Nancy and I were talking about why we don’t care for Christmas. We realized that it’s about the expectations. There are scheduling expectations, there are emotional expectations, there are gifting expectations. There are even expectations about not getting caught up in the expectations.
“Help,” I said to Saint John. “Can you sort out the struggle with expectations?”
I asked him because John is a pretty good person to talk with about expectancy. John grew up in Malachi-shaped Israel, expecting a prophet like Elijah.(Malachi 4:5-6.) He found that prophet when he met John the Baptist who talked about expecting someone else. He followed the one John the Baptist pointed him toward, expecting the kingdom to be established by Jesus. He expected the resurrection of Jesus. He was told to expect the return of the king, first by Jesus, then again as he wrote down the words of Revelation. John’s whole life was about expectations.
“There’s a difference between expectations and expectancy,” John said. “Jesus almost never lived up to expectations. In fact, he was talking to the religious leaders one day. It was right after the healing we talked about yesterday. He talked to them about how they were ignoring all the things that pointed to him. And he said, ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.’”John 5:39-40.
John started laughing as he was quoting Jesus. “Imagine going to people who are seminary trained, who have memorized the Bible, who have staked their careers on their religious pursuit of telling people how to measure up and saying, ‘I do not think that word means what you think it means.’”
I must have looked worried. John put his hand on my shoulder. “There were lots of people who heard the words and connected them to Jesus. That’s what I mean by the difference between expectations and expectancy. The religious leaders lived by expectations, and Jesus didn’t measure up. But others lived in expectancy. We were waiting for a person who would fulfill the promises, who would bring hope and healing. We were pretty sure that Isaiah was pointing to someone real when he quoted,
‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;” Isaiah 61:1-2.
And then John forgot he was talking to me. He slipped into Hebrew while he was quoting Isaiah. But that was okay. Expectancy can do that. Living in the freedom of hope rather than the chains of expectations can let you forget where you are.
From Saint John of the Mall.