Thinking at this time of year about Mary, the mother of Jesus, I wonder what it was like for a woman to be pregnant in those days. Would Mary have been fearful, anticipating trouble and even the possibility of dying, or would she have been excited, anticipating the new life and wondering what this baby would be like? I feel virtually certain she never anticipated watching this expected child die by crucifixion.
Anticipation is a tricky thing. The free and open delight of anticipation is a joy. I have a photograph of my then two-year-old son watching for the coming of a fireman’s parade. His face radiates presence and joy. He had no particular expectations or attachment to what had to happen. He was just into it.
On the other hand, we can focus so much on what is to come that we miss what is happening in the present. We can also anticipate negative things, being fearful and anxious, trying to hold onto control, struggling with perfectionism. This kind of anticipation steals life and squashes the possibility of joy. Of course, it can be a fact that hard things will happen. Yet even in such circumstances one can find a peace that allows one to live in anticipation, not of what is to come, but in each moment with the presence and joy that is possible.
At Christmas time it matters what we anticipate. Anticipating (maybe expecting) happy children and wonderful presents, or too much to do, family feuds, and food you don’t eat will color the whole season. What we expect to happen usually misses the mark. What would it be like if we let go of anticipation characterized by expectations, fears, and controlling, and with openness and wonder anticipated Christ’s coming, within ourselves or around us?
What is anticipation like for you?
What is the meaning of Christmas for you? Does it, or could it, include life-giving anticipation?
Take time in the busyness of this season to reflect on your experience of Christmas and make room for the New One to be born.
For further reflection:
“Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together. . . .” (See Isaiah 40: 3-5.)
“The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place. . . .” (See Luke 2: 8-20.)