Expectations, it is often said, are planned resentments. I find this slogan depressing - even though there is truth in it. It is depressing because it assumes that we will always be disappointed. One might as well say that every silver lining has a cloud. The truth in it is that, whenever we experience resentment, our expectations are a root cause. We look forward to some event. It doesn't happen the way we wanted and anger is the result. Rather than dwelling on the anger, we should look back and ask ourselves if our hopes were realistic - or, if we were expecting a bad result, how could we have been prepared?
During Advent the scripture readings present us with dramatic cases of God acting beyond our expectations. On third Sunday we saw John warning his contemporaries that they did not recognize the Messiah because of misplaced expectations. On the 4th Sunday, 2 Samuel 7 tells how David expected to build a house for the Lord, only to learn that the Lord would build a house for David. This would be a kingdom that would last forever. In the gospel we hear how Mary's expectations were completely changed. She was to be the one through whom the Lord's promise to David would be fulfilled.
When we find ourselves angry or resentful at the way God is acting in our lives or in the world, we had best check our expectations. David and Mary misunderstood the Lord's plans. Why should we do any better?
The Lord's plans will be different - and better - than we had any right to expect.