At the beginning of this year, I felt God give me the word “anticipation”. It came with a real sense of excitement and joy bubbling up in my spirit. I was ready to see what would happen. As we have waited for breakthrough in a number of areas of our life, I felt sure this sense of anticipation would deliver the goods in at least some of these.
As we near the end of the year and I reflect on what has been, I realise that sense of anticipation has not decreased. It has not dissipated the way so many other New Year’s hopes and dreams do as the year goes on. It has actually increased! However, we are still waiting for those breakthroughs in our personal life. Nothing seems to have shifted; we seem no closer to an outcome, yet I can say with conviction that hope still has not disappointed me.
I am reminded, though, of what the Jewish nation was going through a little over 2000 years ago. Under harsh Roman rule, they scoured the Scriptures, trying to see if they could further pinpoint when their Saviour, the Messiah, would appear. In all their deliberations and calculations, they were quite certain that it should be soon. They were on the lookout.
But so many of them missed it.
Their anticipation and expectations were not fulfilled. At least, not in the way they were thinking it would happen.
They looked for a king who would come in military might to overthrow the Romans and bring Israel back to the glory days of David and Solomon. They looked for freedom from tyranny and the salvation of their nation from annihilation.
But what they got was a baby, a helpless, crying baby from an impoverished, low class background, with questionable paternity.
They had no concept of how this could possibly lead to their salvation and restoration, how this baby could be a King,
so they missed the signs, missed the joy and missed the celebration.
Anticipation is a term for many contexts, good and, well, not so good. Sometimes it is helpful to us - especially when we are anticipating someone doing something they shouldn’t on the road in front of us! But at others, anticipation can lead us to downright disappointment. I remember as a child, the sense of anticipation in the lead up to Christmas. Would I get that longed for gift? And even when I had no idea of what the gifts might be, there was always the excitement and hope associated with getting any gift. And, yes, sometimes there was disappointment when the longed-for gift didn’t eventuate or wasn’t quite what was wanted, the disappointment of hope deferred.
Heading into Christmas this year, I was aware that the childlike sense of anticipation has dissipated for many of us. Perhaps one too many disappointments has eroded our capacity to engage with hope anymore. And maybe life is just not as simple as it was in the past; a long year may have left us weary and possibly a little more jaded.
Maybe, like me (and the Israelites) you have been waiting for a long time to see a hoped for change or breakthrough. Maybe, like Sarah, Rachael, Hannah and others, you wonder if you missed a turn off, made a mistake, or simply didn’t hear quite right. Perhaps you wonder if you should have or could have done something different to bring about the promise: thoughts we have had a number of times in the last few years.
And yet, as I turn my focus from what I want to what I see, from my longings to what is happening around me, I realise that there is a bigger picture. Just as the arrival of Messiah had way bigger ramifications for the Jewish people - past them to a global perspective; past their time to all ages - my longings and desires must come into line with the bigger plan God has and His timings for it all. It is the place I find myself returning to again and again. It is the place where I find the grace to take the next step in my waiting. It is the place where I learn again to celebrate ALL He is doing. And here, I find - amazingly - I can look with anticipation and GREAT JOY toward all He has for us in the New Year and in the years to come.