AdventWord 2019: 1. Unexpected

December 1, 2019
Advent Reflections

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.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

The above text is from the well-known hymn by Charles Wesley published in 1745. According to its history, this hymn is based on Haggai 2:7 – “And I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.”

The hymn is one of the most popular hymns during the Advent season. Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming”. The hymn calls us to reflect on the reason why the coming of Our Lord is something to be expectant about. It is at the core of this expectancy that we realistically move from being expectant to facing the unexpected reality of God’s coming. Yes, the coming of Our Lord is about facing the unexpected. It is in many ways like the realities of our daily life, for example, we expect to have a job, but we do not expect to have to work so hard.

In our Advent season, we expect to welcome God into our hearts – but we will eventually realize that with the coming of Our Lord change will come in such a way that we will truly be transformed. The unexpected part of this great gift will be the true power of the Love of God, Emmanuel.

I was called to be a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala two years ago. The journey has been about expecting the unexpected. I get to visit the 39 congregations that are part of this great diocese and each time, I’m greeted with great experiences that fall into this category of the unexpected. I prepare the best way I can for each visit: read the propers that the clergy or liturgical leadership send me, prepare a sermon, pray for the candidates that will be confirmed or received, read any material they send me in preparation for meetings. All this is of my doing, but as I get there, the rest is in God’s hands; the unexpected happens.

[Learn more about the important work of Global Partnerships in The Episcopal Church]

Advent is a time for preparation. We do all that is in our hands to prepare, from the decorations at home to the Advent procession at church. The reality of Emmanuel, God with us, is so true that the only way we can realize it is by being hit with the unexpected. I believe that this reality of the unexpected is one of the reasons that generosity and goodwill are so much more evident during this season. The unexpected nature of Emmanuel hits so hard that all the barriers that limit our expectancy are broken. Welcome! Enjoy the unexpected power of God! Come, thou long expected Jesus and set us free to live the unexpected.