Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
As we conclude this year-long study on what it takes to maintain 2020 vision, our last but not least means of staying focused is anticipating: longing and looking for Christ to enter into our stories. While New Testament Greek utilizes several words that convey the idea of “anticipating,” προσδοκάω (pronounced pros·dok·ah·o), best exresses the idea of waiting for, looking for, something that lies in the future. It can refer to the positive sense of “longing for” or the negative meaning of “dreading” what lies ahead. The only use of the word in the Gospels pertains to Jesus’ adult ministries. The earliest occurrence pertains to whether John the Baptist might be the Messiah:
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. Luke 3:15 NIV
Ironically, John would later send his disciples to Jesus to inquire whether he was the “one who is to come” or whether they should expect (anticipate) someone else (Matthew 11:3 and Luke 7:20). John (who had been incarcerated by Herod) questioned whether he had mistakenly proclaimed and baptized Jesus as the Son of God. It is easy to understand John’s reaction. It is in our nature to second guess our decisions when the results do not meet our expectation. But when we persevere, when we longingly await Jesus to arrive in our stories, good things happen. Later in Luke’s Gospel, the good doctor tells us that when Jesus had returned from the Gerasenes (where he had restored a demon-possessed man) to the region where he had previously raised a widow’s son to life, the crowds were expecting him (anticipating his arrival):
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Luke 8:40 NIV
The people were not disappointed. They would soon hear that their beloved synagogue ruler, Jairus, had been rewarded for his faith in the Messiah. Similar to the widow’s son, Jairus would experience the blessings of Jesus entering into his story and raising his precious twelve-year-old daughter from death to new life. More often, though, our anticipation of the Son of God entering into our stories requires much patient and perseverance. As we approach this Christmas season, the birth story reminds of this element of our faith journey. The Magi had traveled a great distance for approximately two years in anticipation of seeing the one “born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). In Luke’s Gospel, we are told that the devout God-fearer, Simeon, and the widowed prophetess, Anna, had waited patiently for most of their adult life to behold the promised Messiah. Led by the Holy Sprit, they would be rewarded for patiently anticipating the promised Christ-child who would bring salvation to God’s people. Simeon would cradle the baby Jesus in his arms and declare:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 ESV
What a beautiful example of anticipating, of patiently longing for, Christ to enter into our stories. Thankfully, most of us will not have to wait a lifetime for Jesus to reveal himself, but it is never too late. As we travel through this season of Advent during these stressful days of a pandemic, let’s call on the Holy Spirit to refresh are expectations and grant us patience in anticipating the arrival of the Christ-child who is our “light for revelation.” Amen.