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What are you expecting this Christmas? Lots of presents, a big meal with all your favorite foods and desserts, peace in the family gathered, peace on earth?

Sometimes, what we expect will happen is in fact very different then what might really happen: Christmas spent in the hospital due to an emergency surgery, snowstorm knocks out the power during Christmas day dinner, you are fired from your job or a deployment.

Christmas is a time when expectations are high—the joy, the memories, the decorations, the shopping and cooking, the busyness, perfect snowfalls, happy family gatherings. It all is and will be wonderful ... or is it?

I think expectations around this time of year are often as high as it was during the time of Jesus. Great kings felt threatened that Jesus would overthrow these “earthly” leaders and responded out of fear of the Coming of this King. This Jesus came into the world, as a baby, born to a teenage mother and carpenter father, not a king and queen. This baby was not born in a castle, but in a manger filled with hay and stinky animals.

The prophets foretold of a great king – but when Jesus was born, this expectation was blown out of the water. Jesus’ humble beginnings led not to a seat on a physical throne, but a seat at the right hand of God. Waiting for Jesus to be born must have brought on a variety of emotions for not only his earthly mother and father (Mary and Joseph) but also for all those who were expecting someone to replace Caesar Augustus and King Herod, tyrant rulers of the time.

The world would have its expectations turned upside down, through the story of an innocent baby that would be the reason for the development of the Christian faith for centuries to come.

Is Jesus “enough” for us this season? Despite what we might expect, Jesus’ birth is what we are celebrating each and every year. If we didn’t have the food, the family, the decorations – would it still be Christmas? If we stripped away our expectations, would Jesus still be there in our hearts?

As we enjoy the season, whatever that may look like for each of us, let it be enough this year for each of us. Let us find joy in believing that Christ will come again and come into our hearts. No matter what comes, I hope that we can make room to expect the unexpected.

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him ‘Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’ — Matthew 1:18-23

The Rev. Rachel Schwab is the visitation pastor at First United Church of Christ in Carlisle.


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