A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ…(Luke 3:15).
The Christmas Season throbs with a feeling of expectancy. Children expect Santa Claus’ arrival, with long-awaited gifts. Adults expect to be invited to parties and social gatherings at the workplace or at the homes of friends and relatives. ‘Tis the season to be jolly when even the Church expects a rise in attendance. Expectancy breeds hope.
Expectancy also demands preparation. The curtains must be bought or sewn. The pig cared for throughout the year becomes the ham that is devoured. The wall is prepared for paint whilst the household awaits in joyful anticipation of a change in colour or contrast.
Preparation is an activity. Therefore, the young Mary, like all Jews of her time who were joyfully anticipating the arrival of their Messiah in hopeful expectation, when asked to become the mother of Jesus, began preparations. Her body began to prepare for his birth.
Expectancy fosters excitement. Thrilled with the anticipation of gifts, we actively wait—knowing that its imminent arrival will heighten our happiness. Yet although thrilled, we wait as before any birth—cocooned in darkness. There, clothed in myriad, mixed emotions, we experience both hope and fear. It is in that darkness we grow.
In spite of the hope, excitement, growth and preparation that is cultivated in Advent, during our season of expectancy, this is also a time during which mistakes can be easily made.
Was it only the Jewish people who were prone to mistaking John for the Messiah and tempted to take the precursor for the successor? As individuals or as a nation, hot with the fever of expectancy as we rejoice in the approaching new year or new job, the new home or the new romance, perhaps the new party or the new appointment, we are also inclined to make mistakes. Expectancy can trigger change or multiply our missteps.
In the fervour of expectancy and mixed emotions, fear can dominate. Every pregnant mother ponders the question, “what if …” or “what shall we do?”, a fear amplified in today’s gospel reading when that same question is asked three times—first by the crowd, then by the tax collectors and finally by the soldiers. The bewilderment in the question points to a crisis—in leadership.
In Trinidad & Tobago, it is a crisis in leadership which litters many of our public institutions. In the season of expectation such a crisis demands honesty.
John pointed out to the people that he was not the one they had expected and although they may have been disappointed by this, they accepted his position because with clarity of vision, John remained abundantly clear about his role and function.
He pointed the people in the right direction—towards Christ and not towards his own ego-fulfillment. How often in the workplace does chaos erupt because of ego, dishonesty or lack of clarity regarding roles or boundaries that demarcate the parameters of function?
Whilst busy with preparation as individuals and as a nation, we actively await our Lord’s coming filled with expectation, hope and the potential for growth but this can also be a time when mixed emotions thrive.
Like John the Baptist, who is direct in his speech, clear in his vision and honest in his leadership, these qualities should and can be cultivated and demonstrated during the season of expectancy.