On the night Jesus was born Israel had waited in expectation for their coming Messiah for centuries. Held under bondage to Rome and by the decree from a foreign ruler Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem to register for tax purposes.
Mary knew who resided in her womb; Joseph did, too. What they didn’t know was how their life, His life, would play out in the years to come.
On the night Jesus was born, His earthly parents had no place to stay. They were given permission to sleep in a barn, a stable. There in that dirty, smelly place where animals were housed and fed Joseph and Mary settled in for the night. Animals were their company and straw was their bed.
Mary delivered Jesus that night among those beasts and laid him in the feeding troth, the manager. I wonder if Joseph expected it to be different. I wonder what was going on in Mary’s mind as she labored alone with her husband.
God’s Only Son, Israel’s Promised Messiah, our Savior came naked and bloody, wrapped in a robe of humanity, as the world busied itself with the hustle and bustle of traveling and registering for the current ruler’s tax.
No one noticed.
I imagine no one expected Messiah would come this way.
Jesus rarely met the expectations of others. He taught in the synagogue and the religious crowd despised Him, calling Him a heretic.
He gathered disciples but taught them to forgive others, to pray for one another, and to love their enemies instead of raising insurrectionists to overthrow the evil Roman rule.
“How was he going to save anyone?”
“Look at Him! He can’t even save Himself.” The crowd mocked as Jesus hung on a cross between two thieves.
Israel expected Messiah to be different.
Christmas time is a time filled with expectations.
Children expect Santa to come through with the toys on their list.
Families expect this year to be different: No disappointing Pa Pa or arguing with Uncle Jake.
“Certainly my husband picked up on my hints and knows what I want THIS year!”
We expect our children to visit us; our spouses to love and be faithful to us; our pastors to shepherd us; our friends to be loyal to us. But many times, our expectations fail us leaving us broken and hurting.
Year after year most of us live with unmet expectations.
Unmet expectations cause us to miss the power and presence of God in the reality of our situation, because expectations tend to define the story. When we believe something will or should happen we tend to assign the definitions of who, what, when, where and how.
But we can embrace God’s power and presence if we lay aside our expectations and look to the future with anticipation instead. Anticipation creates an excitement in us believing something is going to happen while we wait trusting God with the way it all plays out.
The religious leaders in Israel missed their Messiah because what they thought and what God planned were different.
Some of Jesus’ followers missed their Deliverer because what they thought and what God planned were different.
Saul fought against true believers because what Saul thought and what God planned were different.
Tomorrow, I am going to a prison near my home and help pack some Christmas bags to distribute to the women housed at that facility. I imagine each one expected something different for their lives. But there they are, separated from family and friends, spending Christmas behind bars.
Maybe you are not where you expected to be this Christmas, either.
Are you sitting in a prison cell?
Are you sleeping in a homeless shelter?
Are you spending the holidays in hospice?
Are you weeping in the funeral home?
Jesus is there.
The Who of our Faith; the What of our Worship; the When of our Hope; the Where of our Salvation; the How of our Deliverance. Jesus!
He appears in unexpected places.
Jesus works in unexpected ways.
Anticipate (wait with excitement). This Christmas, just like the night of His birth in a dirty stable stall, Jesus is likely to show up in the least likely place.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [hope] is from him” Psalm 62:5 KJV.