Whom Were You Expecting?
by Alan Allegra 4/28/2009 / Holidays
I have an active imagination. When I talk with someone on the phone, I picture what the person looks like. Most of the time, I am way off base. I'll associate the voice with an image I already have, perhaps of someone else, but the reality usually surprises me. I would never survive a blind date.
I also recall that surprised reaction I had when I was engaged in something naughty and my mother would walk in. She'd look at me and say, "Just whom were you expecting?"
Many churches celebrate the Advent season. This symbolizes a time of expectation, fulfilled in the birth of the Christ child. Whether one celebrates in a religious sense or not, most people anticipate the coming of Christmas for one reason or another. If nothing else, we anticipate receiving gifts, and we have visions of the things we really want dancing in our heads.
These expectations extend back for thousands of years. Ever since the Garden of Eden, people have been expecting someone special who would save the world. Different groups have had various images of what this redeemer would be like. Christians believe that this redeemer is Jesus Christ who, according to the Scriptures, came about 2,000 years ago, and will come again some day.
When Jesus was born, many folks were expecting him, but few recognized him. There was one virgin who didn't expect to become expectant, no less be the mother of the Messiah. Matthew and Luke relate the birth of Christ in great detail, revealing the expectations that his contemporaries had and their reactions to him whom they were expecting.
Mary and Joseph expected a child to be born the "normal" way, after marriage. No wonder Joseph wanted to leave Mary when he found out she was expecting. And certainly Mary did not expect to conceive through the Holy Spirit! However, despite their initial puzzlement, Joseph and Mary believed God and were obedient to Him.
Throughout his life, Jesus was misunderstood. Many of his followers expected a political figure who would overthrow the Roman government and put them in power. They were disappointed when he failed to do so. Others expected him to supply their food every day, like a celestial Meals On Wheels. Still others wanted him to handle their personal grievances.
King Herod, upon meeting Jesus, "hoped to see him perform some miracle" (Luke 23:8). Perhaps he mistook Jesus for some cosmic clown or metaphysical magician. His own family thought he was "out of his mind" and wanted to take control of him (Luke 3:21)! Jesus disappointed a lot of people; not because he was a failure, but because, well, Whom Were You Expecting?
Most people who observe Christmas fail to recognize who Jesus is. Consequently, they live their lives as if he doesn't exist or is irrelevant. Some believers live the same way. Jesus warned the disciples to not rest easy and live like there is no tomorrow. He told them that he would come again and didn't want to catch them asleep (Matthew 24:36-51). Many will be caught unaware at his coming, and he will, in essence, say, "Whom Were You Expecting?"
Leo Tolstoy's Where Love Is, God Is relates the tale of cobbler Martin's conversion to God and his subsequent lesson in kindness. He hears a voice from the Lord ordering him to watch for his coming the next day.
As he watches, needy strangers walk past his window, and he meets their needs, all the time wondering where the Lord is. At the end of the day, Martin opens his Bible and hears the Lord: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren even the least, ye did it unto me." Whom Were You Expecting?
Mary and Joseph didn't fully understand Jesus, but they exercised faith in God's Word and obeyed, despite the doubts and trials they endured.
The Israelites, who were looking for a conqueror or chef or court of common pleas or court jester, were sorely disappointed and refused to accept Jesus for who he is. Instead of changing to meet their expectations, Jesus wept and pronounced the severest woe upon Jerusalem for not accepting him (Luke 19:41-44).
So, who is this Jesus and how should we respond to him? Is he merely the babe in the manger over whom we coo and smile? Is he just our part time cook whom we thank with a hasty "grace" at our meals? Is he a revolutionary martyr who inspires us to great political victories? Is he the Astral Triple-A mechanic who extracts us from our problems?
Or is he who he says he is, the Son of God and Eternal King (Luke 2:31-33). He is the Judge of all mankind and only Savior from sin (John 5:19-30). He is coming back to judge and cleanse the world when we least expect him (Matthew 22:42-44). Just Whom Are You Expecting?