Today is the first of the four Sundays of Advent. My expectations of these four weeks called Advent are probably at least as unreasonable as the ones I have about Christmas. I expect Advent to be a time of lush spiritual preparation for the “coming” of Jesus with long periods of quiet, study, and reflection. My fantasy image includes a cozy chair in a tidy corner of my house equipped with books, art supplies, blankets, a Bible and a haze of purple lights.
As usual my expectations are problematic. “Tidy” is certainly a fantasy and “cozy” is a stretch in my drafty 100-year old house. The whole picture is so private and all about me; it includes neither other people nor the intricacies of daily life in December.
My first Sunday of Advent started away from home, not in the imagined corner of my own house. I did attend a lovely First Sunday of Advent service in a Baltimore Episcopal church called Nativity. The church was all decked out in blue–the other Advent color–with blue candles on the Advent wreath and blue hangings on the altar and pulpit. I have to admit it was beautiful, but it was not the expected purple, my Advent color of choice.
My husband and I are now in the Baltimore airport. As we entered the security lines, we noticed the TSA PRE CHECK designation on his boarding pass: no need to remove his belt, shoes, laptop, and quart bag of liquids. I have to admit I was really irked. I’m the one who has logged in hours of flight time. I’m Delta Gold. My husband travels much less than I do. What right does he have to get PRE CHECK? My entitlement and expectation of reward for hours in the air are great. Flashbacks of the Parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 20 irritate me even more.
I make a difficult discovery: I am not just an Advent Extremist; maybe I am also an Advent Hypocrite. When I make Advent acclamations like “Come quickly to us,” “Restore us, O God of hosts,” “Renew us,” “Save us,” do I really know what I am asking for? My expectations of God’s salvation and restoration seem to reflect my desire for security, comfort, and maybe even status. Do I really believe the “us” part?
In Advent we often use the word “expectation,” but expectancy might be a better word. Expectancy is not about my personal agenda and satisfaction. It is about having a wide-eyed openness for what God might be up to in the world. This Advent I might ask the serious question: Do I hope for a savior who will make my life comfy and entitled or am I really interested in a kingdom beyond my wildest dreams and expectations, a kingdom under the reign of a God who desires liberty and justice for all.