[December 10, 2023]

Heartland Community Church

Reflections for Advent

It’s easy to be just a little self-centered at Christmas. Looking at the peripheral characters in the Christmas story highlights this tendency. While the star in the sky shone brightly above the babe in a manger, more than a few cast members imagined they were the “main character” of the moment. In this four-week Advent reading plan, we’ll look at the Magi, Joseph, the Innkeeper, and Caesar’s administrators and learn ways to avoid the trap of spotlighting ourselves in the celebration of the King. 

Advent Week 2: Joseph’s Unmet Expectations

By Chris Woodward

Sunday, December 10, Day 8
Matthew 1:18-24

Joseph had very reasonable expectations for his life, upcoming marriage, and future family. He expected Mary, of all people, to be true to God’s way (he later learned she was). God had other plans, and Joseph, visited by an angel, was asked to relinquish his expectations and change his plans. Like the Magi, Joseph heard and heeded God by staying with Mary, naming the baby Jesus – ‘God saves,’ and being the earthly father to the son of God.  Suddenly, Joseph’s life was not about his plans but about this baby – a child that would save His people from their sins. How could he have ever expected that?

Monday, December 11, Day 9
Matthew 2:13-15, Romans 8:28

In obedience again, Joseph heeds the command of an angel to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod’s death. God, an angel, and the birth of Jesus upended Joseph’s expectations, and now he was on the run. This certainly wasn’t how he expected his family’s growth and development to go. Just like Joseph, the son of Jacob, was brought to Egypt to preserve his family (Genesis 48:16), Joseph, the foster father of Jesus fled to Egypt to preserve his son. And it all worked for good (Genesis 50:20). Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28 that God can take our missed expectations and work them for good through the life and death of Jesus. No matter how your expectations have or have not been met for your life, the Star of Christmas is our guarantee that God is still at work.  

Tuesday, December 12, Day 10
Isaiah 55:8-9, John 3:27-30

Recognizing that God’s ways, thoughts, plans, and timing are not ours, often nothing like ours, can help loosen our grip on our expectations. Our disappointments and resentments often stem from our expectations for God to make our lives according to our ways, thoughts, and plans. But every time God gets his way, we get his blessings. John the Baptist meant this when he said we can only receive what is given from heaven because heaven’s blessings exceed our expectations. The Star must be greater while we become less.

Wednesday, December 13, Day 11
Luke 2:8-20

No one would have thought to send the shepherds to look for Jesus in a stable on the first Christmas. Cue the angels. The Magi didn’t know what to expect when they met the newborn king, let alone where he lived. Cue the star. The question for us is similar: where do you expect to find Jesus today?

Thursday, December 14, Day 12
Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:1-5

Many Old Testament prophesies had created expectations of a Savior. But the expectation was that God would always speak to his people through the prophets. Nobody expected God to come down from Heaven and live among us, even as a humble and helpless baby. In coming to the world, God speaks to us even today through his son’s life, Jesus. Just like then, few people expect to hear God’s voice through the life of Jesus. If you’ve ever felt like God hasn’t met your expectations, is it possible you’re not listening to how he’s chosen to speak? Jesus is always willing to meet you where you are, but chances are good that it will often be at an unexpected time and/or in an unexpected way. 

Friday, December 15, Day 13
Luke 2:25-32

“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him” (2:33). The blessings of Simeon claimed something unexpected to them: their son was not only God’s “salvation,” but also a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” (2:32). Certainly, Mary and Joseph expected this child to be different, given the circumstances around his birth. But to be salvation for the Gentiles, or all people, takes the expectations upon this child to a new level. Simeon’s faith shows us what it means to expect a miracle and to trust God’s promises. Have your eyes been opened to who Jesus is and what he’s come to do?

Saturday, December 16, Day 14
Numbers 6:24-26

Identify your expectations for this season and for the future. Write them down and/or share them with someone. Ask yourself how tightly you are holding them. Is there room for God to change them? Knowing all that God has done, can you trust Him with the future, your future? As you read Numbers 6:24-26, note how God moves toward you, even if you don’t expect it.


This Journey Advent Reading plan is brought to you by the following contributors. Join us each week as we reflect on the coming of Jesus, the star of Christmas.

Writers: Chris Woodward and Molly Fisher

Creative Director: Dan Jacobsen

Editor: Lisa Zulke

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12175 S Strang Line Road, Olathe, KS 66062

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