“Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him.” Psalm 37:7a
Confession–I love snow. I absolutely love it! And in the month of December–oh please let it snow. Christmas songs like “White Christmas” and “Let It Snow” may have been penned with the likes of me in mind. Every year, my youngest son and I hope and pray for a white Christmas. I’m pretty sure that the Christmas temperatures last year were well above normal. Every year that we have asked for snow for Christmas, it seems we have gotten, well, exactly the opposite. And I tell Seth that obviously others need there not to be snow more than we want there to be snow. Yet every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, the desire for a white Christmas creeps in and I pray for it, knowing God can flood us with the beautiful white powder, not knowing if God will, and trusting that what He wills will be. But somewhere along the way in the last few years, I have stopped expecting snow for Christmas. I haven’t stopped expecting God to answer prayer, but I, somewhat sarcastically, think that we will never have snow again on Christmas. I watch my favorite Hallmark movies (and it is ALWAYS snowing for Christmas in these!) and explain to my dogs that the white stuff falling from the sky in the movies is called snow but they will not see any for Christmas. And this year? I definitely figure 2020 will NOT end with snow on the ground for the holidays because, well, it is, after all, 2020. All of those words just to say, imagine my growing surprise as I watch the forecast for snow for this week slowly increase in the amount of inches of snow to expect. Dare I hope we will actually have a foot of snow on the ground merely a week before Christmas?! Time will tell!
Funny and silly as all of that seems, God is moving and working something around me that encompasses the concept of expectations. As each year draws to its close, I begin praying for a word or a theme for the upcoming year. In retrospect, I find myself surprised once the year has passed and I see how relevant the word was for that year. God alone knows what the year will hold and I fully believe that He hears the prayers of my heart, and yours, when we come to Him, asking for a word or a theme because He alone knows what He wants to do in our lives. Ironically, or probably not ironically at all, the word God placed on my heart for 2020 last year around this time was “contentment.” What a word to cling to during this unprecedented and tumultuous year. As I sat in the hospital with my son in February, pre-COVID, I remember thinking what a word God gave me when He knew what we would encounter. Little did we know at the time that within four weeks, life would be shut down, literally. Yes, I have walked this path with God enough to know and to believe and to trust what He places on my heart as I look to Him, seeking His guiding hand. Lately, it seems that everywhere I turn and everything I read from the Scriptures to Bible studies to novels, the word “expect” is painted all over. When a girl’s been asking God for some direction and then all of a sudden, for weeks, the same theme appears, the girl sits up straight and takes notice. Several times, this week alone, I have heard myself saying, writing, or thinking “I never could have expected…” fill in the blank. When I caught myself saying it, it gave me pause. I am convinced one of the themes and words God has for me in 2021 is “Expect!” I have already been thinking on it and rolling it around in my mind. One overarching question assails me: when did I stop expecting God? I could pretty it up and make it sound less wrong and more holy. But, in a nutshell, I think life has conditioned me, and I have been a willing participant, to stop expecting from God. I grew up a church girl. We love to “tidy up” how God moves and works and make it all fit nicely and neatly into our theological boxes. We need Him to align with our thinking and theology about Him. Thus, it is easier to stop expecting because then we can stop explaining if God doesn’t respond in the way we expected Him to do so–or wanted Him to do so. By living this way, I have placed God in a box, and our God is way too big and way too wonderful to be reduced to life in a box. The baby boy born in a manger in Bethlehem tore down all the expectations of who the people expected their coming Messiah to be. That same Jesus no more fits into our expectations today. Several times this week I have been surprised (in a good way) by something God has done. With my new and heightened awareness of the word “expect,” I have laughed to myself wondering why I am surprised when I am asking God to cultivate a spirit of expectancy in my heart. I am asking God to open my eyes and open my ears to see and to hear, to bear witness all around me, of what He is doing and where He is moving. Not the major brushstrokes of the magnificent masterpiece, but the tiny shades that He is busy filling with color. Admittedly, I have put God in a box, and I have confessed that. I don’t want that to be my story in 2021. God’s theology is messy, and I don’t have to explain for Him when He operates outside of what my finite mind can fathom and process. He is God. My job, our job, is to trust Him. God is already delighting me with this concept of expectation. I am surprised but in a way that reminds me that God operates outside of our expectations in a grander and greater way. Therefore, I expect Him to do and to be the unexpected. Therein is the beauty. Therein lies the faith. Therein I find delight. Therein God leaps outside of any and every box placed around Him. It is Christmas magic, all year long.
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” Praise God He is not limited by the limitations I attempt to place on Him. It is time to put my faith to the test. Do I truly believe His plan is better for me than any one I can contrive or concoct on my own? I do believe, and, as the father cried in Mark 9:24, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” The better question is, do I live like I believe His plan is better for me than the one I try make Him fit into? What God is showing me is that expectations on their own are incomplete. The 2021 theme is: “Expect! Believe! Wait! Seek!” My prayer is that I expect God to do, to be, to act, to answer in the most unexpected of ways. Then, I pray for faith to believe Him, that I believe what He says and who He is. Then, may I patiently wait expectantly for Him while I continue to seek Him with all of my heart.
On that first Christmas, not many expected the Savior of the world to be born into the most humble of circumstances. Not many expected the King of Kings in the form of a helpless babe. Not many expected that same King to be crucified by His own people and put to death. Not many expected what He meant when He said the temple would be torn down but rebuilt in three days. Jesus blew up all of the expectations of His day. Jesus still blows up our expectations, beyond anything we could possible think or imagine. It is time for us to stop fitting God into our own tidy boxes of theology and ask Him to reign supremely on the throne of our lives. Then, watch how He works and moves in us and around us and through us. “To God be the glory–what great things He has done!”
As we approach Christmas, may we also approach our King and Savior with humble, repentant, and expectant hearts. This is my prayer for 2021: “Lord Jesus, may I humbly, be bold. Graciously, may I do everything in love. Expectantly, may I grow strong in faith. May I pray without ceasing.”
Expect the unexpected from our Messiah!
Blessings and Merry, Merry Christmas!