Jesus tries to lower expectations—but that doesn’t mean he will let us down
A Reflection for the Fourth Wednesday of Advent
Like most things in 2020, this will be an Advent unlike any other. But each day, you can still take a few minutes to reflect on the coming of our savior at Christmas with short reflections on Scripture, written by the staff of America Media.
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A Reading from the Gospel of Luke
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?"
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The season of Advent is dedicated to expectation. As a recovering political operative, I can tell you that managing expectations is not an easy thing to do. People’s expectations are usually too high or too low. Rarely are they ever just right. Why? It’s closely tied to hope, I think. There is something about hope that is not particularly cautious; like its counterpart, hopelessness, it tends to grow and spread quickly and disproportionately.
In today's Gospel from Luke, Elizabeth certainly had trouble managing expectations when she named her son 'John' instead of after his father, Zechariah. Later in his own life, John the Baptist had to manage expectations by telling those who came to him that he was not the Messiah.
In any case, even the Lord had some trouble managing expectations, as we see in the Gospel. In the famous verse from Matthew (9:27-31), he warns those he has healed: tell no one. Being people, of course, they do exactly the opposite. But why tell them this in the first place? Why not allow them to do what comes naturally in a moment of grace, a moment of triumph and hope: shout it from the rooftops! Let the whole world know.
There is something about hope that is not particularly cautious; like it’s counterpart, hopelessness, it tends to grow and spread quickly and disproportionately.
Well, it seems that Jesus is managing expectations. You see, these people he’s just healed addressed him as ‘Son of David.’ The commentaries point out that this is the first time that Jesus is addressed by this title in Matthew’s Gospel. For good reason: In Jesus’ time and place this title ‘Son of David’ is more than a little dangerous. Calling someone ‘Son of David’ could get him killed. And so he warns his followers. Watch your expectations. It isn’t all what it seems. In fact, it’s even bigger and better than that.
Watch, wait, something better is on the way. Sounds a lot like Advent doesn’t it? The question is: What are our expectations this season? Can we invite Jesus in and allow him to scandalize our expectations, to right-order our expectations and, in doing so, to reveal to us anew what an amazing and world-changing event his incarnation was and continues to be. In other words, can we allow Jesus to manage our expectations?
- What are your expectations for this Advent, Christmas and the New Year?
- Are you willing to let God reshape your expectations?