I didn’t know what to expect last July as I sat in the large auditorium at Purdue University with 5,000 youth and adults waiting for the worship service to begin. It was my first time at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. The service turned out to be lots of fun, engaging, energizing and inspirational. There in that auditorium I saw the word that is our theme word for Advent this year. As the liturgy flashed up on the screen, I saw the word, “Expect.” It wasn’t made to stand out from the other words on the screen. It just jumped out at me, as if speaking to me about how to approach Advent this year.
As I’ve looked closer at the word, “expect” really is a great word to describe what we do during Advent. The Latin form of the word means to “look out for,” which is definitely an Advent thing to do. Here are some of the dictionary definitions for “expect”:
- to regard (something) as likely to happen,
- to regard (someone) as likely to do or be something
- to believe that (someone or something) will arrive soon.
All of those definitions are about Advent. Advent is this time when we believe something is going to happen, someone is likely be something and do something, someone will arrive soon. Advent is expecting God to show up, to become one of us, to be among us, to bring God’s good news into the world. And it is certainly a time to renew our belief that not only did God arrive 2,000 years ago, but that God will come again soon.
What do we regard as likely to happen when the presence of God arrives? What will Emmanuel, God-with-us, do when our long wait is over? How will our lives, our life together and this world be different when the presence of God takes on human form and dwells among us? Those questions help us examine our own expectations of Advent and Christmas so that we live and follow God’s mission for the world.
In one of our Advent scripture passages this year (Matthew 11:2-11), a group of people approached Jesus after all the miracles and teaching he had done and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Another translation asks the same question this way, “Are you the One we have been expecting, or are we still waiting?” The questions invite us to think about what we believe Jesus will do and what he can and continues to do. What do we expect to happen in our lives, in our community, in our nation and world when God shows up? The Bible gives us signs to watch for and even calls us to live those signs of God’s presence. God calls us to live not as if Christmas hasn’t happened, but as clear examples that God’s presence is among us already, shaping who we are, how God intends the world to be and what it means to trust that God will one day come again and finish what was started on the cross and in the empty tomb.
What are we expecting from Jesus this season? What hopes and expectations do we have that Christ’s arrival will fulfill and accomplish? As we light the Advent candles each Sunday, we will name our expectations for the coming of the Light into the world and reflect on what God expects from us. We’ll celebrate the good news in the music our choir performs throughout the season. We’ll give gifts on Sunday, December 4th to families of those in prison, to people without proper clothes for this winter season and families who do not have gifts to put under the tree. We’ll name our brokenness, pain and struggles at the Longest Night Service on December 21 and celebrate the good news of our lives and this world on Christmas Eve. Then, we’ll gather for a Service of Lessons & Carols on Christmas morning at 10:45am and worship on New Year’s Day at 10:45am, celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper both days, as we live into the expectations God’s presence brings for this world God loves.
Join us in waiting expectantly this season, expecting God to arrive, looking for the signs of God’s presence at work among us and celebrating the Light dawning in new ways through the One who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, our Savior and Lord.