High Expectations

By Rev. Michael L. White

"The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'" (Luke 3:15, 16 NIV)

The Advent and Christmas seasons are times of high expectations. We are all bustling about with cheer and eager anticipation of the moment when we will open our presents and watch others open our presents to them. All the stress of rushing, searching, and buying seems worth it just to witness the excitement and joy of children and adults alike as they tear into wrapped gifts chosen with care. Moreover, our anticipation continues to build as we await the coming of the New Year soon after Christmas.

The two verses I've selected for this meditation come from the Gospel Lesson of Luke 3:7-18 in the Revised Common Lectionary's Third Sunday of Advent, Year C. I focus on them because of this one phrase: "waiting expectantly".

It took me a while to understand why the compilers of the lectionary selected Bible passages mostly related to the Second Advent of Christ for the season devoted to His First Advent, although the passage above from Luke is more about His first public appearance as the Messiah. I believe it is because they want us to understand that we are no longer looking for His first visitation, but we are eagerly awaiting His return, His Second Advent.

With each Advent/Christmas season, we are reminded both of Jesus' first coming and of His second coming, yet to be. Like the people who thronged around John the Baptist in eager anticipation that the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, had finally arrived, we, too, are excited that Jesus' return is nearer than ever. While we do not relish the thought of the intense suffering and judgment that will precede Jesus' appearing, we long for Him to rescue us from the horrible pit of sin and evil that this world has become.

This Advent/Christmas time, let's pause during our haste to shop, exchange gifts, and partake of delectable delicacies to reflect upon the purpose for our celebration. It is because of Jesus' first coming that we have this great and wonderful hope, joy, and peace, and it is because of His highly expected second coming that we have this great and wonderful hope, joy, and peace. Truly, Advent/Christmas is a time of high expectations, both for commemorating Jesus' First Advent and for longing for His Second Advent. I pray you will have a joyous Advent/Christmas season this year, a blessed New Year, and in the world to come, life everlasting! Amen!