Archives for posts with tag: anticipation

RE_Words“Do it again”. As small children my boys would repeat these words to recapture the thrill of some moment or activity they loved. TV sports have been changed by the instant replay, and we mark the passing of time with repeated family rituals on holidays. Repetition is how we learn, how we find comfort, and how we establish tradition.

A significant portion of our lives is consumed by doing the same things day after day. We often drive the same way to the same job, looking for “our” spot in the parking lot. We go to church and want to sit in “our” pew. We repair things that don’t work, or we replace them with things that do work. We shop to replenish the groceries in our pantry, re-mow the same yard, and “reclean” the same house…over and over and over.

We repeat a request that is ignored, rewrite a paper, or reheat leftovers. Adding the prefix “re” to the beginning of a word indicates the idea of doing that action again. Have you ever noticed how many of the words that describe God’s activity in the life of man begin with the prefix “re”?

When God created Adam, He formed man’s body with his hands and breathed his spirit into that body and gave it life. Thousands of years later, in response to the prayers of His people, God recreated himself as a human baby. That baby grew into the one who would sacrifice his own life to redeem his people and restore their relationship with God so that they could receive eternal life. His body was resurrected from the grave so that we could repent and renew our hope in the future without fear of death.

I suspect that part of what we are supposed to be doing during Advent is refocusing our attention from what usually happens to what God is continuing to do. When we intentionally look for God’s activity in our world, we find that He is still working for good in the hearts of those who love Him. We discover that He is still seeking relationship with His people. We are delighted by the presence of the one who has never stopped loving and saving and speaking to His people…and He will do it again, over and over, until He calls us to a new life that we can barely imagine now.

God doesn’t require our perfection before we are welcome in His presence. He is patient with our flaws and our fears. But He wants us to stop repeating the sins of our past, repent, and return to a deeper relationship with Him. He wants to give us a fresh sense of His power and presence so that our faith is renewed and our joy is rekindled. Perhaps the best way to celebrate Advent is to stop going through the motions of what you’re used to doing, and look for God to interrupt your expectations with new perspective on who He is and on who He is recreating you to be.

Advent is the anticipation of His coming into our world. As you look back over your relationship with God, consider the most holy moments you’ve had in His presence and ask Him to “Do it again”.

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advent

Our expectations usually land somewhere in between our hope and the reality of our past experience. Past disappointments can diminish our expectations. We can be so focused on our expectations that we miss God. That’s why we need Advent.

 Luke 1:5-25 Zechariah tells the story of God interrupting the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They are both “well along in years”. He had been a priest for decades. He may have given up hope of ever serving in the Holy of Holies, but one day, unexpectedly, he was chosen as the priest who would go to burn incense in the Holy of Holies. He no doubt expected to be awed by the beauty and the deep meaning of the moment. He undoubtedly prepared a beautiful blessing to be given to the crowds outside, waiting for him to finish.

 Elizabeth spent decades hoping to get pregnant. In a culture that saw barrenness as a curse from God, she undoubtedly begged God year after year for a baby. But her wrinkles replaced her hope, and she no doubt gave up hope of having a family.

 God miraculously interrupted the expectations of both of them with what they did not expect. Zechariah went into the Holy of Holies to serve God; it never occurred to him that God would actually meet him there. Elizabeth assumed that if God didn’t honor her prayers on her time table, that God didn’t honor her prayers. Both underestimated the God who exceeds the expectations of His people.

 Zechariah’s doubt at the power of God to give him a son left him speechless (literally!) and postponed that prepared blessing until after the birth of John (Luke 1:67-79). We don’t know how Elizabeth received the news, but I have to believe that the pantomime when Zechariah got home was hilarious.

 Advent is the season of the Christian calendar where we “wait” for the coming of God into our world. We don’t like to wait. We try to fill the time with activity and tasks. Too many spend Advent frustrated with long lines, endless chores, traffic jams, and schedules that are too full. We will spend too much money on presents and decorations that will be momentarily appreciated and quickly forgotten. New Year’s Day will find us unchanged by the celebration of Christmas.

 I’ve always believed that I can nearly always find what I’m looking for. Looking for trouble or looking for blessing will give me a much greater chance of finding them. What are you looking for this Christmas? Are you so focused on your to do list that you will miss the presence of God? Does the mundane consume so much of your attention that the holy moments pass you by, unnoticed? Do you eagerly anticipate God’s presence? Do you expect that He will bless you and bring you joy? Are you planning for his answers to your prayers and expecting Him to do something new in your life?

 Hoping that God will interrupt your life to bring your good and His glory is very different from expecting that He will. Begin each day of Advent expecting God to interrupt your schedule. Look for His fingerprints on the events and circumstances on your day. Anticipate a new perspective on His plan for your life. Watch for Him to delight you with His presence and praise Him when He does.

 

waiting room

Some fidgeted nervously. Some slept. Some tried to engage anyone who would listen in mindless conversation. Some distracted themselves with a book or their computer. Some prepared coffee they didn’t drink or stared at the hands of the clock that seemed to be moving way too slowly. All were waiting.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to sit in a waiting room. I always bring work with me because I can’t stand to just do nothing. I sometimes get irritated because the person I’m “waiting” to see doesn’t seem to value my time as much as they expect me to value theirs.

Prayer can be like that. We finally acknowledge God’s presence and we want his undivided attention and immediate response on our schedule. We share our plans and hopes and fears…and then we want action.

