(The following was taken from part of a devotion I shared with the Men’s Ministry of our church last night. I figured I’d share it here with you)
There are many things that have changed about Christmas in my lifetime. Christmas music starts getting played before Thanksgiving, and they stop as soon as the calendar rolls the 26th of December. Stores that used to be closed on Christmas day now open early for after Christmas sales (yet it’s not AFTER Christmas at all!). Stores that once greeted you with a “Merry Christmas” have gone pc.
But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed regarding Christmas: expectations. My kids certainly have expectations. They have a list of them. I have expectations! We all do.
In fact, all the way back at the beginning, there were expectations for how the coming of the Messiah would play out, how it would go. But it didn’t quite go the way everyone thought it would. It’s a story filled with the unexpected, to us anyway, because God’s ways are not our ways.
The expectations began immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve. God made a promise: He would defeat the serpent, He would repair what had been broken. He would restore what was lost.
I love how the NIV translates Genesis 3:15:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
The expectation of this prophecy, this “protoevangelium” or “first gospel”, first good news, rings down throughout all of Scripture. God was weaving and winding the history of His people Israel to accomplish this promised defeat of the enemy. From the slavery in Egypt, to the taking of the Promised land, to the disobedience and subsequent captivity in Babylon, to their return to the Land, God was working His plan.
And through it all, the prophets proclaimed promises of the Hope to come, the Messiah, who would save God’s people, who would, in fact, crush the head of Satan, set His people free, and establish his kingdom forever.
Expectations were high.
Take Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
Or how about Isaiah 9: 6-7:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
And lastly, Malachi chapter 3, says:
“Behold I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me, and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple. Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold HE is coming.”
His coming is promised and then…..400 years of silence. 400 years of waiting. 400 years of wondering. I get uptight if God makes me wait for a few days for clarity…400 years???? That’s nearly twice as long as the United States has been a country!!!
Talk about expectations…. You’re a Jew in the first century. Your people are under subjugation to the Roman Empire. God hasn’t spoken in 4 centuries.
If YOU’D grown up hearing the prophecies and hoping for God to send the Messiah, what would you be expecting?
I think you’d be looking for big things.
I think we’d all be looking for a conquering king.
Who expected God to come to earth to save mankind, as a BABY?
Who expected His coming to be announced, not in palaces and before kings, but to a a few shepherds on a Judean hillside?
Who thought that the God who flung the stars into place would come down to dwell among men, that He would in fact become a man? Or that He would choose as His mother a lowly peasant girl, and not a queen in a palace?
I guarantee that no one was expecting a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
And yet, to the lowliness of the manger comes the glory of God. From the quiet of the Bethlehem night comes the preliminary shout of victory. For the tiny baby is the Conqueror of death, the Promised One who will crush the head of the serpent. From this humblest of beginnings comes the most awesome of victories.
Not what anyone was expecting.
The trouble is, while we say God’s ways are not our ways, our expectations differ greatly. And God rarely does things the way we would expect, or the way we want. We often miss what God is doing, and where He is moving, because it’s not what we expect.
Remember: The religious leaders missed it. The Pharisees and Sadducees, the most learned men of the day, missed it. They couldn’t wrap their minds around the plan God had.
Take the prophecy from Isaiah 7 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).” Now, to us, that is CLEARLY speaking of the prophecy fulfilled in Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary, right? But what did the leaders see? A scandal…a young girl who’s finance wanted to “put her away quietly.”
They expected the conquering King, not a baby boy Who would grow to be a suffering servant, die on a Roman cross for their sins, and rise again, forever defeating death, hell and the grave…fulfilling that earliest of prophecies from Genesis 3.
And we, just like the religious of old, often miss what God is doing today.
We expect God to provide a new job, when He intends to use you right where you are in your current job.
We expect God to get the glory through miraculous healing, but He’s choosing to do something even more miraculous through the fellowship of His sufferings.
We expect God to give us a prominent position, and then He asks to serve the least of these, or in a role we certainly would not have chosen.
Do not despise the small things. Do not look down at where God has you, at what He’s doing, because He has a plan. Do not allow your expectations to prevent you from missing God’s will.
This Christmas, take time to consider what He has done, and look forward to what He is doing.
Let God’s plan replace your expectations.