Body, Mind & Spirit

Expectations are at a fever pitch during the weeks leading up to Christmas. We call this season “Advent” in the church, but for most people these expectations take the form of frantic shopping, decorating, baking and traveling. Children, especially, come to expect much from Christmas – and that’s why most of us are frantic.

Looking back on our younger Advent years, my daughter expected at various stages the Cabbage Patch Kid, the newest American Girl doll, the Furbie and later the iPod. And my son, through his long arc of childhood and adolescence was expecting Hot Wheels, then an Xbox and eventually an iPhone. My wife always wanted more time when the children were young. I just wanted rest.

But my children always reminded me about the greater expectations, too. They didn’t just expect toys – they expected music and food and mystery as well. And they always seemed to expect something from God.

In fact, most people still do. That’s why many of our churches are packed on Christmas Eve. People still expect a word of hope. They want some light in the darkness. They crave God’s peace in a brutal world.

So … we still have this Gospel to offer. We can speak to those great expectations.

I, for one, am expecting a multitude this Christmas Eve. I’m expecting a packed house at all four of our worship times at Calvary. And I’ve already been working on my message – anticipating that people will expect, at least, a competent word of hope that can address their fears and struggles.

I already know that I’m going to speak to Paul’s beautiful poem in 1 Corinthians 13, where he writes in verse 12, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

It is a wonderful gift – isn’t it – to see loved ones face-to-face? And how even more wonderful to consider we can know God – even see God – face to face, as God has been made known in Christ, who came among us to heal and redeem. To know others, to be known by others and especially to know God: what extravagant gifts!

I’m already tired just thinking about Advent and Christmas Eve. That’s why I’m taking my vitamins. I’m staying fit. I’m planning ahead. Because I know it’s going to be a season of great expectations. I just need to prepare for it. And, I expect I will and hope you will, too.

Todd Outcalt is an empty-nester husband who frequently preaches at Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg and writes two humorous blogs ( and
In addition to writing for magazines like Salon, YouthWorker, The Christian Century, and Preaching, he also writes books like $5 Youth Ministry, Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget, and He Said, She Said with Michelle Knight.