Great expectations: to wish is to hope and to hope is to expect

By Laurel Pattenden

Great expectations! We all have them. Jane Austen wrote “To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.” And we do expect endlessly.

Expectations come in all shapes and sizes. Inner, outer, realistic and unrealistic expectations can fill our days. How many of us prepare a to-do list that is so long that you can only complete it if all the stars are in alignment. Our lists become like letters of expectations mailed to ourselves.

And then there are all those New Years resolutions, diets, budgeting plans and reading lists (perhaps this one is defined by the height of our book piles) that we expect to complete. One cannot possibly uphold all these expectations.

We also have weightier expectations. Have you ever had great expectations for your own behaviour or how about someone else’s behaviour? Certainly! Or how about an event or special occasion? Definitely! These expectations that we usually set ourselves can sometimes make or break a relationship or event. We have all experienced this from time to time. That special vacation we looked forward to just ended up being quite boring and was a let down. Or that person we know so well just didn’t act the way we expected. But these examples do not stop us from our expectations. Samuel Johnson wrote “We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointment or gratified, we want to be again expecting”.

Keeping this all in mind, the season of Advent is about to begin. Church Christmas bazaars start appearing. Special dinners and choir productions fill our days. We get in a frenzy of shopping and social gatherings. These have become the expectations of the season of Advent.

Jon Tyson, Unsplash

The definition of the word advent in the Encarta World English Dictionary is “the arrival of something important or awaiting”. The word await means “to expect or be looking for someone or something”. Interestingly, I find it hard to await for someone important while being in a constant state of seasonal frenzy. Shakespeare had it right when he wrote that, “Expectation whirls me round, The imaginary relish is so sweet, That in enchants my sense”.

Because of all these expectations I propose we change the season’s name to the “Season of Great Expectations” instead of Advent. For tis the season to be jolly well overwhelmed. The list of expectations is an exceptionally tough one. And we seem so emotionally attached to these expectations.

And what happens when we have all these seasonal expectations? Do we miss “awaiting” for Who is to be “expected”? Maybe this busyness takes our eye off the prize.

Maybe we can get away with this Season of Great Expectations because we don’t have to fear Jesus not showing up in the manger?

Let’s face it: we have expectations and one of them is that the Baby will be in the manger at the appropriate time. Ready or not here He comes. But what if Jesus’ birth truly depended on our awaiting? Would He be there?

This year I think I want to be more heart-ready. Let’s not just expect but be rested and focused to welcome that Someone special as if our lives depended on it. Let’s get rid of some of the seasonal expectations by creating a short-list making sure to write in to remember the Baby. Leaving time for “awaiting for someone – that someone Jesus”.