Divine Tension of Anticipation

Anticipate: to realize beforehand; foretaste or foresee: to anticipate pleasure.
Anticipate: to expect; look forward to; be sure of; to anticipate a favorable decision

The advent season is one of anticipation. Of waiting… Of preparation… Of looking forward to the special Christmas day… When the concepts of anticipation and Christmas come together, I picture the look on a child’s face when December 1st rolls around. Waiting for Christmas becomes a month-long celebration. Some wake up each morning, ready to open the next door of the advent calendar. People scurry around making gifts and tucking them at the back of the closet or in that hidden spot in the crawl space, waiting for their Christmas morning unveiling. As children, the month of December can seem like an eternity, 24 whole doors on the advent calendar to open before one can wake up to the delight of Christmas morning.

Parents in the month of December are called to work with their children on discipline. “Nope, you can’t open doors for December 17th and 22nd today—today is December 3rd.” “You can shake and poke the presents from Grandma under the tree, but don’t think about peeling the tape back on the corner of the box”.  There’s something charged and magical in the waiting along with the frustration and restraint.

What of our discipline in advent?  What do we anticipate as we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, Divinity Incarnate on earth? I’ll admit that I’m not so far from the ways of childhood, when it comes to Christmas. I get excited when the lights start going up on the trees and I’ve been madly knitting gifts for weeks now. I anticipate Christmas concerts and meals with friends and family and await the gentle glow of candlelight traditions.

Anticipate: to realize beforehand; foretaste or foresee: to anticipate pleasure.
Anticipate: to expect; look forward to; be sure of; to anticipate a favorable decision

There is something in the waiting that feels sacred to me. There’s a care in the preparations that speaks to the precious nature of the holiday we’re approaching. I am seeing God in this tension, in the waiting, the anticipation. Maybe anticipation is God’s gift to us, the foretaste of God’s goodness, the spark of light in a darkened world. We anticipate, prepare, and stay in the tension because we look forward to a dream being realized; we feel God’s vision of the future we are working towards.

When we live in the anticipation as a Divine gift, we can find the sacred, the joy of knowing that something beautiful is coming, the energy and excitement to persevere, the trust and patience to wait. We anticipate the end of a season. We anticipate a shift in our attitudes. We anticipate a change in a relationship, a new home, conquering an inner battle, mastering a skill, or the passing of time.

We can live into the anticipation as a gift, or we can see it as a burden. We can wake up each day and curse the fact that it is not yet Christmas morning, be bitter and twisted about the greener grass across the way and threaten to rip open all the gifts under the tree. We can live our lives in a way that would cause us to walk into a darkened room, throw on every bank of lights, and flood the room with a harsh fluorescent glare to see what’s there—RIGHT NOW.

Or… The people who walked in darkness, saw a great light. Those who dwelt in the shadow of death, upon them a light has shone. The light is out there—flickering in the darkness. The Christ light shines, beckoning us to draw near, to follow, to anticipate. In this advent season, we are reminded to walk in spiritual disciplines, to breathe in the tension between what we look towards and what is. To engage in the sacred dance of anticipation. To be present in each moment, each breath. To look for the Christ light shining in our midst.

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