We live with a lot of expectations, and we are thrown off when they are not met. This time of year, we seem to have a lot of added expectations, which increase the stress of this season.
When our expectations do not coincide with our experiences, we are often caught off guard.
For those of us in the church, this is a time of expectation. Advent is a period of waiting, of expecting something to happen.
It is the time when we remember the long period in history when we awaited the coming of the Messiah – times of slavery, of exile, of wandering in the wilderness, even of finding a home and seeing it destroyed, all the while waiting for the Messiah to come deliver people.
In Advent, we remember that the people of God had expectations of him. Based on their experience of God being true to promises, they expected the Messiah.
So the people of God were looking for one thing in a Savior. But God didn’t meet their expectations. While the people expected a king, they got a baby born of poor, refugee parents.
While the people expected political power, they got someone who fraternized with those at the margins of society. While the people expected wrath for their enemies, they received love both for themselves and for their enemies. While the people expected super-piety, they received authenticity and integrity.
That story of unmet expectations goes on throughout the life of Jesus and even contributes to his death. If we know anything about God, we know that he is unpredictable – and not in the business of living up to our expectations.
Because we tend to extrapolate the real promises of God and create a manageable God, one who will live within the parameters we set. The one clear message of Scripture: Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, God will surprise you.
We too often miss out on God’s presence or action, or refuse to accept it as being of God, when it doesn’t meet our expectations.
God is reliable, yet unpredictable. God will be present with us in the midst of pain, but he will not remove it from us. God will fulfill promises – but not often in the ways we expect.
Though it might be more comfortable for us to have a predictable God, it would be a god of our own creation, under our control, and not the God who created the universe.
Our God is a God of relationship, and certainly the best relationships are between people who are reliable, yet unpredictable.
How boring it would be in relationship with someone whose every move is known in advance! In George Burns’ book, “Gracie: A Love Story,” he talks of his and his wife’s 40-plus year relationship.
What comes through is that part of what kept it alive and interesting was that he was never quite sure what Gracie would say or do. He knew that she was reliable and that she was trustworthy, but she was never predictable.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, near the intersection of Highway 160 and Gold Hill Road. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.