Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Living in Anticipation ... The Day After

The countdown began sometime around Halloween. Deadlines heighten urgency. Retailers remind us how many shopping days we have left. The frenzy escalates as time grows short. Concerts, parties, decorations and expectations unique to this season transform our daily lives. In all its forms, it is the anticipation of Christmas.

Then it hits. The anticipation of Christmas climaxes as a whirlwind. Expectations, celebrations, traditions, and surprises all meet. At the end of the day, the carefully decorated packages, plates of food and living rooms meet their purpose. Torn wrapping paper, empty boxes, dirty dishes and a variety of emotions are strewn around the house as evidence. Old memories are relived; new memories are made. Another Christmas has come … and gone.

Or has it? How does the anticipation and reality of Christmas affect the day after? Does Christmas day mark the end of something long anticipated, or the beginning of a new way of anticipating life? This season I have reflected on and been deeply moved by a quote from Frederick Buechner:
Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If the holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant's child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

Christmas is God’s radical action and declaration that things are not over. Because He loves you and this world, there is no telling when and where He might show up. There is no place He won’t. Anticipation is no longer for a season; it is a transforming way of life that moves us to the edge of our seat. That’s why some of Jesus’ last words in the Bible intentionally assure us that:
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Revelation 21:5

For centuries, followers of Jesus have celebrated the anticipation of his arrival – His first coming and His second coming. They have called it Advent, a word which means “to come.” He is Emmanuel. He has arrived on the scene. He is with you. He is with us. The good news isn’t just that He was here, but he is here. He is actively present in the world – and nothing is out of His reach. He is making everything new.

It beckons me to live in a way that joins Him in His edge-of-the seat anticipation as a way of life. It challenges me to ask not only what I can anticipate from Him, but what is He anticipating from me? That changes everything.

What does that look like for you? How might His radical presence affect our relationships and how we relate to people? How does it change how we view the world and what is going on in it? How does it impact the challenges we face? How does it affect our lives as followers of Jesus and the church as His anticipation-filled people? How might the world be different because of our edge-of-the-seat anticipation?

What do you think? Click comments (below 6) to leave yours.


Steve said...

The whole idea of "jazz" got me to thinking about how we "church" (Michael Frost says it should be a verb, not a noun)

Eddie Gibbs devotes much of this book Church Next directly or indirectly to the topic of leadership. So, what does leadership look like in the “next” church?

He uses a central metaphor to describe the differences between and institutional and a missional leader. He contrasts the two as an orchestra conductor and a jazz-band leader (p.111). A conductor has the entire musical score at her disposal that details every note to be played by every instrument. The instruments used are dictated as well and the role of the orchestra is to follow the conductor in the rhythm, pace and tone she sets. On the other hand, a jazz band exists for improvisation. The leader is there to encourage and coordinate but the parts to be played are often left to the musician. The leader blends and guides the performance and no two performances may be alike. In jazz there is sometimes failure and often works of genius. The leader in the missional church needs a strong grounding in such a fluid environment.

Gibbs is very clear that the foundation of true leadership is “a thorough knowledge of Scripture coupled with the exegetical skills to apply the Word of god to contemporary situations, many of which have no direct correspondence with the situations addressed in the biblical text” (p.118).

So, is their room in our churches for "failure" as we hope for genius? Do we have the grace and the submissive hearts to allow the spirit to work whatever that looks like? Or do we have a deep seated expectation of a "standard of worship" that implies homogeneity and therefore safety?

Mike Cooke said...


Thanks for these thoughts. While so much Christain commentary at this time of year is shame and guilt based (admonishing us for being caught up in a hectic, materialistic mindset that ignores the true meaning of Christmas), you don't fall into that trap. Instead, I always feel that you are inviting me into a bigger perspective -- in this case, the unfathomable love of God and how it can make me live with hope and anticipation. It motivates me to change while guilt and shame just make me suicidal.

I love your heart and your mind. God has gifted you with a grace that is rare.

Sue in Cincinnati said...

Very cool (LIKE JAZZ!), Wayne! You've given me much to think about as a church leader...Blessings, Friend! We miss you! I like the fact that anyone can respond without havinhg to have a meeting! Sue in Cincinnati

Bob McL. said...

It occurs to me that living a life of faith is really another way of saying we are anticipating Christ. We live by faith when we anticipate that Christ will deliver God's grace and our lives will be transformed in His image. We live by faith when we allow ourselves to love and to trust God, anticipating the joy of a deeper relationship with Him. We anticipate Christ when we seek His wisdom and guidance in our lives.

Oh, Wayne, you've struck on something here that could keep my mind active for hours. I love the blog. This will be fun!

Bob McL.

Lynn said...

You have a talent for for identifying theology that speaks to the dilemma of what it means to be Christian in this time and place. You also have a talent for translating this theology into the vernacular. There is nothing the church needs more. Thanks for sharing!

Walter said...

The anticipation of Christ everyday is an edge-of-the-seat ride. It occurs to me, the first time people began anticipating Jesus' presence and power, John was preparing the way. Perhaps we can learn from his example in Luke 3, as we help those around us to look for Him.
John answered those who received his "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (who were worried about God's wrath): 11"The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
13"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
14Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

How practical are John's instructions! Shifting focus from ourselves (and getting ahead) to Jesus and His sheep. The "one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" is here among us! He always surpasses my expectations!

Thanks for encouraging my thoughts about anticipation Wayne, especially with this new year approaching!

Anonymous said...

I see God and I hear God through you, Wayne. You are an incredible gift to the world.