Anticipation

One of the greatest rewards of blogging is the wonderful minds to meet disguised in the comments section. Tim is one of those who sharpens my material with his own thoughtful reflections. So when I saw that he made a guest post for another blogger, I rightfully nagged him to do one for me. He graciously obliged and I'm honored to post this awesome piece!

Christmas carols. They’re all over. From the radio to shopping malls and even in churches. Yes, I said even in churches. We sing about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, angels singing and shepherds watching and a manger holding the God of Creation in its straw; we celebrate our Savior’s birth, the miracle of God with us, what theologians call the incarnation. But I like to look on this time of year – the weeks leading up to Christmas Day – as a time to anticipate his coming, not yet celebrating it as happening. So when it comes to songs of the season, one that helps me live in that anticipation is Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Release from our fears and sins, finding our rest in him, dear desire, and the joy of longing hearts. Those who know Jesus know what it means to wait for and want these things. But even before his birth there were those who lived in the anticipation of his coming. Here are a few people from Scripture that I’d like to focus on: one not yet born, one not yet aware that she will be giving birth, and a pair of people whose senior years had been dedicated to nothing less than looking forward to the fulfillment of their hearts’ desires.

 Mary

The angel tells Mary she’s going to have a baby. Not just any baby, but the Messiah who will fulfill all prophecies, the “Son of the Most High” who will “sit on the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32). Mary explains that she’s never had sex (as if God didn’t know!). The angel announces that God will take care of it. Mary responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Did you catch that? Mary says she now desires the fulfillment of God’s word, even if it means being pregnant, a pregnancy that could very well lead to divorce, shame, becoming an outcast among her people. She looked forward to God’s fulfillment of his promise, the Messiah, despite these possibilities. She knows that God will take care of everything, even though she may not understand how, and she looks forward to the fulfillment of his promise to her and to his people. She anticipates his goodness being fulfilled.

I want to live in constant anticipation of God’s goodness being fulfilled.

John

Mary hurried to her older cousin, Elizabeth, to tell her the news. The interesting thing is that before Mary had a chance to explain anything, Elizabeth already knew something was up.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:41-45).

John (the Baptizer, not the Apostle) leaped for joy. In the womb! Now that’s anticipation.

I wonder sometimes why I do not have that same sense of urgent anticipation about Jesus.

 Simeon

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Luke 2:25-26).

And then he expresses how all this fulfills his heart’s desire:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”(Luke 2:29-32).

This is serious anticipation: “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” “would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah,” “you may now dismiss your servant in peace.”

I want to know that type of satisfaction that comes from faithfully waiting for my Savior.

Anna

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

Anna had been waiting a long time, wanting nothing more than to be in God’s temple as she waited for the Messiah. Do you see what she did? She gave thanks to God, which is something we could have guessed would happen. But Anna knew there were others like her, other people who had been waiting and wanting, and she let them in on the good news, speaking “about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” She was eighty-four years old and still active in her ministry as God’s prophet.

Will I spend the rest of my days, even if they are long and I live to eighty-four or beyond, telling people that God’s redemption is at hand? That is anticipation worth living out.

Song of Anticipation

So here’s a song I don’t mind singing in the weeks approaching Christmas, Joy to the World:

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Most people sing it as a Christmas carol of Jesus’ coming, but I sing it as a reminder that we also still await our Savior. After all, this song was written not about the Messiah’s birth but about his return as prophesied in Psalm 98. I like to sing it at Christmas because it reminds me as we celebrate our Savior’s birth – the miracle of incarnation, God with us in the flesh – that we still wait and want, that we still anticipate his return, and when he does return all heaven and nature will “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Psalm 98:1).

 

Biography: Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids now in college, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

33 Comments

[...] it up. So I did and she

[...] it up. So I did and she ran it. Aimee Byrd read it and said now she wanted an article too, so I sent her one. Both of them have had me back for more guest [...]

I thank you! I'll check out

I thank you! I'll check out your other guest posts. God is really speaking through you -- isn't it fabulous how God can use us all in each others' lives.

Jane, I am so glad you have

Jane, I am so glad you have enjoyed discovering Aimee's blog. This is one of the web's treasures, that's for sure. And thank you for your encouraging words, too. I'm like you when it comes to responding to God; I wonder if I can trust and obey as these people did, or will I run and hide like Saul in the luggage pile! (1 Sam 10:22.)

