As we light the first candle of Advent, called Expectation, I am pondering if anyone here has wanted something to happen? You waited and were very patient for it to happen, yet it never does, or at least not in the way we think it should. You wonder, “What is wrong?” and start second guessing yourself about your life. I’ve done it, many times. What do we do when crappy things happen or happy things don’t happen when or the way we want them to? Do we give up, throw in the towel? Do we forget that our expectations, especially around this time of year, are sometimes unrealistic, or worse?
I remember being in a group of young people who were being chosen in teams for our attributes of intelligence, physical strength, and physical beauty. Being disabled, I was chosen near the end of the process; those with greater physical beauty and physical ability were chosen before me. This procedure really made me feel as though I was nothing; that I was worth less than Linda, John, or Charles. I began questioning myself and God.
Things came to a head in seminary. I started accusing God of favoritism, of playing favorites with others while leaving me out of the loop of his blessings. I wanted to be blessed in the same way I saw other people were blessed. I thought my disability was the cause of why I wasn’t blessed, and I was angry, hurt, and frustrated because of that. I was angry at God because I felt like he didn’t understand my situation. I wanted to cast my disability aside, and like the men and women Jesus healed, get up out of my chair and walk.
In the midst of my accusations I heard Jesus speak very softly and lovingly. He said, “Mike, I am disabled.” Those four words broke me. Here I was accusing God of not understanding me, when he knew more about being disabled than I could ever fathom.
Expectation. The word is loaded with meaning. One definition is the act or state of looking forward with hope or anticipating good changes. As I stated above, I was waiting for something wonderful to happen to me in my twenties and thirties. I had expectations of something really good happening by the time I was forty. However, my life has never quite measured up to what my expectations were. My disappointment in life might be similar to what some of the Jewish people felt when Jesus came.
I believe we Christians have expectations of God. We want God to bless us in ways we think are good. We do not think to ask if God has expectations of us. I believe he does, and his expectations are not wearisome. By his Holy Spirit, he simply expects us to love as he so loved, forgive as he has forgiven us, and serve as he serves us. God expects nothing more or less from us than what Jesus did, if we call ourselves servants of God. Servants have no rights, except the rights their owner gives them.
As I read in Luke, one of the names the Bible gives to Jesus is Emmanuel, or God with us. I told you Jesus understood being disabled because on that Christmas 2,000 years ago, God somehow voluntarily became a man. I did not volunteer to be disabled, and I think none of us would volunteer, if we had a choice. The Incarnation is the only disability that was voluntary, and God in Christ did it all for you and me.
God lived amongst us for 33 years, teaching and showing us how to live, love and forgive. He wants us to do no less than he did. Jesus could’ve given up, he could’ve said we weren’t worth the aggravation, and used his power to destroy the world. He was tempted once or twice to do so. Instead, he stayed on salvation’s plan, went to the cross, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven..
How does this impact our lives today, or should it even impact our lives? It does, and should. One way the fact that Jesus died and rose again impacts my life is: it tells me this life is not all there is. The disabilities many of us have, the loneliness, the tragedies many of us face, even though they are real and hurtful and not to made light of, are inconveniences when one looks at them through the lens of eternity. We can forgive those who have hurt us, because Jesus forgave us. We can be a servant to others in the same way Jesus was. We can love others sacrificially as Jesus has loved us.
We start in the church and once we have a handle on loving our brothers and sisters with all their failings, we can move out into the world. There is where the rubber meets the road, and when we are controversial like Jesus was, we can take comfort in the fact that, as Jesus was rejected, we may be too. But as Paul says in Romans 8:31-39: “What then shall we say in response to this? Are we willing to let our brokenness be poured out to let Jesus Christ be incarnate in us? To put it another way, are we willing let go of our lives, even our most cherished thoughts, for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel?
As we celebrate this season of Advent in our church, I hope we never forget that the baby whose birth we celebrate now, becomes the man of controversy who died on the cross, rose from the tomb, and ascended into heaven. He says softly and lovingly, “I am now standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will be his guest and feast with him and him with me.” Listen! Are we listening?