We’ve all experienced disappointment, of something not turning out the way we expected, of hope deflated.
Sometimes the anticipation feels better than the thing itself.
For me, Christmas is like that. I countdown the days in joyful expectation. Yet every year I have a sense of disappointment after the excitement of Christmas morning has worn off. Do you know that feeling? The one you get after the gifts are unwrapped, the dinner is consumed, and the family has gone back home.
You’re left with remnants of packages on the floor, dishes in the sink, and a quiet house, void of laughter and conversation. Maybe your kids are already complaining of boredom within hours after the stockings have been emptied. So much work, so much excitement, for that.
Hopeful anticipation can be both a beautiful and disappointing thing. Perhaps it’s because our hope is misplaced. It’s possible we’re simply looking in the wrong spot for our hope to be fulfilled.
Maybe we can learn something from those that were there for that very first Christmas. Surely they knew a thing or two about hopeful anticipation.
I wonder what the shepherds thought when they arrived at the stable that night. They’d just been visited by a vast host of angels, the armies of heaven, telling them the Messiah, the Lord was born, (Luke 2:13 NLT). Such hype certainly stoked their excitement as they hurried off to find the baby.
Their hope meter was undoubtedly off the charts!
Imagine the looks on their faces when they found Jesus in a pungent stable. Can this really be Him? The one announced by the heavenly host? The Savior of the world was nestled in a feeding trough and surrounded by dirty barn animals.
Likewise, the Magi, three wise men of high regard, followed a star leading them to the one who had been born king of the Jews. After months of traveling and an intimidating run-in with King Herod, they finally made it. “The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed,” (Matthew 2:9-10). I wonder what ran through their heads when they laid costly gifts and treasures before the son of a humble carpenter in an unsung town. I doubt bowing before the newborn king was anything like they envisioned.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn’t expect her life to turn out the way it did.
Young and engaged, still a virgin, she felt stunned and terrified when an angel told her she would conceive and carry the Son of God. When the time came, there was no room in the inn. Poor Mary couldn’t even give birth in a clean room with a midwife. Instead, she delivered her son in a stable, certainly not what any mother envisions for her birth plan. Nothing went as Mary hoped or expected, (Luke 1-2).
How did the shepherds, the Magi, and Mary release their disappointment? They looked into the face of Jesus.
They fixed their hope on what truly mattered. However let down they may have felt, they didn’t let it keep them from worshipping, and we shouldn’t either.
Jesus’ disciples knew about hopeful anticipation and disappointment too. They understood Jesus was the Son of God, and even though they didn’t know how He would do it, they knew He would save them. Their entire ministry had been building up to the big rescue plan Jesus was to carry out. Instead, Jesus was arrested and crucified. His followers were devastated. That’s not what was supposed to happen. Even after Jesus’ tomb had been found empty, His disciples still didn’t understand. Jesus’ body was gone, but it made no sense.
When was He going to save everyone?
On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’ followers were kicking the dirt, their faces downcast. “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” (Luke 24:19-20). But we had hoped. The disciples’ disappointment blinded them to the miracle that was right before their eyes. Jesus himself was walking alongside them, listening to their grumbling (Luke 24:15).
They didn’t recognize their own rescue because it didn’t look anything like they thought it would.
But we had hoped. I’ve muttered those same words so often in my life, haven’t you? We saw things going differently in our minds. It’s hard to look past our disappointment. Our heads are hanging so low that we fail to see the blessings right in front of us if only we’d look up.
Like all of us, I have experienced great disappointment in my life. I’ve hoped for things that never came. I’ve even blamed God for letting me down at times. I’ve looked forward to what I thought should happen, according to my plans, my desires. I’ve let it keep me from worshiping.
This Christmas season, let’s not get so caught up in what we hope will happen that we miss what already is happening.
Don’t miss it.
God is working.
Jesus is in it all, even the disappointment.
He’s there walking beside us as we’re kicking the dirt and grumbling about our letdowns.
We had hoped…but He IS hope.
Jesus is everything we could ever desire and better than anything we could ever look forward to. Let’s fix our eyes on Him because He is the hope of the world.
Want to hear more from Anne? Check out her blog at GloryintheGrind.com