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Joy in Expectation


For Christians around the world, Advent is that special time of expectation and preparation to celebrate the birth of the Messiah and to anticipate his return.


For many, it is this sense of expectation that makes the season special — that joyous feeling of experiencing the wonder and certainty that something profoundly good and deeply fulfilling will take place. It is this expectation that gives birth to the abiding joy we experience in these days of Advent. This, in turn, reflects a secure and satisfied heart that is at rest — a heart that declares "All is well, because I know that Christ is coming, and I expect to encounter him." The biblical narrative provides us with examples of those who have gone before us in this experience: Mary, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna all found the Christ child after hearing the promise — whether through an angel, the stars, an assurance of the heart or perhaps the study of scripture — and the record compels us to believe they each lived in joyous and deeply satisfying anticipation of the moment they would encounter him. Even in the midst of suffering, Peter explained this joy of a satisfied and expectant heart in his first letter: "And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible… ."


As Christians today, we have not just heard the story of redemption through God's grace in the Incarnation; we are participants. We experience it. And thus we find ourselves in this season affirming that Immanuel has come and that he will come again in power and glory as Christ the King. But as participants of this grace, we must also affirm that he is very present in the world today. What lesson does our experience of "expectation" during Advent, and the joy it brings, mean for us in the days beyond Advent? What does it mean for us in the moment-by-moment experience of our daily lives? I believe it compels us to consider living more expectantly in each day. When the crushing challenges of life force us to our knees, do we really expect to encounter him in that moment of need? Do we expect him to show up during our quiet time or the routine of the Sunday morning church service? When we are confused and in need of direction, do we expect to hear his voice when we cry out to him? Or when we simply desire for something deeper, do we anticipate that he will come and satisfy the longing? I believe we should.


As followers of Jesus, we have the wonderful promise that wherever he leads us in life's journey, we will find him there. And when we practice living in such expectation of encountering his tangible presence in our daily lives, it produces a deep, inward joy that sustains us through the challenges of life. In this Advent season, I pray that we would kindle the flame of anticipation and that we would encounter in a fresh way, not only the wonder of the Christ child, but also the wonderful one himself, the Counselor, the Prince of Peace. The petition of our hearts in this season should perhaps be the words framed so poignantly by Charles Wesley:
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

— Ray Norman, Ph.D. dean, School of Science, Engineering and Health



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