The Inefficiency of Anticipation.

Die Vorfreude means “the anticipation” in German. It’s literally “before the joy.” Not that I know a lot of German words yet.

Anticipation really is the best word for a transient, limbo life because it is a noun, both outside of and within emotion. It bundles together other nouns, adjectives, and verbs Рexcitement, hope, nervousness, impatience, waiting, and expectation.

Anticipation just is.

It’s everything I’m feeling about being so close (and yet, so far) from moving overseas.

It’s also so much more than that.

We talk a lot about waiting when it comes to Advent; the anticipation of the arrival of one specific, notable Person. One world-changing event. So, while I’m google translating apartment listenings, I’m aware of a simultaneous reflection on the incarnation of the greatest Person. Understanding the anticipation in my soul that goes beyond shipping costs and language school.

One of the joys of being with an organization is getting lots of fun emails – things like metrics, donor reports, and “hey, we’re changing things, so please contact all your people.” Once a week, every Monday, we also get an email from the spiritual life team. Those emails are supposed to center us, in the midst of the logistics and practicalities, regarding what we’re actually doing and the posture from which we are to do it.

Today, Karen wrote about the slow and inefficient work of God (which is language she quotes from this article).

She talked about how Advent, in and of itself, is inefficient, using eerily personal allusions to waiting, fundraising, and ministry. How Anna and Simeon were experts in this slow, inefficient plan. Story after story, in the first Advent and every subsequent one since then, of hold-your-breath, counter-intuitive waiting.

When I read her reference to Zechariah 9:12, under blankets and a lack of desire wake up on Monday morning, I paused.

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

Prisoner of hope. Well, if that doesn’t sum up anticipation.

We’re caught in the anticipation because the redemption isn’t complete. Because we grasp at, search for, and cling to Hope. Like Mary in the stable or Mary Magdalene in front of the tomb. Believing for what is yet full.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer used the phrase “hopefully doing without,” reflecting from a Nazi prison cell on the reality that the greatest, tenderest, most mysterious things require waiting. We live within a Love that proclaims: “what will happen one day is already real and certain in God’s eyes.” The anticipation of what we cannot yet understand.

Advent feels like a marvelous crash between the darkness of waiting and the light of revelation. Hope streaming into hopelessness, but not yet with complete consumption. The already and the not yet. An anticipation that could never be unexplained, understood, or overemphasized.

That which is both more glorious and more mundane than we could ever begin to anticipate.

I only ever seem to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Advent devotional, whether because it truly is that good or because I’m too lazy to find another one (in reality though, it is that good). Irrespective of circumstance, he sat in the same reality as Karen, which was the same for Anna, Simeon, and the Israelites that Zechariah was prophesying to. It’s the same for me, and maybe, for you too.

The waiting, the mystery, the anticipation. How slow and inefficient and, yet, strangely glorious it all seems.

So, we wait. We choose to dwell with the Person who came to dwell among us. God incarnate, our fortress and stronghold. We embrace His slow, inefficient, magnificent work because He is God and we are definitely not. Let Him be God with us.

The mystery of Advent.

The weight of hope.

Marvel at the stars, hold your breath, and hear the silence – because Emmanuel is about to cry.

This Person, rearranging stars in the heavens and designing intricate snowflakes and icicles, just because He can, coming as a screaming, sticky, refugee baby.

Anticipation within a weary people. For things like funding and answers and the coming of the Prince of Peace. In the inefficiency of Mondays, the glory of Sundays and every day in between. We pad the manger with the thickness of our doubts, expectations, and restlessness and we pick up the tenderest, truest Hope instead.

Prisoners of hope, caught in anticipation and overwhelmed by Love.

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