The holidays are here. Beginning with Thanksgiving, the season of setting the bar too high is upon us. What should be a time of joy and wonder often dissolves into frustration and unmet expectations. The season can be a time of peace and anticipation if we choose to approach it with a sense of expectancy rather than expectation. While these two words sound similar, they could not be more different.
Expectancy implies unknowing. We wait with a certain amount of breathless anticipation and wonder for what might happen. Expectation, on the other hand, is a preconceived notion of what will happen. Expectancy lives in mystery. Expectation lives in concreteness. Expectancy welcomes surprise. Expectation hates surprise.
Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving. I had purchased the turkey and was planning a meal that could be easily prepared in an unfamiliar kitchen. We were traveling to my parents’ house in Tennessee, which we have been cleaning up since my dad, who was my last surviving parent, died last year. While I wasn’t looking forward to the work we would be doing, I was glad to have the opportunity to spend time with one of our sons. But because I’ve been facilitating an Advent study, where the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving we had talked about approaching the season with a sense of expectancy rather than expectation, I sought to practice expectancy toward Thanksgiving.
So when I discovered that my son’s plans had changed, I was not disappointed. My husband suggested we do turkey sandwiches, so we could focus our energy on our cleaning project, which was the reason for our trip to Tennessee. On our way to my parents’ house, we stopped at a favorite store in Chattanooga and bought some good bakery bread, deli turkey and a delicious pumpkin pie. Purchasing our dinner was great fun, because the store was offering samples of different pies and we tried all the different ones before deciding which one to buy.
Because we approached the holiday with a sense of expectancy, we enjoyed our meal, we enjoyed being with each other, and we made a good memory in the midst of a different way of celebrating Thanksgiving. Had we had a certain expectation for the celebration, we would surely have been disappointed. Expectancy allowed us to be fully present in the moment, and to savor it with joy!
I invite you to approach the season, and frankly, all of life, with a sense of expectancy, not expectation. Let expectancy become a spiritual practice and allow yourself to encounter God and others with freshness and wonder.