Expecting the Unexpected One
“In sickness and in health.
For richer or poorer.
‘Til death do us part.”
At the time, I repeated the words with ease; but I can’t say that I expected to be forced to live out these vows in the first few years of our marriage.
Looking back, my expectation was that we would experience “health” and “richer” until we had several years under our belt. It is easy to say these vows when those are your expectations! Coming out of a few rough years, in truth, I believed that the Lord “owed me” a free pass for a while to enjoy a blissful, comfortable married life. But the unexpected happened. Health issues. Financial trials. Despairing moments. The crucible of suffering tends to reveal where our expectations truly lie.
We all have a certain vision of “the good life” that we expect -- both for us and for the ones we love. But what do we do when our expectations are shattered? When something we’ve prayed so long for doesn’t come? When it feels as if God has forgotten us? When we’re led straight into difficulty instead of ease? When we don’t get into our college of choice, when we can’t find a spouse, when we are barren, when a loved one dies, when life doesn’t go as planned?
In the midst of our unexpected circumstances, we are introduced to the ways of the expected one who comes and meets us in an unexpected way.
This is what the season of Advent is all about.
From the beginning, God’s people are given hope (Gen. 3:15) and told to expect one who will restore the shalom that was lost with the Fall. As the narrative unfolds, we are wide-awake, looking for, and rightfully expecting a character to be introduced who will fulfill Israel’s expectations: Noah (named “he will bring rest”), Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Solomon, David. Yet, these characters’ moments of glory are yoked with moments of failure. The people are left longing for an idealized version of all of these leaders - a prophet like Moses, a priest like Melchizedek, and king like David. All of these expectations can be distilled into a desire for a deliverer. The people of Israel wait in longing for a time that sin, death, and their enemies will not have the final word.
After 400 years of silence, Jesus enters the scene. He is presented by the Gospel writers as the fulfillment of Israel’s expectations in every way ... yet as much as he fulfills the expectations of God’s people, he equally challenges their expectations in unthinkable ways. He stoops down and comes to them in human flesh (a human being!). He is born in a lowly manger to a commonplace Jewish couple. He communes with the outcasts of society. He challenges the religious elite. And he suffers to the point of death! In short, the Kingdom of God comes in both expected, yet very unexpected ways. This Kingdom challenges human understanding and flips all human expectations of “the good life” on their head.
So how does this expected, yet unexpected Messiah and His Kingdom meet us in our moments of failed expectations?
- In the unexpected, our Messiah is Emmanuel, God with us.
When the unexpected hits, we are tempted to believe that we are alone and that no one understands. Yet -- God incarnate -- Jesus himself is the King familiar with the woes of his people. This is the great mystery of the incarnation: Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us! As we grieve over the brokenness of the world, Jesus grieves with us. And in our isolation, we have been grafted into God’s family - full of those who are called to “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and carry our suffering with us.
- In the unexpected, it may be revealed that our expectations need to change.
What is your vision of “the good life”? How does this align with the good life that is laid out in the Scriptures? Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn ... the poor in spirit ... those who are persecuted for His name’s sake” (Matt. 5). Paul says that he counts all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). Peter says to “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you,” (1 Pet. 4:12) and goes on to remind us that we are following in the footsteps of Christ, the one who suffered immensely!
In short, the good life may include circumstances, which shatter our expectations; however, in Christ, we have been given what we truly need to live “the good life:” an opportunity to participate as God’s beloved in God’s Kingdom. We have been given a new identity as daughters of the Most High God, resurrection power that trumps sin and death itself, and a sure and steady hope that we are headed toward the realization of all of our righteous hopes (and dreams)!
- In the unexpected, we remember the end of the story.
Take heart; the day is coming in which this Jesus - fully God and fully man - will restore all creation to a state of flourishing. Although we find ourselves not yet in the final chapter, Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that our hopes for a world without brokenness are not in vain! We will be reunited with our Creator - “they (we) will be His people and God Himself will be with them (us) as their (our) God. He will wipe away every tear from their (our) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there by mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). This is the greatest ending imaginable - our greatest expectations will be realized!
This Advent season, prepare the way of the Lord by welcoming in this unexpected One into your unexpected circumstances.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]