Christmas Expectation

Most advice about managing holiday stress involves managing your expectations.

christmas expectation“Managing Expectation”

We’re given advice like:

  • Don’t expect perfection.
  • Expect your kids to have some meltdowns.
  • Don’t expect to give the PERFECT gift to everyone on your list.
  • Expect someone to forget some of your wishes.
  • Don’t expect to go everywhere, or see everyone, or experience all there is to experience.

Unfortunately, the advice to mange your expectations only goes so far.

Because we do, in fact, have expectations for how the holidays will go.

Movies reinforce these expectations. So do all the songs. Or traditions we remember from our own childhoods. And that’s not to mention all the advertisements.

Expectations are not really something we escape.

The Brokenness of Expectation

We live in a broken world. Our relationships and our circumstances reflect this reality. 

The holidays do not mean that all the problems people face year round disappear. In fact, they tend to be magnified.

That strained relationship doesn’t become less strained just because December rolls around.

People that are not trustworthy in their actions do not become trustworthy or reliable just because Thanksgiving Dinner is all put away.

You may get a Christmas card from someone who hurt you in the year and it brings up the old hurt. The relationship is damaged but they seem to be ignoring that.

Or maybe you reach out to someone to try to restore a relationship and you are rebuffed.

We all know people who do bad things but are still out walking around. And, honestly, it seems like they’re having a grand old time.

If you already feel inadequate as a homemaker or cook or hostess, well, the holidays are not likely to ease up that pressure.

Making it Personal

I’m not writing all this to depress you. These things are on my heart because this is where I live. 

I don’t come from a particularly large family, but even so, there is not peace between all the members of my extended family. 

There are lots of questions about who is spending the holiday where and how and why and when.

My husband and I focus on making the days special for our own six children. And all the time in the back of my mind, I’m aware that our time with them is short. Our oldest turns 17 this December. How many more Christmases do we have “just us”: One more? Just this one?

I want everyone I know to get along. I’d really like everything to work out perfectly. I could probably be convinced to settle for everyone trying their best.

But it’s not enough.

The Real Christmas

Sometimes in our busy lives it’s easy to think we are the ones handling everything. We think our family and our friends are meeting our emotional needs. Maybe our churches fill a role.

Our schedules are so full, we’re convinced our lives are full too.

And then Christmas rolls around and proves that’s a lie.

We can’t do everything.

And everyone is NOT happy.

Some people who love us still disappoint us or let us down when it comes to the crisis point.

Even if everyone gets along (and in what year did that happen, exactly?), tragedy may strike. Cancer. Car accident. Phone calls that you never want to receive interrupt already busy days.

What Mary Knew About Expectation

Luke chapter 1 records what is known as “Mary’s Song of Praise” or “The Magnificat.”

Mary lived in a broken world (just as ours is broken!). She grew up in a provincial backwater ruled by Rome. With hindsight, we understand that her life circumstances could not be considered easy.

She grew up surrounded by people fervently praying for a Rescuer. And when the angel had told her that SHE would bear this awaited Messiah, this is what she said:

mary's magnificat

Do you see it? Can you hear the fulfillment of thousands of years of expectation in that song? (If you want the scripture reference, it’s Luke 1:46-55 and this version is the ESV.)

There may not be the joy you expected in your children’s faces when they open their gifts, but we can always rejoice in our Savior.

Every circumstance may not be as we want, but Jesus has already done great things for us and he will continue to do so.

Maybe the meals to prepare and the hosting of friends and family is difficult, but Jesus has already filled us with good things.

The Expectation of Peace

When the angels appeared to the shepherds they proclaimed “Peace on earth.”

Of course, they didn’t mean that there would never be war again or that people would always get along. 

They came announcing a person, a savior, who IS our Peace. 

People are going to let you down this holiday season. Honestly, you may let someone down (and maybe more than once).

Jesus is the perfect gift, the perfect peace, the only possible complete answer to the expectation in our hearts.

Someday, once again thanks only to Jesus, war will be over. Only then will people will get along perfectly.

Christ will restore his creation. He will finish the Rescue Plan.

In other words, He’s both our Peace now and the someday fulfillment of our perfect Peace.

The desires of the heart, the expectation, that manifests at Christmas is God-given. The problem is when we try to meet God given desires with human answers.

Wanting to control circumstances? Christ is sovereign over all.

Longing for joy? Christ gives true joy.

Craving love? God is love. (And it’s perfect love, far surpassing anything even our favorite humans can supply!)

Desperately need hope? Christ is our hope, both in this life and the next.

Seeking peace? As much as we long for peace and justice in the here and now, Christ gives us peace with God. That’s where any other peace (within ourselves, with our fellow humans) has to start.

Just as Mary’s people longed for the Savior, the Rescuer, the Promised One, our hearts long for wrong to be made right.

I long for restored relationships and for gatherings that are Christmas Card perfect. But I know the only relationship that can truly fill the longing of my heart is the one I have with my Savior.

Mary and the Children of Israel knew what it was to live in expectation. And today we also live in expectation of that same Savior. He is the fulfillment of all the longing, all the desire for justice. He WILL come again, just as He did the first time.

My prayer for you this holiday season: I hope that your holiday is blessed with peace, joy, and love. And even if it’s imperfect and flawed, I hope you find peace, joy, and love in the Prince of Peace that came to give us perfect joy and love.

(P.S. If you’re dealing with grief this Christmas, I found this post meaningful: He Knows Our Grief by Sarah Hauser)

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