“And she [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry … ‘And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’” Luke 1:42, 45-49 ESV
This portion of Scripture is generally referred to in the Christian community during the season called Advent. Advent is the liturgical time of the year observed in preparation of celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. Yet, within this story is an enormous import for us which God desires we maintain beyond the Advent season into every season of our lives.
Two key elements stand out in this story: expectation and anticipation. We often consider these two states synonymous or closely related, and rightly so. Yet there is a differentiation. We see this in the story of Mary’s visitation to her relative Elizabeth, both expectant mothers to Jesus the Christ and John the Baptist, respectively.
Expectation is associated with belief — that something is going to happen or come to pass. It is simply having an expectation. Generally related to air travel, based upon the flight schedule we expect the flight to depart and arrive at its designated time.
Spiritually, it is a mindset that expects God to perform something. After Mary received the angelic pronouncement that she would supernaturally give birth to one called the Son of God, she responded with “be it unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary, as all expectant mothers do, believed that at the time of life, generally around the ninth month, she would give birth. Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s blessed state based on her belief also with expectation of the birth stating, “and blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her of the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
Anticipation is associated with behavior — what one does in the meantime until what is expected happens. It is more than simply having an expectation. It is specifically living with expectancy. Generally, an expectant mother does not bemoan the forthcoming birth of her child. She gleefully prepares for the baby’s arrival by arranging a room, purchasing clothing and other items to have in place when the baby is brought home.
Spiritually, anticipation is expressed by our response to what we believe God is going to perform. Mary was not merely expecting the birth, but she exclaimed “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (Luke 1: 46, 47).
Just as a mother naturally must wait on the time of giving birth, there will be times we have to wait on the expectation; and the waiting may sink your heart. Proverbs 13:12 states, “Hope [expectation] deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire or a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” It is in this moment that we must live in anticipation, praising and rejoicing in God, until the expectation is fulfilled.
Live every day of your life in expectancy of the great things you expect God to perform according to his promises.
Rev. Johnson A. Beaven III is pastor of Citadel of Faith Church of God in Christ. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @jbeaven.