Joyful Anticipation

A few weeks ago, during a visit to see family, my four year old found out what one of her cousins was going to receive for Christmas. We talked to her at length about surprises, reminding her multiple times to keep her knowledge of the gift a secret. Just one day later, she admitted with only a hint of remorse that she had spilled the beans and told her cousin all about the gift she could anticipate opening on Christmas. As my daughter acknowledged her infringement and briefly apologized, she quickly reminded us, her excitement evident, that she just can’t keep a secret.

I suppose it’s not surprising that a four year old was unable to keep a secret, and I smile remembering the ensuing confessional. But, in addition to the secret sharing, it also made me think about the joyful anticipation that she wanted her cousin to also experience. So much joy that she just couldn’t keep it to herself, she HAD to share. It occurred to me that, often, our joy is enhanced when we get to share with someone the knowledge and excitement of what we are anticipating.

As I contemplated my daughter’s excitement to share her knowledge of a secret, her experience of joyful anticipation felt apropos to Advent, a season of expectation for what is to come. This particular season offers a unique opportunity to refocus on joyful anticipation, which, at times, feels antithetical to the overall expectation of this time of year. The Advent season encourages quiet in an environment that applauds noise, emphasizes slowing down when there is an almost competitive pride placed on overfilling our calendars with events and to-dos, and focuses on hope as we wait in joyful anticipation. The emphasis of Advent can feel countercultural, subversive, even, and this season leads directly into a seemingly contradictory Christmas celebration: a king arriving as a helpless baby.

Advent is layered with a variety of perspectives, experiences and emotions. In a previous post, The Season of Waiting, I discussed the tension of both melancholy and joy, stress and calm that are present in this season. This year, my focus shifted to another aspect of Advent, the opportunity to protect space to prepare my heart in joyful anticipation for what is to come: Christmas Day.

The reminder to intentionally seek out hope helps me to recapture the mystery of the season. This Advent, I have found myself exploring the excitement that overflows to the point of spilling secrets in joyful anticipation and pursuing moments of intense joy as I focus on the hope that is celebrated as an integral aspect to this season. Deep rooted, overflowing hope that is found when grasping even the smallest insight of the magnitude of the Christmas miracle, this joyful anticipation that has the power to transform daily life.

Kids seem to intuitively grasp the joyful anticipation of the season. However, the significance and impact of the holiday seems to change as we get older. It’s not that adults are incapable of believing in the miracle but over time the busyness and stress seems to wear out our sense of wonder for the season. Much like my daughter who simply could not contain her excitement in knowing the secret of her cousin’s Christmas gift, I yearn to experience such excited anticipation. And so, as the Advent season winds down and we enter Christmas, I hope to lean into moments in my daily life where joy overflows and generosity and love mix to create an outlook of joyful anticipation.

Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.

photo credit: personal photos

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