I am a task oriented person who typically sees waiting as a waste of my time. But what if the span of time between my prayers and God’s answers is purposeful? What if there are some things I need to learn before His answer will make sense? What if God is working out details in someone else’s life that are part of my answer? What if God wants to use my situation to teach me to depend on Him, to trust His judgment, to have greater confidence in His ability than I do in mine? Do I trust God enough to wait patiently…or do I fidget and manipulate to get the answer I want? Do I trust God’s authority…or do I seek the advice and counsel of anyone who will listen? Do I look for his reassurance and evidence that He is at work…or do I just “do time” until I can move on to my next heavenly request? Is my faith in Him, or in my frantic preparation and activity?

I have loved ones that are waiting for results of medical tests. I have precious friends that are waiting for job offers. There are things in my life that I have done everything I know to do to prepare for…and now I must wait for the details to work themselves out. My frustration in the details that seem to hinder me indicates that I don’t trust God to work all things out for my good.

God is not just in the request and the answer itself. God is in the waiting. What if God wants me to watch him at work and be strengthened in my faith? What if God has an answer that is way better than my request? What if God wants my wait time to be a testimony to those who are watching me? What if God is more interested in spending time with me than he is accomplishing my “to do” list?

God told Moses that his name is “I AM”. Present tense. Not past…not future. Regardless of whatever is weighing on your mind and heart today, find peace and joy in the God who patiently waits for you to seek him, to trust him with the details of your day and your life. Just because you don’t see evidence of God’s activity doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Expect his presence. Eagerly anticipate a fresh vision of his power. Place your confident hope in the God who loves you and who leads you forward, one step at a time, until all things are accomplished.

Anticipation

We anticipate big events in life. A wedding. The birth of a baby. Holidays. The first day of school. Graduation. A new job. A new home. Retirement.

I’m looking forward to a big event. I don’t know exactly what it will be like and I will be WAY out of my comfort zone, but I can’t wait. I’ve marked time during the last few months with this event in mind. I’ve talked to others who have experienced it. They declare that words will not contain it and that I will be permanently changed by it.

Whether or not it exceeds my expectations, my anticipation of it has brought me excitement and joy. I think God delights in our joyful anticipation. Sometimes we go through the motions of doing what we’ve always done, paying lip service to hope, but not really expecting change. When is the last time you anticipated God interrupting your schedule? Walking through the gates of heaven? Seeing the face of Christ for the first time?

God wants us to desire what he has planned for us – whether that is tomorrow or eternity. He introduced himself to Moses with an incomplete sentence – “I Am”. Christ commands his disciples to “follow me”. “I am” what? Follow you where? There is anticipation built into those that is absolutely intentional on God’s part. He wants us to choose him and love him….just like he has chosen and loved us. He joyfully anticipates the “prodigal” coming home. All of heaven celebrates when the “lost sheep” is found. He is coming back to take us to the home he has prepared for us. He wants us to joyfully anticipate what he has planned for us.

Isaiah 65:18 Look ahead with joy. Anticipate what I’m creating. (The Message Paraphrase)

Much Ado about....what?

So much of life, especially the big events, takes so much longer to get ready for than it does to actually do it. Christmas pageants and concerts have tens of hours of rehearsal for a performance that usually lasts only one. Unwrapping presents takes a tiny fraction of the time it took to plan and shop and wrap each present and craft beautiful wrapping and bows to decorate them. I may spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that will disappear in 20 minutes. Months go into planning a wedding that usually takes no more than a few minutes. The women’s ministry team at my church is hours away from our 10th annual Christmas Tea. This year we will have 248 women. Months of endless details and hard work by so many go into planning a tea that will be only a memory two hours after it begins.

Is it all worth it? What is it about the preparation? Is all this “Much Ado About Nothing”, or is the preparation as important as the event? God thought it was. He spent six days preparing the place he would give to man. Whether you believe that was six 24 hour periods or six spans of time, he took the time to make it perfect before he created humans. He promised to “go before” his people into the Promised Land and into their future, and Christ has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us.

The time we spend preparing for what is to come really does matter. Anticipation of the event can be as exciting as the event itself. Rehearsals build relationships and memories, and hopefully lead to a performance that draws those who come to watch into the truth and beauty of what is presented. Each gift under the tree is evidence that someone is loved and special. My boys work and are rarely at home for dinner, so when we can all gather around the table, it is an increasingly rare pleasure. I want the meal to be delicious, but mostly I just want us to savor our time together. The details of a wedding may fade or become fun stories, but that wedding is the start of a marriage and love story that will hopefully last a lifetime. The vast majority of ladies who will attend the Tea have no concept of the complicated, time consuming details of tickets or door prizes or logistics of food preparation. They don’t see the chaos of the kitchen and the near misses of the servers. They just see an exquisitely decorated dining room and most think all the details were perfect. When family and friends find gifts under my tree, a meal prepared just for them, or a seat at a wedding or the Tea just for them, what I hope they understand is that they are loved and belong in this place I have prepared for them.

God is never hurried or frantic. He doesn’t stress or express irritation over details that just won’t seem to fall into place. Adam was created when Eden was ready. Jesus came in “the fullness of time.” (Gal 4:4) And in his great mercy, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. When we get there we will find gifts specifically designed for us individually. There will be a wedding and a feast. Your invitation is in your Bible. He wants us to know what is to come, so that we may joyfully anticipate its coming. The details will be magnificent, and we’ll have all of eternity to celebrate and share fellowship with our God, and with each other.