Advent is about anticipation, expectation and hope. It all points to something happening that is better than what we have now. The world has had a lot of anticipation, expectation, and hope regarding the pandemic. Last summer, there was anticipation as the numbers of new cases declined. We expected everything to go back to normal. We certainly hoped it would, then it didn’t. A new variant. A new surge. Instead of anticipation, expectation, and hope, we discovered disappointment. We found new fears. We asked, “When will this ever end?” I get it! I was right there too.
But Advent and Christmas still came in 2020 with the same anticipation, expectation and hope through the promises of God. “Fear not! A Savior has been born to you!” That was the good news of the angels to the shepherds long ago. Skip the hierarchy. The good news came to the lowly working class who truly appreciated the good news. That is still our anticipation, our expectation; still hope today.
I was about 5 or 6 years old anticipating the delivery of the department store Christmas catalogue. When it arrived, I would get out my pencil, turn to the toy section and circle all the things I wanted for Christmas. That particular year, I especially set my eyes on a tool set. There were a couple choices, but either one would work for me. I really wanted that tool set. Hammer, screwdriver, wrench, square, handsaw; it was a complete set! I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning when our family would gather around the tree and open presents.
Finally, the anticipated morning arrived. I was full of expectation and hope that one of those presents would be the tool set I wanted. We took turns opening presents. My younger brothers went first.
Imagine my disappointment when my brother opened his present and there it was – a tool set. Hammer, screwdriver saw; the whole works! I was very upset. I shouted, “Hey, that’s my present!” I grabbed the torn paper looking for the name tag. Sure enough, it had my brother’s name on it. I started crying. My disappointment turned to anger. My parents kept telling me to wait my turn. That tool set belonged to my little brother. I finally sat back down, gritting my teeth trying to control my anger and jealousy.
My sister handed me another present to open. I kept looking over at my little brother playing with “my” tool set. “That’s mine!” I mumbled to myself.
I opened the next present. The sight of the present filled me with mixed emotions. Excitement, shame, embarrassment, and feeling about 2 inches tall. I pulled away the wrapping paper and beheld a tool set. I quickly assessed my new tool set and compared it to my little brother’s tool set. His was a plastic preschool tool set. Mine was metal. A real hammer. A real saw. A real square. I was excited to get what I had hoped for, but embarrassed that I had carried on over such a “baby” tool set.
My parents loved me very much and would have never bought me a tool set for a 2-year-old. I was old enough for more of the real thing.
I have thought about that incident many times over the years, still embarrassed about how I reacted over such a foolish disappointment. My parents not only met my expectations but exceeded them. God sent his son, Jesus, born as a baby in Bethlehem to not only meet our expectations and fulfill our hopes, but to exceed them. To give us more than we ever asked or imagined!
Instead of fear, I am hopeful. Instead of disappointment over my circumstances, I can renew my anticipation of greater things yet to come. Instead of isolation and loneliness, I have Jesus, who loves me and promises to be with me forever, no matter what happens. I have a hope that is sure based on a God Who has worked since Creation to redeem us and reconcile us to Himself. He accomplished that through the salvation He has provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection. “For God so loved the world, He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
That is the expectation, the anticipation, and the hope of the world. Jesus. And that is why Advent and Christmas is such an important religious holiday. We celebrate the greatest gift of all, our Savior, Jesus Christ who was born one starry night in Bethlehem. That simple story is retold over and over to keep our anticipation, expectation and hope alive, reminding us God will keep all His promises.
He is with us as we put our faith in Him!
•The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor for Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.