Hopeful expectation

For much of the world Christmas has passed. The Christmas trees have been put out at the curb or packed away, the decorations taken down. Radio stations have gone back to their standard programming. Shelves in stores are displaying Valentine’s Day items. But in the Christian church Christmas is a season, not a day, and and it is still here! The expectation of God come to earth in human form, the waiting for God’s peace to rule over all creation – these are things we look for daily, not just on December 25.

I thought of expectation today as I plan my wedding. It will be a joyful occasion for two families to come together and meet, extending the love that my fiance and I have for each other. I am making hotel reservations, expecting the arrival of family members from near and far. Some have just started new jobs and they may not be able to make the trip but I expect that they will come. I don’t hold this expectation as an obligation to be fulfilled, but as a hopeful desire that they can be with us for this very special event.

It’s been said that expectations are premeditated resentments, meaning that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and resentment if/when an expectation is not met, but that implies expectation as an obligation, not a hope. It is the same kind of expectation that we have in Christmas – not that Christ was obligated to appear, but that he did. My expectation of his presence in my life can be one of hope, even in the dark periods of my life, because Christmas happened. At Christmastime and throughout the year I can be hopeful, knowing that Emmanuel – God with us – was here not for a day but for always.

“and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5.

Lord, I am grateful for the gift of hope that came to earth at Christmas. Amen.

First day of winter

Sunrise was at about 7:20 this morning and sunset will be at 4:32 p.m. The day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere heralds the approach of longer days, although it will be months before warmer temperatures arrive. People in the northern hemisphere celebrate Christmas in the same season as the earliest Christians, and the theme of light overcoming darkness has this seasonal touch to it. I wonder how Christians in the southern hemisphere experience the theme of darkness at Christmas time. Do they revisit the Christmas story in June when they are having their winter solstice?

Of course, we can experience darkness any time of the year. Our hearts can be heavy with grief or fear at any season. Illness, homelessness, betrayal and disappointment can come at any time. The fact of God coming in human form to live among us is one we recall every time we come together to worship, and anytime, anywhere in prayer and praise, not only at Christmas. Just as there is no season specific to our experience of darkness, there is no season when the light of Christ is not present. Some days the light of God may seem like a barely discernible ember not strong enough to offer warmth, but we are assured that it is here. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to bring together our embers (or our flames – whatever the strength of our faith today) so that we can build a strong source of light and provide warmth and care to each other.

Dear Lord, fan the spark of light that is within me so that I can share it with others who need some extra light and warmth in the darkness. Amen.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5