Advent just started at our church (well everywhere), and along with that, we started a sermon series focusing on the long expected arrival of Jesus as we prepare our hearts for Christmas. This is a season we get to spend marveling at the birth of our Savior - the fact that our Creator God stepped into time and became vulnerable and showed us who He is and that He was ultimately here to save us from ourselves. One of the words that our pastor focused on when describing Advent is anticipation. That word has been swirling in my mind...how it plays a role in my relationship with Christ, in my walk, and how it has plays a role in humanity.
I decided to look up the word anticipation, and I found two noteworthy points in its definition:
1) the act of looking forward (especially : pleasurable expectation)
2) visualization of a future event or state
Overall, a positive word encompassing hope, but I think - as it is with all gifts from God - it can be distorted by our broken nature.
How we taint anticipation:
I think anticipation probably categorizes the way we live a lot of our lives. Especially as it pertains to that second definition: visualization of a future event of state. How much time do we spend visualizing the future...and thinking that is where it gets good, where we will be happy. How often do we get preoccupied with anticipation and forget to live today or rest in the perfect place the Lord has us now?
Living in this type of anticipation carries with it discontentment and unnecessary anxieties: We are always seeking what's next and never fully content with our today, while the unknowns of tomorrow - carrying with them the burden of our happiness - are wrapped with worry. This anticipation - when met with anxiety - means I am no longer trusting God: as a good gift giver or in His providence. I am not resting in the perfect will of my Creator, and I am failing to find Him where I currently am. It means I am putting my future joy in the hands of this world - the will of others, and the material things that I can touch and feel.
I feel convicted - in those moments of anticipation - to lay them down. To abide in the perfect gifts the Lord has given me today. To cease to strive when I see I am striving in vain. Just as God’s timing is perfect in when He sent us Jesus, it was so when He called my name and it is still very much the case in every crippling step of distorted anticipation I take.
The joy found in anticipation:
We live in an already, not yet world. We don't have to anticipate the coming of our Savior. We are not waiting for a sign of salvation. It has come. At the same time, we are waiting on His promised return and the new Heavens and Earth to be formed as He descends upon the clouds. We - living in this period of already, not yet - get to find joy in seeing so many of God's promises fulfilled already - which seals our hearts in knowing He is and always has been faithful. During this time of anticipation, we get to know the Lord deeper and more fully because He has revealed himself to us through Jesus and His word. We get to spend this time pursuing Him and seeing others come to faith in Him.
But then I think...what would that anticipation look like if I was pre-incarnation of Jesus? What would my hope look like? How much more would I have to rely on the unseen, the untouchable to have faith in God's redemptive promise? Then...when I start down that rabbit hole, I pause to just praise the Lord for what He has done: for the very thing I cannot understand or wrap my head around in His laying His life down for me, and also for my perfect placement into this world. After the cross. After Jesus's first disciples paved the way for us to have an established church where we can worship and learn more how to love and serve our living God. I mean, when I really think about that, and the hope God has poured over me through all of these revelations, I feel blessed beyond measure that I am here...now...even though I am in an in-between that can be hard.
But conversely, living just before the incarnation, IMAGINE THE JOY of that anticipation being met with the birth of Jesus. The elation of that first Christmas, when anticipation of a promise that the most faithful One in this universe has made is met with fulfillment...well that is where we see how anticipation is a good gift meant to give us a joy higher than any other we could fathom.
I'll say it another way: When anticipation is that of hope in Christ, we will know the joy our soul was made for. When anticipation is that of hope in what this world can give us, then we live in a cycle of dismay.
This short film is such a beautiful portrayal of the joy of that first Christmas...for those waiting in anticipation for a way to be right with God. When anticipation was met with Jesus.