The season of Christmas is fast approaching and the frenzy of activity leading up to our Christmas celebrations is growing but have we lost Jesus in the midst of this frenzy? This morning’s post in the series Jesus Is Coming What Do We expect? comes from James Presscott. He has been blogging about Advent and other topics on his blog JamesPrescott.co.uk. He is also a regular guest blogger on issues of discipleship in the digital realm at digi-disciple, run by the Big Bible Project, and is currently working on a book.
Expectations. We all have them, whether we know it or not. This is the time of year where the consumer culture we live in drives them up more than any other time – what gifts we’d like to receive, expectations of seeing relatives or eating certain types of food.
Often the last thing people expect at Christmas is Jesus.
Consumerism has taken over the festive season to such an extent that it’s easy for the very reason we celebrate to get lost in all the mayhem – in many ways that simply a highlighting of what happens the other 364 days of the year. But as Christians we should never allow Jesus to get lost.
Should it really have come to that?
Have we played a part in allowing Jesus to get lost in Christmas?
Well as Christians we’re called to stand for Jesus on this earth, to be His representatives here. To stand up for the issues He cares about, to show why His way is the best way to live through our own example.
As I reflected on this issue of what we expect from Jesus this Christmas, the one thing that I simply couldn’t escape from was the idea that it’s not about what we expect from Jesus or our expectations of Him – it’s more what He expects from us.
You see I think what we often do with our expectations of Jesus is that we put our own idea of who Jesus is in the place of Jesus, and place there what we think we should expect from Jesus, what matters to us, our own ideas of what He would care about.
Often what we don’t do is take time to ask Jesus what we should expect from Him. Nor, more crucially, what He expects from us.
One habit I don’t practice enough is simply sitting, listening to God, being silent and allowing Him to speak, letting Him set the agenda. I think it’s something we’re all prone to, especially in a consumer, merit-based society which rewards achievement and success, and encourages us to like to be right, indeed to get our value from being right, being the cleverest or smartest – or in Christian terms, the most insightful, the most in touch with God, the one more right about what Jesus would do/say/think.
We live also in a culture of selfish entitlement. It’s all about us and what we deserve, what we should own or what we have the right to.
Rarely is there space to stop and listen – to think about the other, the lesser. To think about what we can give rather than what we receive.
There has been an amazing TV advert in the UK this advent, for John Lewis, one of the major department stores in the UK.
All through the advert we’re led to believe a little child is waiting expectantly, impatient for Christmas to see what gift he will receive, what he will get for Christmas. We see him waiting, looking at clocks, struggling to sleep, eating his dinner down quickly and getting to bed early, impatient for Christmas morning.
But on Christmas morning something unexpected happens. He gets up with a flash and the first thing he does isn’t run to open his stocking or presents under the tree. No.
Instead he grabs a poorly wrapped present from his cupboard and rushes to his parents room, waking them up, so that he can give them his gift.
It’s incredibly powerful and very moving – and totally counter-cultural.
Why? Well simply because all that frustration wasn’t about what he was going to receive.
It was about the gift he was waiting to give.
I have to say, when I watched that, and every time since, it has humbled me. Chokes me up a bit, I must confess. Because watching it I was reminded of how selfish I am, how I – and probably many of us – have lost the joy of simply giving a gift, and how often we instinctively think of what we are going to receive, what we are entitled to.
We always put ourselves first and the other second, so when we see an advert where it doesn’t happen, it takes us aback, it shocks us.
It can be the same with Jesus. If He doesn’t deliver what we expect Him to, what we’ve decided He should give us or do for us, then we are disappointed or annoyed with Him – because He hasn’t met our standard of what we think we should expect.
But to me this is totally counter to the way of Jesus.
If we are truly followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t be worried about how God is going to bless us, we should be instinctively, like that little boy in the advert, thinking of how we can be a blessing to others this Christmas.
How we can be a living embodiment of Christ to others.
How we can show people through our lifestyle, behaviour, choices and attitudes that the way of Jesus is the best way to live. Pondering not what Jesus can give us, but how we can share Him – His love, His grace, His mercy – with those around us.
When we think of expectations of Jesus, we need to be turning that around, and asking ourselves what He expects of us this Christmas.
Who is He calling us to be?
What is He calling us to do?
How can we draw attention away from ourselves and point it towards Him this Christmas?
How can we show and give others the real gift of Christmas – Christ Himself?
So instead of pondering what you expect of Jesus this Christmas, how about instead turning it around and asking what He expects of you.
How about we simply remember God’s gift of Christ which was given at Christmas, and seek simply to share that gift with others?
Let us find our joy and expectations met not in the receiving but the giving of a gift.
I think if we all did that, we might find that all our expectations are met.