“Expecting the Expected”
Isaiah 40:1-11

All the questions…

“Are you excited for Christmas?” “What are getting for Christmas?” “What are you doing for Christmas?” “Are you going anywhere for Christmas?” “Are you ready for Christmas?” “Did you finish your Christmas shopping?” “Have any special Christmas plans?”

So many questions. It’s a time of year where people feel the need to connect with one another and spend time with family and friends. It’s what we do. We try and see everyone we can over the holidays, it makes for a mad rush as times as we run from here to there dropping in for visits, dinners, parties, gifts.

It’s expected.

We expect to be busy at this time of year. We expect that people will be traveling, visiting, sharing with others. It’s part of the expectation of the season.

But what else do we expect?

Are there things that happen we don’t expect? Sometimes. Sometimes things happen outside of our control and will make us change our plans. Maybe a pleasant surprise perhaps?

It’s sometimes wise to be expecting the unexpected this time of year. You never know who might drop in for a surprise!

Sometimes things happen that we aren’t looking for, and we miss them completely. We realize later that we were there when it happened, but were so occupied with whatever else it was we were doing we missed it completely.

The birth of Jesus Christ is almost one of those moments.

The prophets had foretold of the coming of the Messiah, the one who would come and save the world. The one who would come and make the world right once again.

“A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.”

We are but temporary. All the world is temporary. People live and die. Plants grow and wither. The beauty of the flowers fade. But there is one constant, and it stands true today, “the word of our God will stand forever.”

The word of God has stood for centuries. It has been a building block for the church as people study it to learn about Jesus Christ so they can grow in faith and knowledge of the love of God. So they could recognize Jesus Christ when they encounter him, not in person ourselves, but as the Spirit that is revealed to us, calling us into relationship with the Father and the Son.

Think about how all this came about. An angel appearing to a young woman and sharing the news with her. Could she have said ‘no’? Could she have turned down this invitation?

She certainly seemed to understand the significance of this moment as she heard the story of what was to happen, and what had happened with Elizabeth, and she responded favourably to what the angel had told her.

Being a woman of faith, she recognized the story unfolding, a story which included her. I guess, how could she turn it down? How could Mary turn down an offer from God to make the Messiah known?

Christmas is a time for us to connect with the story. Everyone loves a baby, right? Everyone is excited when a new baby is born, the signs of new life, the carrying on of tradition and family. Someone new to spoil.

So what better time for us to connect with God than with the birth of His Son? The invitation to be part of this small family has been extended to us as we join in with the expectations around that special night when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, comes into the world.

As we journey through Advent, we are trying to find a balance between the busyness of the season and getting time to connect with the peace that God has offered in His Son.

The expectations placed on us are great with everything that is happening this month. But so are the expectations placed on Mary and the child she is carrying.

Jesus Christ was promised by God to come and make the world right once again. In Isaiah we read that he will,

“[come] with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”

Jesus was promised to come and care for God’s people, His children. To protect them from harm, and lead them back to God.

This Jesus has done. Jesus came and showed people who God sees as his children who need his protection and care. Jesus came and showed it wasn’t the religious leaders or the kings and rulers, or the bankers, lawyers and business people. It seems those people were more than able to care for themselves.

Jesus came to show that all people are worthy of being called children of God. Especially those who were unable to care for themselves. Jesus came and worked with the outcasts, the sick, the poor and the hungry. Jesus walked with regular people and pushed against the norms of the world which were causing the problems of the day.

Jesus preached the love of God that only he, the Prince of Peace, could bring.

What are expecting this Christmas? What are we expecting to see this year?

Are we expecting the expected?

Are we expecting to see the same thing as every other year? Or are we hoping to go deeper this year in our relationship with our God through the gift of His Son?

This is a great and wonderful time to come to know Jesus Christ. It is a time when we read of the hope that he will bring to the world to those who are waiting for the Messiah to come. It’s a time where expectations are that something special will happen this season.

And there are so many ways in which to encounter the Christmas story outside of our churches. There are shows and movies on television. There are concerts galore this time of year. Think of last Sunday where you had at least four options on the Northside alone to go into churches and learn about the impact of the birth of Jesus Christ.

We expect something special this time of year. We expect people to get into the Christmas spirit. We expect people to slowly filter into our churches, and to join us in a nice big crowd on Christmas Eve. We expect to have wonderful music and beautifully decorated church. And it always happens.

What else do we expect? What else would we like to see?

It is my prayer that in this season of celebration, people will expect to meet Jesus themselves. In hearing the wonderful stories of his birth in song and in story, it’s my hope they will be touched in a way on God Himself can touch them. That the Lord of all will come and make himself known far and wide, once again, through the birth of His Son.

We expect the expected, and it usually happens. What if we could ask for just a little bit more this Christmas season. Could we be so bold as to expect the unexpected and pray that people who come into this church will see the new life not only born in the manger, but born within us all through God’s wonderful and powerful Spirit. Not just during this season, but carried forward into the new year and beyond as well.

This is the season of giving and receiving gifts. Let us ask God to share this wonderful gift that we have received with those who have yet to know what a wonderful gift it is.

Let’s expect it to happen, and work for it to be fulfilled.