It is perhaps a good time to think about expectations for the year ahead .. what are you expecting from the coming year. In particular this morning I want to ask what are you expecting in the context of the church here in our villages and communities? What should we expect in 2018?
Perhaps it feels good to think about this .. or perhaps you fear the worst .. perhaps it brings excitement or dread .. whatever we feel the season of Epiphany reminds us that we as the church are called to be those who lift our heads in expectation. To look beyond our navel and to gaze rather into the future through the lens of God’s promises and our prayers.
Epiphany is all about expectation and getting this right. Because getting our expectations wrong can be a source of much frustration and anxiety and pain just as much as getting them right can be a source of fulfilment and joy. If our expectations are met great peace and comfort come from this.
Our passages from scripture this morning show us how we can get it right and wrong in relation to what god promises us. In Psalm 72 we have one of the passages on which the Jewish people had built their expectations on a coming King .. a promised Messiah. Did you see that in the Psalm …
God promises Israel a King on the same throne of David and of him it says .. read v 8-15
This promise of a King in the Psalms leads both the Wise men from the East and King Herod to take actions in their own lives hundreds of years later. Matthew tells us how the story unfolds.
The Wise men take the later part of the prophecy to be important as they seek to come and bless and worship and give gifts to the promised King and Messiah. Their expectation is that there is one coming who they should pay homage too … and so they spend their lives in expectation .. making a journey in hope of expectation fulfilled in their lives as they do indeed pay homage and give gifts to the King of the Jews who is this child Messiah.
Herod on the other hand looks at the Jewish promise of a King as a threat. He perhaps reads the other verses of the Psalm as an indication of a political challenge. The Jews are expecting someone to come and free them from oppression .. and he is the oppressor!! So he acts out his fears in the worst possible way to eliminate the innocent children in Israel.
So we are shown in this passage from Matthew that what we expect from God has a massive impact on how we act in our lives. If we fear the future we can display the panic of a cornered animal lashing out and attacking those around us. We should always remember this when we ourselves are on the receiving end of those who lash out and hurt us .. it is often because they are afraid or expecting the worst.
But if we see hope in the future we like the wise men will be prepared to journey day and night, tirelessly riding into the future because we are expecting to find God there ahead of us .. fulfilling a plan set out before the foundation of the world.
What is your hope and your vision for 2018? How are each of us going to be involved in fulfilling that vision? Ask yourself in the quiet how God might intend you to journey through the coming year? What are we expecting to happen in our worship and community life? Without thinking about this it seems to me we might fall short or indeed miss the point of gathering and worshipping this year. So let us gaze forward and set our expectations like stars in a dark sky as the church of God in this place in this moment.