There are so many things in our lives that fill us with anticipation. Every October, or maybe even September, children begin to anticipate Christmas. Each year, families anticipate birthdays, people look forward to the start of their favorite season, and lovers anticipate Valentine’s Day. We look forward to our favorite meal, or that steamy cup of coffee in the morning. We anticipate the end of the work or school day, or a restful night’s sleep. Indeed, in any number of ways, our lives are filled with anticipation.
Within the life of the church, there are also periods of anticipation. Each year, prior to Christmas, we walk together through the season of Advent, a time of preparation during which time we anticipate the birth of the Messiah. And then, in the 40 days leading up to Easter, we anticipate the crucufixion, death, and resurrection of Christ and prepare ourselves for the observance of these events through penitence, prayer, and self-denial. I personally love these seasons of anticipation in the life of the church. I get caught up in the intentionality by which we focus our lives around the person and sacrifice of Christ. I am touched by the ways we are moved to surrender our lives completely to God. In our anticipation, we seem compelled to more fully focus the energies of our lives around of devotion to, faith in, and service of God in Christ Jesus.
I have experienced anticipation in a completely new and different way in my own life over the past few weeks and months. As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I am a part of the “appointment” system, by which we are sent to churches. I have known since shortly after Christmas that I would likely be moving this summer, but I also knew that I would not have any idea until mid-March where I might be going. So, as the time of revelation approached, my anticipation grew greater and greater. As much (or more) than any other time in my life, my own prayers and the prayers offered by others became very important to me. I felt compelled to read, study, and converse with people in an effort to prepare for the upcoming (though yet unknown) transition; my mind began to fill with dreams and visions of following God’s call in my life more fully in a new setting. I was nervous, but I was even more excited, and above all, I was full of eager anticipation.
My anticipation was such that when the District Superintendent told me where I am projected to go, I was not surprised. God had already been at work in my heart, preparing me for this church. The excitment I now feel in the confirmation of the Holy Spirit is almost beyond description. But the process is not over yet. I am not yet allowed to share my projected appointment, and so all who have supported and encouraged me during this time are now experiencing the same anticipation that I did for so many weeks. And my excitement is so great that it pains me not to be able to share with my friends and community of faith.
As I have thought of these experiences of anticipation in this season of Lent, I have come to a new appreciation of anticipation in the life of the Christ-follower. I now know more fully the power of anticipation to truly focus us onto the mind of God. I now know more completely the power of anticipation to draw a community together around a common cause. I have experienced in a new way the power of anticipation to give drive and energy and excitement to a person or community or cause.
My prayer for myself and all as we anticipate Easter morning is that the anticipation of this life-giving resurrection will become the most powerful force in our lives, compelling us turn to God not only in the remaining weeks of Lent, but far beyond.