Summary: We Need to Expect God everywhere
Title: What were you expecting?
Text: Luke 1.5-25
MP: We need to expect God everywhere.
Sadly, I just couldn’t find this story on the Internet, but I remember one of those “human interest” news stories from a few years back. It seems that a tourist from somewhere in Eastern Europe had flown to New York City with dreams of seeing the Washington Monument and the Capitol here in DC. Being from Europe, where frankly everything is just a lot closer together, he assumed he could take a train or some other way to “drop by” Washington on his trip.
When he asked the taxi cab driver, however, the taxi cab driver knew he had a mark. He decided to take advantage of the situation, and commiserated with the poor foreigner about the sad state of public transportation in the United States. It would be easier, he admitted, if there were train lines that connected New York and Washington, or even busses – but the only way to get to DC from NY was a taxi cab. Not knowing any better, he got in, and nearly $2000 later arrived in DC. Nearly a life’s savings not exactly swindled, but I think you’d have a hard time justifying the cabbie too.
From the foreigner’s standpoint, he had just assumed that all the stories about how expensive America was were right. Only when he approached his embassy with a sob story about his inability to get back to NY did he realize he’d been taken. America had, for better or for worse, met all of his expectations.
Christmastime is all about expectations. WalMart and Target are already reporting whether or not Christmas sales have met their sales expectations; Kids are all expectant about the new PlayStation 3 they asked for; and Adults are either in fear or anticipation of the preparations for the holiday. But, at the risk of sounding like a bad Christmas special, it’s easy to miss out on the best expectation of all – the expectation of Jesus’ incarnation.
It reminds me of a story I heard about a store in which the manager had placed a sign: “Make this season the best Christmas ever.” Underneath, somebody had penciled in the words, “Kind of hard to top the first one, no?”
Well if you feel like I do – that expectations fatigue, then this morning’s text is for you.
You see, for hundreds of years, Israel had built up an expectation. They knew the prophecies about a King – a King of Kings who was going to deliver them. But for nearly 600 years, they had simply passed from one empire to another. It was understandable – you can only wait so long before you start wondering. What am I really expecting? At what point does genuine hope become nothing but simple ritual?
I’m calling this Advent series “Christmas Songs,” because between now and Christmas, I want to look at the songs Luke records to announce Jesus’ birth. But this first reaction is a song of a different kind – the one that can not or will not be sung – because it does not take God at his Word.
Zechariah is a priest. His name means “God remembers.” Elisabeth is his wife and her name means “My God is faithful.” To the very essence of their identities, they were supposed a couple who knew that when God makes a promise, he keeps it. So, when this priest, this leader of worship, replaces worship with doubt, that’s a problem.
You see, a failure to believe that God is going to fulfill his promise – doubt when expectation is required – is taking what you expect of people and apply it to God. Let me put that another way. Whether or not other people live up to their promises is one thing. People will fail you. But God never will. Don’t mix the two up!
In Zechariah’s case, the consequence was pretty harsh – he couldn’t speak for nearly 6 months. He was literally speechless.
It’s almost as if the angel was asking, “If you aren’t going to believe that God when he says he has heard your prayer, why did you bother asking it in the first place?”
Especially at this time of year when it’s so easy to mix up what we expect of God and what we expect of our fellow man, we must remember that God hears us when we pray. I want to suggest three implications of that for us this morning.
1. We’ve touched on the first one – Expect that God will hear you when you pray. If you’re just mouthing the words, then of course God isn’t going to answer.
Now, let me briefly just state something that I think should be obvious here. I’m not saying that just because you believe your prayer strongly somehow you have obligated God to do your will. Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase “Name it and claim it!” I’m not suggesting that – because there is a world of difference between expecting and demanding. Every Christmas, I expected gift from my parents, but trust me, I knew what I would have gotten if I demanded it.