It's the week after Christmas and all through the house not a creature is stirring—I'm exhausted, depressed, disappointed, and feeling like a louse.
Does this describe your attitude last January? What happened to the jolly good times? Where was your sense of good will toward people everywhere? Did the hustle of holiday preparations leave you tearful instead of cheerful?
"I'm glad Christmas is over. Tensionhovered in our house yesterday," my friend, Joy, confided last December 26th.
"I really wanted a skateboard, but didn't get one," my neighbor Joey commented.
"I'm so exhausted, I could sleep for a week," Carrie, a young mom, cried.
Is it possible that our after-Christmas attitudes reflect our pre-Christmas expectations?
What tops your wish list for Christmas? Imperfect expectations introduce the unwelcome January companions: exhaustion, depression, and disappointment. However, by prayerfully evaluating our expectations, we can invite joy, peace, and hope to accompany us into the new year. Let's consider changing our expectations.
Perfect earthly relationship
Do you wish for a Norman Rockwell setting—the extended dining room table filled with generations of family, all smiling, chatting, loving their togetherness? Imperfect expectation?
If our perfect Christmas focuses on earthly relationships, what happens if Johnny is in a bad mood or Billy and Bobby snap and poke each other during dinner? Or our table doesn't need extending because we're a family of three?
Sometimes we can't alter our circumstances, but we can change our expectations. What if our top priority is inviting the Christ Child to be born anew within our hearts? Whether our table includes two or twenty-two, the One whose birthday we celebrate prods us to view each person present with thankfulness.
Receiving the perfect gift
The Better Homess and Gardens' tinsel-laden tree surrounded with decorated gifts evokes high expectations. Maybe that tiny box means at long last he'll ask me to marry him. Or maybe the sports car we've always longed for is scheduled for delivery on Christmas Eve. Imperfect expectation!
The jewelry box contains a pair of silver earrings, and the man of o dreams isn't ready for marriage. The company is cutting back, so the sports car stays in the showroom.
Is the perfect Christmas present at the top of our wish list? Do we expect to find it under the tree? The perfect gift arrived one night in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. He was not wrapped in gold foil and green bows, but in swaddling clothes. He was not found under a tinsel-laden tree, but lying in a manger. And He came that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). Through the gift of Jesus Christ, God responds to our deepest needs.
The perfect, perfect Christmas
Are the Martha Stewart expectations creeping to the top of our wish list? Do we envision perfect decorations placed in the perfect positions? Will we entertain with elegant china, crystal and linen? Do our plans include baking gaily-decorated gingerbread cookies with the children in our lives, and shopping until we find each person the perfect gift? Do we push aside all moments of solitude to play Super Mom, Super Dad, Super Grandma or Grandpa? Imperfect expectation!
What happens when the neighbor next door decorates every tree in his yard, and a friend's house emanates Victorian ambiance, causing ours to look red-and-green gaudy? And we discover five-year-old children sometimes prefer watching Toy Store 2 to decorating gingerbread cookies? How do we feel when that perfect gift turns out to be the wrong size, or the wrong color, or the wrong design? And when the after-Christmas cleanup committee consists of the same Super Person who cooked, cleaned, baked, and wrapped it all?
If our Christmas expectations focus on perfect trimmings and tables, gifts and gourmet food, and perfection isn't achieved, disappointment and depression haunt our households. This year, remember that only God is perfect. Enjoy the beauty of your neighbor's decorations, allow your children to he tuck love and acceptance inside the wrapping of a less-than-perfect gift, and set aside time for waiting on the Lord.
Thousands of years ago, people watched and waited, expecting a Savior and King. A man in Jerusalem named Simeon expected the Messiah to come soon. When Mary and Joseph arrived, presenting the baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. "Lord," he said, "My eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou !last prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).
What are we expecting this Christmas? The King has arrived, and He said if we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, the things of worth will be added unto us. May we, like Simeon, praise God and proclaim Jesus as our perfect guest, gift, and source of hope for the future.
Can Christmas make a positive difference in our lives? Perhaps it depends on our expectations.
What do you really want for Christmas this year? Joy? Peace? Spiritual renewal? A sense of cnotentment in the new year? May these suggestions help fulfill your wish list for 2002.
- Set priorities by making conscious choices and plans regarding entertaining, gift-buying, church activities, school programs, and craft and baking projects. After studying calendars and finances, decide which gifts and activities represent your family's priorities. Make decisions and stick with them.
- Prepare yourself menially and spiritually for Jesus' birth. Through your church or Christian bookstore, get an Advent devotional book and be intentional in your daily study. As a family, make an advent wreath; discover the symbolism of the candles, evergreens, etc.
- Create an atmosphere of love—not perfection. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in displaying the nativity scene. While decorating the tree, linger over memorable tree ornaments and hand-made decorations. Fill your home with Christmas music and bake a birthday cake for Jesus. Add a candle for each family member plus one in the middle for the Christ Child. On Christmas Day, gather around the table and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.