The palm branches were late that morning. My friend, a tall brunette who drives a delivery car to church and pours her creativity into the flowers at her shop, rushed into church just as the announcements were ending.
I thought about the palm branches the night before. We even talked about it, as a family, but then Sunday had come and in the rush of looking holy enough for church, I had forgotten all about them.
I had forgotten we were waiting for something.
But the children hadn’t forgotten. They rushed upstairs after Sunday school anxious to grab a palm branch. That was their favorite part about Palm Sunday, and expectations ran high. But the palms weren’t there.
They looked up at me with disappointment in their eyes. “I don’t know,” I said, answering the question they didn’t ask. “Maybe we were wrong about the palms.”
Maybe we were wrong. Maybe we had been expecting something that was never going to come.
Then the door at the back of the church opened, and Oriana came in, a few bouncing chestnut curls framing her smiling face, and the children gasped.
The thing they had waited for, the thing they had hoped for, had arrived.
And it was all Hosanna! and waving hands and laughter. Hosanna! Hosanna!
But it didn’t take long for the praises to fade. Wiggling children turned palm branches into spears and swords and it was all poking eyes and whacking heads and more than one attempt by a particular redhead to impale an unsuspecting elder with a palm frond.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Is this what I was waiting for? More chaos?
I saw a crowd of Jewish mothers, skirts full of children, pregnant with expectation. The very thing they had waited for had arrived! Hosanna! Hosanna!
But the children were poking the donkey and whipping their sisters and all those Jewish mothers shot withering glances at their husbands because those boys certainly didn’t learn that kind of behavior from them.
It didn’t take very long for that long-awaited gift to lose its newness. It didn’t take very long for that good thing to turn sour. All the expectation in the world couldn’t keep the hosannas coming.
At the end of the day, there was nothing but the same dusty road, littered with broken branches because all those Jewish mothers had had enough of palm swords and had said things like, “If you don’t put that thing down right now…”
It didn’t take very long for the long-awaited Messiah to fall short. Because the Messiah they wanted couldn’t work out the worst in them. The Messiah they wanted couldn’t change a lick of their life.
Only a Savior could do that. But a savior was not what they were waiting for and certainly not what they expected.
So they missed it.
And they had to wait for their eyes to be opened and their hearts to be softened to this Messiah, the one who came late to the party with nothing they thought they needed, the Messiah who couldn’t hold their attention long enough to be late for dinner.
This Messiah–the Messiah–was more than just the main event at a ramshackle parade. He was more than an excuse to wave branches and cause a little trouble, more than just the fulfillment of a dream, more than just a novelty, more than just a one-time Hosanna.
He is everything worth waiting for.