December 24, 2020
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:4-5 (NIV)
I have the perfect, dreamy Christmas pictured in my heart and head.
Snow is on the ground outside. There are icicles hanging from the trees and gutters, and everything’s glimmering and new. The inside of my house is sparkling too — from the lights on my tree to the grout in my upstairs bathroom. In my mind’s eye, my entire extended family is there, Insta-ready and glowing with cheer.
Delicious fragrances swirl around the happy scene. There’s the scent of the evergreen tree and tantalizing aromas of turkey and pumpkin pies floating from my kitchen (just about as likely as snow at my southeastern house … ahem).
And all feels like happiness. Nobody’s mad at each other. Every single gift is thoughtfully chosen and met with delight upon opening. No gift receipts needed this year!
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Here’s the painful truth, though. My family has never had a Christmas as perfect as the one I’ve just described, and we likely never will. Even so, we’ve had wonderful Christmases that I’ve ruined with unrealistic expectations.
If any Christmas should have been perfect, surely it would have been the first one, but even that advent was marred by the disappointments of humanity.
Luke shares the details in the build-up to the long-awaited Messiah’s birth in Luke 2:4-7, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”
Even though Mary was singular in her faithfulness to God, surely she carried some of the expectations of all mothers-in-waiting. We expect family in the waiting room, a warm, clean place to deliver and a beautifully appointed crib in which to lay our precious new baby.
Mary had none of those things, yet she seemed unruffled by any unmet expectations that she encountered. Instead, verse 19 tells us, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
In circumstances that could have seemed like a nightmare to a pregnant woman — a not-yet husband by her side, delivery on the road, strips of cloth instead of onesies, hay instead of soft sheets — Mary chose to see it all as a treasure. She reset her expectations, watching for God and seeing the beauty in His work.
It’s hard to keep expectations in check at Christmas time. But this year, the infamous year of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to check our expectations at the holiday door.
Christmas 2020 may not live up to our usual holiday expectations, but truthfully, the choice is ours. We’ll experience a nightmare or a dreamy Christmas depending upon the expectations we embrace.
Instead of using that old picture of perfect in our mind and heart as the standard, let’s measure this Christmas’ beauty with the:
- Pleasure of God’s presence.
- Happiness in the company of family and friends (even if their shining faces are on our computer screen instead of in the room).
- Twinkle of calming lights.
- Joy of groceries or a meal delivered to your door.
2020 may not end with your ultimate dream Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. Choose to see God’s treasures by resetting your expectations today.
Lord, I know this Christmas is going to be different than those in the past. Help me to employ a new measure of perfection that allows me to see You in every moment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 1:4-5, “In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (NIV)
If unrealistic expectations tend to destroy your joy, Amy’s been in your shoes. Pick up a copy of her book, Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your One Life Well, so that you can learn to manage both your expectations and those of others.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What’s one Christmas expectation that you need to let go of today?
How can releasing one expectation each day for the rest of December make this season better both for you and those you love? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2020 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.