Tim

First, Thank you Tim for

First, Thank you Tim for leading me to Aimee's blog. Aimee, I love the title of your blog!!! Wish it had come to me! :) And Tim, this post is fabulous. I absolutely love the way it is organized, how you put it all together. Each ending statement of the individuals are thoughts we need to ponder for our own lives. I wonder, would I have had the courage of Mary? I don't know. Would I have been so faithful as Anna? I don't know. Thank you Tim. Thank you Aimee!

[...] Tim so wonderfully

[...] Tim so wonderfully articulated in his guest post, we do have something amazing to anticipate. Because Christ was incarnated–formed in Mary’s [...]

Thanks Nick. Isn't it amazing

Thanks Nick. Isn't it amazing how God uses circumstance to keep us focused on something? To be repeatedly reminded of the incarnation is such a blessing!

Your story about the pastor's family devotion time is similar to what my wife and I have been able to share in a young pastor's family's home. We've been going over a few nights recently to help out with the four little children at bath and bedtime, getting there around the time they are doing their family advent devotions. There's a Bible story, singing and prayer, really awesome to join in on.

Thanks for heading over here to Aimee's blog, Nick. You should stick around a check out a few more posts. Very insightful stuff here!

Tim

Tim, Wonderful article.

Tim,
Wonderful article. I've been thinking lately about the role of hope in evil and suffering in the world. Without hope in the coming Messiah, I don't think we can patiently endure the suffering we're given.
Also, this made me think of a memory I will continue to cherish. A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were invited to one of our pastor's houses for dinner. Afterward, they and their 6(!) daughters and their son joined us in singing "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" in front of the fireplace. Then, Pastor Tim read aloud the passage about John leaping in the womb in eager anticipation of his cousin's reign. It was touching to hear their young voices proclaiming the victory of the coming Messiah. Hallelujah!
Great hymn. Great story. Great article.
Thanks,
Nick

Christ's return is one gift

Christ's return is one gift that I am really looking forward to myself, Rachel! I'm so glad you came by Aimee's blog.

Tim

I love reflecting on

I love reflecting on Christmas carols and their relevancy in the present moment. Growing up, it was hard for me to understand and internalize the truths within the lyrics, but over the last few years, God has given me a newfound understanding and appreciation for the reality that He is coming back! Amen! Wonderful thoughts, Tim!

Thanks Karen. Wesley and

Thanks Karen. Wesley and Watts: topping the charts in the 1700s!

Tim

As an 18th century English

As an 18th century English literature specialist, I love that so many 18th century hymns (such as many of the most traditional and beloved carols) get their rightful place, front and center, during worship the Christmas season.

Great taste, Tim.

Thank you so much, Margie.

Thank you so much, Margie. Here's "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" over at cyberhymnal (http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/m/comtlong.htm). It will give you the tune and lyrics, but not someone singing them together.

Tim

I feel like B'rer Rabbit -

I feel like B'rer Rabbit - "Don't throw me in that briar patch!"

Well then, stay tuned, there

Well then, stay tuned, there will probably be some future nagging! :)

Very nice. I don't think I've

Very nice. I don't think I've ever heard the song "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" I'll have to find and listen. Mary's faithful words, "I am your servant,may your word to me be fulfilled" ...that young woman's love for the Lord always hits home w/me...a sweet surrendering I want to actively have every day of the year!
And, Dana, "Oh, Holy Night" is my favorite too. It's so visual as one sings it...it puts me there. And Tim, I love the reference to Psalm 30:5. I'll be reading that again w/a new outlook.
Thank you, Tim. I always love your insights on Aimee's writings, too.

We really are prone to

We really are prone to "cringing in anticipation of future heartache", aren't we Kim? And that thing about not wanting to live out of fear reminds me of the common angelic greeting, "Fear not!" Angels know a lot, so I hope to be able to take them at their word that there is nothing to fear when it comes to following God.

Tim

Thank you, Kim. Tim has a way

Thank you, Kim. Tim has a way of revealing new blogs to us. I look forward to future comments from you!

"I want to live in constant

"I want to live in constant anticipation of God’s goodness being fulfilled."

That idea really resonated with me this morning, especially in connection with Mary. I can't imagine the level of faith it would have taken her to maintain that attitude. I have a hard time doing it, myself. My husband works with "at risk" kids, and if I'm honest, I think I spend more time cringing in anticipation of future heartache than eagerly expecting God's goodness to be fulfilled in their lives. I really don't want to live out of fear, but out of true, strong faith. Thanks, Tim, for highlighting that part of Mary's example this morning.

