From my earliest childhood I remember expecting good things to come. What child does not look forward to birthdays and Christmas? Visits to a kind neighbor or a favorite aunt’s house can ignite small anticipations of good things to come. Our daughter has to be careful about telling our granddaughter of a pending visit with Nana – the anticipation can become too much! Our daughter’s strategy is to mark the date on a calendar and ceremoniously cross of each passing day as THE day gets closer.
I do not know if we ever outgrow anticipations and expectations. Sherri and I visited a number of antique stores on our anniversary getaway last week. Each case and pile of discarded ‘treasures’ got careful attention. My anticipation got rewarded with a marine green Sheaffer Balance OS from the mid 1930s in fairly decent shape and a black Sheaffer PFM 1 from the early 1960s that had very little if any use. I was almost embarrassed by the 50% discount on the PFM; it was already a good deal. After a few hours of repair, the pens will be ready to dance magically across blank pages waiting to capture the birthing of new ideas. I can hardly wait.
Sometimes life’s storms and heartaches drain the human spirit of expectations like a week-old birthday balloon that lost the energy to bounce on the ceiling. Unrealized expectations cause more divorces than arguments over money. Seeing the eyes of despair makes me want to weep with the forlorn person. In those moments I have no words of comfort; all I can do is be present in the hopelessness and trust the Spirit will bring life once again. I also know what it is like to be held by others in the dark nights that seemed to stretch for eternity.
Perhaps C. S. Lewis captured the wonder of expectation better than any other writer in the 20thcentury. His own suffering resulted from God not answering his prayer to save his beloved mother from cancer’s life draining power. At 10 or 11 he gave up on God and escaped into intellectual pursuits. After witnessing the horrors of WWI, the loss of a dear friend and suffering injury himself, Lewis eventually found atheism unequal to the task of explaining why the human spirit continued to quest for joy and justice.
Lewis needed to know why people could imagine, even long for, things like beauty and peace when so little could be found. His search led him to conclude the human anticipation for the good could only come from a good God.
As I walk through Luke 3 I am shocked with the fragrance of hope emanating from a people who lived in deplorable conditions. What should have been eye watering swamp gasses of despair gave way to the divine gift of expectation for something good. The God’s word came to John. He preach good news to the crowds who stood on the shoulders of many generations of expectant people.
John’s word of leveling and straightening the path so that all flesh could see the glory of God called them to the baptismal pool. The strangely dressed prophet offered a third alternative to the human responses of fight or flight. Rather than fleeing the wrath to come, they could bear fruit. Their best expectation, judgment avoidance, got a godly upgrade to produce good fruit. All they had to do to gain the upgrade was repent of their old perspective and behave in line with the coming glory.
When I think good news, I automatically go to the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Luke explained the words of John, though just a shadowy anticipation of the coming Messiah, were good news as well. His words of accountable repentance, coming judgment and fruitful living brought good news. Perhaps his prophetic words to the Herodians brought good news to the crowd as well – they could expect judgment would come to the power brokers.
John’s words of Jesus fell far short of what would come, but that is the nature of divine expectations. John saw the Holy Ghost and judgment fires collapsed into one moment; his expectations missed Jesus’ third way of calling a church to continue His mission to the ends of the earth. When repentance leads us to third way alternatives in light of the good news, our expectations will fall short of God’s vision for restored humanity. We will need anticipation upgrades right up to our last breath.
My expectations in light of John’s good news calls me to pray.
Today I confess all of my hopes for good things come from You. I know my hopes need adjustment to see ‘third way’ opportunities, but the fact that I expect peace, joy, and justice in this world testify to Your redemptive care for all creation. Like John, I too have a limited perspective of what You plan to do in these last days.
I repent of limited expectations of deliverance and judgment against wickedness. Like the crowds, you call me to share my resources with others. Like the tax collectors, you call me to behave justly in all business practices. Like the soldiers, you call me to never misuse power and to be content with my wages.
The fruit I bear does not seem to be market worthy. I can only see deformations caused by worms and early frosts, but You call me to look again. Turning away from kingdom impact of the fruit You produce in me rejects Your choice to use Your church to witness to the kingdom. I repent again. I accept an expectation refresh. I feel the breath of Your Spirit as you bring renewed life to my vision.
Thank you for the cornea implants. Cataracts of time have clouded my expectations, but through Your Word and Spirit, I see new glimpses of light. By simply bearing the fruit You put within me, I can be a part of Your Kingdom coming and Your Will being done.
In Jesus Name,