Expectancy in the Christmas story

By Steve Witmer

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, as paraphrased in The Message)

Christmas, for me, carries a wonderfully heightened sense of expectation. Childhood Christmases were marked by family memories, traditions, great food and quality time spent together.

Now, as a grandfather, I love to watch the delight in my grandchildren’s faces as we decorate and light the tree, frost Christmas cookies (and themselves!), and speculate what might be inside those beautifully wrapped gifts tucked carefully under the Christmas tree.

Perhaps in your family, as in mine, there is an ever-increasing excitement as we approach December 25, one that is birthed in the expectation of good things to come. The joyous holy day is approaching, and we can hardly wait to celebrate its surprises together.

This year, I will be reflecting on the theme of expectancy in the Christmas story.

For centuries, the people of Israel had looked with longing desire for their expected Messiah. Certainly they did not have the privilege of knowing the Saviour’s exact arrival date. Although the prophets had foretold the Messiah’s coming and his birthplace was clearly pronounced, there were (apparently) no devout citizens monitoring the birth records in Bethlehem, nor passionate paparazzi attempting to document the magical moment of the Messiah’s advent. Nomadic shepherds grazing their flocks in nearby fields came to witness and worship the newborn king, but only because of the angels’ announcement!

Expectancy. Luke 2 tells us that, other than immediate family, possibly only two people recognized the Messiah disguised as a month-old baby boy. Both Simeon and Anna are described as devout worshippers, whose hope-filled hearts were set on the one who would be the consolation of Israel. After years of prayerful waiting, faith and heightened expectancy, they were privileged to finally hold the hope of the nations in their loving embrace. With overflowing joy, they boldly proclaimed the Messiah’s arrival, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood”! (John 1:14, as paraphrased in The Message)

Far too often we can find ourselves caught up in the driven routines and the mundane of life, and can miss the arrival of majesty. He has not come simply to visit, but rather to settle, to move into our world – our neighbourhood – and into our daily lives.

The Christmas season serves to remind us that Christ has come to stay, to bring gifts of his redemptive love, undeserved grace, compassionate care, tender forgiveness and eternal life to those who receive him. What other precious surprises await his eagerly watchful children?

Would you join me in asking the Father to restore a childlike expectancy to our adult hearts?

My prayer is that this Christmas we would be awakened to a renewed hope to see God’s activity in our lives and in our communities. After all, his name is Emmanuel – God is with us!

 

Steve and Becky Witmer have served together for more than 35 years in a variety of ministry roles. After five years with YWAM, they served in roles such as senior pastor, missionary director, and pastoral care coordinator for their associated network of churches. Sensing that they were entering a new season of life after 14 years as senior pastors in their church, Steve and Becky transitioned to the role of associate pastors for the same congregation. This new role enables them to invest time and energy into both missions and the care of pastors and emerging leaders. They serve as contract retreat leaders with Kerith Retreats, a ministry of Focus on the Family Canada.