and my God! (NLT)
The Expectations of Christmas Hope
This week’s verse places the full focusÂ of expectationsÂ in the hope of God. TheÂ discouraged writer of this PsalmÂ is so because he could not worship God in the Jerusalem temple during the God-given holidays because of his war-torn country and thatÂ he is himself is exiled as a result. Life was not going as he planned but he knew his survival depended on his focus of hope in God. The secureÂ anticipation of the good expectations that he trusted would happen. He was able to move forward by focusing on the hope of God.
Is there room for hope when we listen to the world? Do we allow the world to influence us turning our anticipation into wishes and fading our expectationsÂ of hope? Hope cannot be taken away from us for even if we have nothing we can still have hope. Hope gives us the confidence that things will get better. If we have no hope we have no belief.
We have hope because God is faithful and keeps His promises to us as He has throughout the Bible. (Psalms 44:3, Lamentations 3:24,Â Romans 15:12) Our hope is stronglyÂ placedÂ with Christ. This is a hope of forgiveness and of eternal life with our creator. This hope is like a Christmas packageÂ wrapped up just for us and lying under the tree. We know it is there and we know what it is. We anticipate how we will use the gift and excitement spills forth about it but we know that we will have to wait until Christmas day before we really get to unwrap it and use it. Our gift in Christ is much like this. We are in the anticipation stage. Our excitement overflows and we hope with great expectations for the day we will get to unwrap it and use it. We see with our hearts now but on that day the revelation will comeÂ to our eyes. Until that day however we lie in the anticipation. The expectations are the silent yet confident waiting period for that day of relief to arrive. The expectations can only come with hope.
This gift of hope is available to all but it must be accepted with the full anticipation of the confident expectations. There is a story I have heard many times and perhaps you have too but itÂ bears sharing again.
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed father looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. But the day came when war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country.
After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram that his beloved sonÂ died while carrying a fellow soldier to a medic. On Christmas morning a knock came at the door of the old man’s home, and as he opened the door,Â a soldier greeted him with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, ”I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” ”I’m an artist,” said the soldier, ”and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of his son.
Though the art critics would never consider the work a piece of genius, the painting did feature the young man’s face in striking detail, and seemed to capture his personality. The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned.
The day soon arrived, and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. ”Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked.
Minutes passed with not a sound from those who came to buy. From the back of the room someone callously called out, ”Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the important paintings.” There were other voices which echoed in agreement. But the auctioneer replied, ”No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. ”I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it. I will bid the $100.” ”I have a bid for $100,” called the auctioneer. ”Will anyone go higher?” After a long silence, the auctioneer said, ”Going once, Going twice, Gone.” and the gavel fell.
Cheers filled the room and someone was heard to say, ”Now we can get on with it!” But the auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, ”What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What aboutÂ the valuableÂ paintings? ThereÂ are millions of dollarsÂ of art here! We demand that you explain what’s going on!” The auctioneer replied, ”It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son… gets it all.”
The time to accept the entire gift is today. AcceptÂ it with the jubilantÂ anticipation of the arrival and the full knowledge of the hope and expectations of great things.
As we begin to celebrateÂ advent seasonÂ take upÂ the first offered gift of anticipation, hope asÂ I pray for all of you the prayer of Romans 15:13.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love in Christ,
What Does Hope Do For Mankind?
Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardship when no one is caring.
Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
Hope brings the victory when no one is winning. –
John Maxwell from Think on These Things ”“
What are Your Thoughts? Join Us in Discussion.
Are you celebrating advent with your family? Are you anticipating the season of expectations? What are theÂ anticipations and expectationsÂ that hope holds for you? Join us in candidÂ discussion with the first topic of advent, hope, or other related topics.