Monday Matters (December 2nd, 2013)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, December 2, 2013

What do you expect?

Advent has arrived. Since Advent means arrival, editors might accuse me of redundancy, which wouldn’t be the first time that has happened to a preacher. But it’s here, a season of expectation, posing this question: How do our expectations of the future affect the way we live in the present? As we make our way, day by day, through this season, we’re invited to slow down, to be quiet, to savor holy anticipation, to live life expecting God to do something. And to do so patiently, a growth opportunity for many of us who want patience and want it now.

Whether we join Mary and Joseph in expectation of the arrival of the Christ child or whether we join the great communion of saints across the ages who say that Christ will come again, we live our faith based on promise. We live in hope. As C.S.Lewis said: “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

The work with which I’m involved these days focuses on expectation, the expectation of spiritual growth in each of our lives, which leads to spiritual growth in our faith communities. It has brought a number of provocative exchanges. In one church, the conversation centered on how we move from here to there in the spiritual journey, how the church helps us do that, in fact, how that is part of what it means to be church, to grow and change and be transformed. One Episcopalian, in the spirit of full disclosure in the course of this work, said to her rector: “I don’t really expect anything to happen to me when I come to church.” I was grateful for the candor. She gave voice to what I often feel. I’m not always interested in change or growth or transformation. I’m not always prepared for it. I’m not always expecting it.

Advent tells us to live expectantly, to navigate the present moment guided by a sense of promise and hope in what God will do in days ahead. One of my favorite Advent hymns (and that’s a tough call because Advent hymns are simply the best) is printed below. It calls us to be on the lookout for the long-expected Jesus. Here’s what we might expect from that arrival. We can expect to be set free. To be released from fear and sins. To be consoled. To know hope. To experience deliverance. Ultimately, to be raised. Not a bad set of expectations.

Carry this hymn with you for the season of Advent. If you want an Advent discipline, memorize the text. If the spirit moves and the opportunity arises, gather around a piano and sing it with those in your household. Expect God to act in your life in this holy season. Watch for ways that will happen. Take a moment and jot notes about what you might expect God to do in your life, in our world. Or at least note what you would like God to do in your life, in our world. Make those notes a prayer.

And know that as we live in expectation of what God will do, there’s also an expectation that we will live into the new life God has for us. Said another way, there’s certainly an expectation about what God will do. But maybe this is also a season to think about what is expected of us, as well, part of the call to be disciples of the long-expected Jesus.

What do you expect this Advent? What might be expected of you, and me?

-Jay Sidebotham

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

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. 

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone. By thine own sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.