P.S. Aimee, this is my first comment (and first visit!) to your blog. I'd never heard of it, but I heard that Tim was posting today and wanted to come check it out. I'll be sure to stop by more often:)!

A blog of my own?! I'm too

A blog of my own?! I'm too lazy, but I do appreciate the hard work others put into keeping up their blogs, Victoria, such as your three excellent blogs (I don't know how you do it).

And I'm right there with you about all the verses of Joy to the World. I actually thought about including all of them in the piece above, I like them so much.

Tim

Thank you so much, Dana. I

Thank you so much, Dana. I agree completely, that line from O Holy Night is powerful, "yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." So reminiscent of Psalm 30:5 - "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Our Savior brought the morning with him, didn't he?

Tim

You just wrote exactly

You just wrote exactly everything my one pastor preached on this past Sunday!!! I loved how detailed your article was and it is so true, that many people were awaiting the arrival and how it is amazing that We have seen His power work in the lives of so many people. Joy to the World has always been my favorite Christmas carol (all of the verses) so this is great that you included it in here too. Thanks for another post. You sure you won't create a blog of your own????

I have always loved the story

I have always loved the story in scripture of Simeon and Anna! I had forgotten! Thanks for the reminder! What an honor for them both! I will make a point to read that scripture again during this wonderful season of anticipation! There are a few song verses that tug and tug at my heart every year. One is from O Holy Night..."A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks a new a glorious morn!" It gets me every single time! and also, O Come Let Us Adore Him..."Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing." I never tire of the Carols that proclaim the anticipation of his coming! Thank you for accepting Aimee's invitation! I was excited to hear the news! I have Andrew Peterson's Christmas album and if you don't have it, you may enjoy it! The entire album takes you thru the anticipation of the coming messiah thru the entirety of scripture in song! It is wonderful! One of my favorites! I have played it so much it is ruined and I need to replace it! Thanks again, Tim, for guest blogging! I loved it!!

Your next Doc!:)

Your next Doc!:)

P.S. "Nagging"? There wasn't

P.S. "Nagging"? There wasn't even a bit of arm twisting.

Aimee: "Say Tim, do you thinkk sometime you might like to write ..."

Me: "Yes! Woo-hoo! Yes!"

At least that's how I remember it.

It depends on whose version,

It depends on whose version, Jennifer! OK, seriously, some songs are over played. But I confess that jazz and swing version of seasonal songs are a weak point for me. I listen to Dean Martin and Nat King Cole and Diana Krall and Michael Buble and Bing Crosby and a ton of other people who handle the songs so well. Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae's version of "Baby it's Cold Outside" is amazing!

And as to listening deeply, you're welcome for the reminder but I must also thank you for reminding me that God is always worth listening to deeply.

Tim

Doc B, notice the word

Doc B, notice the word "minds" is plural!

I just put my kids to bed,

I just put my kids to bed, inwardly grumbling over their choice of Christmas music for the (feels like) 50th night in a row.

Thanks for reminding me to listen deeply.

But I'm still going to grumble when I hear, "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree."

Doc, you slay me! You also

Doc, you slay me! You also inspire me with your comments on this blog.

Tim

Thanks Brooke. One great

Thanks Brooke. One great thing about this type of anticipation is that sharing it with others makes it even better!

Tim

"One of the greatest rewards

"One of the greatest rewards of blogging is the wonderful minds to meet disguised in the comments section."

And then there's the rest of us. ;-)

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for inviting me along, Aimee. I'm honored, truly. That tension you describe is exactly what I felt as I wrote this piece, but I didn't really recognize it like that until you pointed it out just now. Great insight.

Tim

I really enjoyed this

I really enjoyed this article. Thank you,I too want to live with anticipation like these examples!

Your article articulates well

Your article articulates well that tension we have between the already of Christ's accomplishment, and the not yet of its consumation. As we celebrate his incarnation, you pointed out so well how we still need to eagerly long for that second coming.

This article makes me think about the parable of the ten virgins--how we are to be ready, looking--and how Christ is so long-suffering for us as we are so easily distracted. Thank you for reminding me to be joyful in urgent anticipation of God's goodness being fully fulfilled in Christ, satisfaction in waiting (so hard for me!) and encouragement to proclaim the Good News--"anticipation worth living out!"

As we enjoy the benefits of our union with Christ now, that we have received like Mary, like David we also cry out, Lord, "how long?"