The December Holiday season is one of anticipation, epitomized by the Charles Wesley lyrics “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” as set to the Welsh tune Hyfrydol. “Anticipation” takes its meaning from two Latin words: “ante” (before) and “capere” (to take). To anticipate is to take something before its time. It is the lineman moving before the snap, the musician playing before the beat. They took their opportunity before others were ready. This is a negative meaning of anticipation. In a more positive vein, it is the dance partner anticipating the other’s next step, the parent anticipating a child’s needs, a business anticipating its clients’ concerns.
This holiday period has many kinds of anticipation:
…of children anticipating gifts
…of families anticipating reunion
…of the religious reenacting the anticipation of a significant birth
…of helpers anticipating the needs of the impoverished
…of Congress anticipating the needs of the uninsured
…of Copenhagen delegates anticipating the needs of the planet
…of all of us anticipating the effect of excessive calories
In short, anticipation is not limited to a season. Anticipation is what it means to be human. Anticipation is the capability of imagining the good, the bad, the interesting, the pleasurable, the beautiful, the true, before they materialize. Anticipation is what must happen before one is capable of setting a goal. Anticipation sets the stage for goal formation, and our lives are nothing more than a journey towards goals. By “taking” the goal “before” we attain it, by savoring the attainment now, ahead of time, we are spurred on to work towards that goal:
- We dream of our children’s, and grandchildren’s, futures and do what we can in the present to enable their goal attainment.
- We dream of a new job, of building a piece of furniture, of planting a garden, of writing a book, of creating an organization, of learning a new skill, of mastering a new challenge, of making a new friend.
By anticipating these dreams as though they were come true, we do what we can, today, to speed them on their way. By holding our dreams clearly in our mind’s eye, we are able to plan our daily activities so as to move closer to the dream. As the Quaker philosopher Bernard Phillips once wrote, “the search will make you free.” It is the process of working to make a dream come true that enlivens us. Whether we attain the dream is almost secondary—we humans must dream, must have goals, must anticipate the attainment of those goals and dreams, and in anticipating be lively in pursuit. Come, Thou long expected dream. And, I’ll do all in my power to help you come true.