Expectation vs Reality

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.  (Charles Wesley)


There have been these memes on Facebook recently that I have found really amusing; the ‘Expectation vs Reality’.  One of my favourites was the “expectation” picture of a Christmas party with white furniture and silver Christmas Tree decorations and a whole family of well dressed and well groomed people smiling happily as they drank red wine and noshed on a charcuterie board, vs the “reality” of the same family with one kid beating the other, crackers mashed into the carpet, red wine spilled across the white furniture and the family dog dragging the charcuterie board across the floor.

I recognize that my family resembles the “reality” pictures wayyyyy more often than the “expectation” pictures.  My brother had a white couch once way back when he was a twenty-something bachelor.  I was banned from eating or drinking on that couch.   My reality is a messy place of spilled wine and dashed expectations of cleanliness and grooming.

But we do often, and in less obvious ways, set ourselves up with expectations, eh.  Especially this time of year.

We ‘expect’ that we will have these wonderful, meaningful family events that include all sorts of warm and cozy feelings; when for many of us the reality is that our family is scattered across the globe and are working to create meaning for themselves separate from us.  Or family members aren’t kind to each other and spend far more time arguing that smiling warmly for pictures.

We ‘expect’ to show up at places of worship and hear warm and cozy prayers and sing Christmas Carols at the top of our lungs, when Advent brings harsh reminders that we need a saviour, scriptures that berate us as a “Brood of Vipers” and Carols are put on hold until Christmas Eve.  Then to add insult to injury, Christmas Day is a Sunday and the church collectively decided to sleep in.

We ‘expect’ time with our family and friends, when the reality is that the demands of our time mean that we can’t add one more thing in.  And we feel guilty that we can’t add one more thing in.  And so we try, and then disappoint ourselves or others.

We expect, we expect and we expect.

And the Reality seems harsh, uninviting, and difficult.

This year, I’ve been really thinking about those ‘expectations’ vs ‘reality’ memes and I’ve been pondering what we’ve turned Advent into.

Because the church calendar never reflects the glitter and glamour that we’ve turned this season into.  The church calendar doesn’t have us partying and celebrating and eating through charcuterie boards with our family and friends.  The church calendar, instead, has us listening in the dark – listening to our doubts and our fears; reminding us that we need to hold on, reminding us that we need to be lifted out of this ‘great big mess’ of our reality.

So, my dear Bethel friends, when you’re feeling a little like reality has come crashing in on you, dashing all of your expectations for the season – know that this is exactly where you need to be.  Because this is the place where Hope can be born.  Not in the place of lofty expectations, but in the reality of lowly mangers in cattle sheds, of a baby born to a brown unmarried teenager that couldn’t even find a hotel room for the night.  A reality that is far more likely to include crackers mashed in the couch than a well-groomed smiling family.  A gritty reality is the birthplace of our salvation.

Blessings today – and remember you are Loved (in all of your Reality).

Rev. Lynne

PS today’s pic is the “Joseph” from my Nativity scene.  Joseph is propped up by a bear that has a chip in it that reads The Night Before Christmas.  Joseph has a broken foot and has lost his shepherd’s crook and the bear’s voice sounds like Warf from Star Trek.  But Warf happily props up my broken Joseph.  That’s my life in a nutshell.

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