Our depictions of the birth reveal something of about our assumptions and expectations.

Our American heritage, which rejected kings and royalty, cannot adequately comprehend the importance of Jesus' birth story. The result is the story of his birth is a sort of birthday story. And the remembrance of his birth in America has been transformed into a birthday celebration for Christ. But the biblical proclamation about this birth announces that expectations are going to change because reality is going to change. In fact, it is a proclamation of the birth of the king - it is good and it is news!

John the Baptist: The Disappointed Prophet - Matt. 11

John the Baptist was having a weak-kneed moment. He is tired - a heaviness of heart. One of those moments where he wonders - has it all been worth it? Was it all for nothing? Have the choices that brought me to this point been worth it?

  • When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing . . . John followed the script for his life. He made the tough choices to be responsible. And that denied him of some of the simple pleasures of life: No wife, no family, no inheritance. Just the wilderness.

  • But Jesus seems to be off the script. Where's the fire? Where's the vengeance of God? Where's the terrible recompense? Where's the winnowing fork and the axe on the root? Where's the burning of the chaff? John had called people to repent and get ready, now he had to know was Jesus going to do his part? Maybe Jesus isn't the one. Maybe John wouldn't see the kingdom of God break in. John needs to know that the Lord has come!

    Jesus answered John's disciples,"Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

    Great Expectations. According to John, Jesus was off the agenda. John is about to lose his head and Jesus is just teaching and preaching - there's work to be done! John had said that he wasn't worthy to be Jesus' slave. Now he wanted to see some of that worthiness. John had great expectations for the kingdom, but he was worried that they might be failed expectations. . .

    Failed Expectations. Have you been where John was? If you've ever known failed expectations, then you've been there. If you have known broken dreams, then you have been there. Have you ever thought about the things close to you, the important things - your family, your work, even the church - and asked "What if this is as good as it gets?" Even those who've gotten everything they always wanted sometimes don't live happily ever after. Why? Their expectations failed.

    Wrong Expectations Jesus understood the problem of failed expectations. And he showed us that we really set ourselves up for it by having the wrong expectations. This generation always expects the opposite - "Jesus should have attended more funerals and John should attended more weddings. John could have smiled a more and Jesus could have scowled a little more."

    We expect to see it all go our way. We think that being a Christian means certainty and safety. We think that Jesus is insurance against pain and suffering. We think that worshipping God means a better salary, well-behaved kids, a comfortable retirement, no disease, a healthy marriage with no arguments and continual happiness. So we attend church faithfully and give a tenth and work hard in every available ministry - and yet we still get disappointed because all our expectations are unmet.

    Diagnosis: We had a plan that Jesus never approved. Sure we had the right ideas, but we placed OUR expectations on the Kingdom and the King. But the King is the King. He determines the plan. He sets the standards (Illustration: In the Middle Ages standards of measurement were based on the KING).

    OUR Great Expectations, sometimes become failed expectations, only because we had the wrong expectations!

    So What if We Trusted Our King and Changed Our Expectations?

    [Illustration: "The Return of the King" - With a king, despair and fear is changed to hope and courage]

    Remember Jesus' word of hope to John's disciples: What Did You Go out to See? (What did you expect?) A shaken reed? A softie in plush robes? Answer: A Prophet. John is a tough one. He is the greatest. But that's nothing compared to the least in the kingdom.

    [Isaiah 35] In the kingdom, there's a new reality a new system of expectations. There is water in the wilderness. There is healing and refreshment. The dangerous animals are gone. The desert doesn't disappear, but a highway runs through it. It is a highway made for God's people. A gushing stream pours through it. And the people are pure and charged with holiness. And (here's the really good news) even the fools will not wander off it. Hope and good news for dummies!

    Who's King? Who rules? Our expectations? Our Script? Or Jesus Christ. I hear of many problems with our church and our lives. But every problem has the same solution - making Christ King! I may not be able to plan for every circumstance, but I am blessed as long as I don't give up on the true King! If my expectations are my crowns, then I must lay them down before the KING who has authority and power to both MEET and CHALLENGE my expectations. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20)

    Our king was born in Bethlehem of Judea. His birth marked the arrival of God on our earthly shores. His life was dedicated to the saving work of God and his life threatened the powers that separated humanity from God. Though the life of our king was all about reconciliation with God, the powers that opposed God killed our king rather than accept God's love. But one does not simply kill the King sent by God. God raised Jesus from the dead and his rule continues even to this day and he is coming back. When our king returns everything will be made right. You can expect that. You can count on that.

    Our king, Jesus, is not far away. He welcomes all who receive him.

    I want you to be happy when you meet your king. He is your king whether you accept it or not. The good news is that he gives us the right to be called children of God. If you believe in his name. If you receive him. If you will meet him in the waters of baptism. He welcomes you.How do we welcome him?

    Our song [Come Thou Almighty King] is an invitation on many levels: For all who will sing this song, pay attention to the words. It invites our Lord to come and rule over us. It invites him to hasten his return. I think this is the song we need to be singing with words and deeds so that we will encourage one another and the world around us to expect his return - always!

    You are invited to bring your expectations that need to be changed. You are invited to bring good news of God's saving work, to pledge your life to him and to be forgiven and blessed.

    Chris Benjamin

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 21 December 2003

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