Advent is a season of expectation, but what happens after the day we looked forward to for so long? This year Erin and I were able to identify with the holy family as we were expecting our own bundle of joy. Sure, we didn’t give birth to the long awaited messiah, but we were pretty excited nonetheless. Because we had been trying to get pregnant for a while, there seemed to be an extra amount of excitement and anticipation. As we reflected on the advent season, it was hard not to acknowledge the long held expectations of the people of Israel. For hundreds of years they were expecting and actively looking for the messiah, the one promised by the prophets to restore the nation of Israel. I wonder how the excitement and expectations of Mary and Joseph were influenced by the knowledge that the baby they were waiting for was the messiah that their people had been anticipating for hundreds of years. Imagine their joy when the day finally came. The savior is born! But now what?
Take it from the dad of a two-week-old. Your expectations do not match reality. Taking care of a baby is more challenging than you could possibly understand until you’ve actually experienced it. There are times you wonder what you got yourself into, but that’s okay because you realize that you love the little goober even more than you ever imagined was possible. I wonder what Mary and Joseph expected. Were they caught off guard when the messiah seemed to cry for no reason at all? Were they surprised that the messiah would pee all over when they tried to change his diaper? Did they love him so much that they thought maybe they didn’t want to share him with the world?
We often see Christmas as a big, exciting climax, but in reality Christmas is not the climax. The birth of the messiah was just the beginning. And while Jesus had arrived, there was still a great deal of waiting. The people of Israel had to wait for the realization of their expectations. In fact, the majority of those longing, aching for the messiah had no idea he had even been born. A handful of shepherds, a man named Simeon, a prophetess named Anna, and a little drummer boy (if the carols are to be trusted) were the only ones outside the holy family who knew that the messiah was living among them. How many wondered if the messiah would come in their lifetime? How many heard the messianic prophecies read at the synagogue while Jesus was growing up down the street? How many prayers were offered up for the coming of the messiah without knowing he lived among them? God was working in the world, his messianic mission had begun, and nearly all of those he came to save had no idea whatsoever. I wonder where we might be unaware of God’s work in our own lives. What prayer is he answering even now without our knowledge? How can we set aside our selfish impatience and trust that God is at work in our lives to will and to act according to his good purpose?