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I don’t know about you, but I have expectations when it comes to Christmastime.  I expect my kids to want to come be at our house for opening of gifts and spending the day together.  I expect to go somewhere nice during the holidays, to get dressed up and be festive.  I expect my husband to have me a few gifts under the tree, because he knows I love gifts.  I’ve come to expect things, and I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but there they are…expectations.

Expectation differs from hope, doesn’t it?  Or not?  I think expectations are a bit stronger than hopes.  For example, I hope every year for snow on Christmas Day, but it’s never happened where I live.  Therefore, my expectations are low.  However, every single year our family has gathered, so my expectations are high.

I’ve found that I’ve had expectations in lots of other areas in my life, as well.  In friendship, I have this expectation that friendships will last a lifetime, and I’ve realized that they do not.  At least not like I expected.  In following Christ, I’ve expected that if I give and follow the rules, then I can expect good things in life.  But I’ve realized that my definition of good things isn’t always what is really good.  And I’ve had expectations of new things like houses and cars, thinking they will always satisfy…but they don’t.  They become old and used, and then I want another…so there are all of these unfulfilled expectations.

But let’s go back to Christmastime.

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I expect that many of us have lost hope in some areas regarding the holiday season.  Relationships are strained, broken or at best fractured, and what we expect to happen is likely not to…because life has faltered.  I expect that funds are tight for some, and gifts won’t really be that fantastic, but maybe cards will be all that we get…and we’re going to experience some sort of disappointment for our kids…or even for ourselves.  And I expect that somewhere that perfect meal and scene we create to look like a Christmas postcard will be tainted with arguments and spills and words not so fitly spoken, as family gather.

I think part of the reason we all have a “let down” after the holidays are over is that we do have all of these expectations.  When the snow falls, the dinner is perfect, and the gifts are surprisingly wonderful, and family love is present – we’re sad when it all ends.  I mean, who wouldn’t want that scene to continue forever?  And if those expectations are all unfulfilled and we end up disappointed after the last gift is opened (or not), we just want the season to end and the new year to begin, so we can put those disappointments behind us and move on.

I bet Mary expected her son to be received as the King, but instead he died a horrible death on the cross, due to rejection.  I’m thinking none of the followers of Christ expected to lose their lives because of that follow, but they did.  And did Peter expect that he’d be so weak as to deny his Savior right after he pledged his allegiance? 

Expectations, misplaced, can cause a huge drop in our mood during the holiday season. Is there a way to stave off that disappointment and sinking stomach feeling?

I don’t know of a formula, but I do think there are three things that can help us this season as we start expecting and waiting for the perfection that Christmas offers in the way of peace and goodwill:

We can give thanks for the good, the bad and the ugly.  After all, Mary’s son did die, but he rose again!

We can remember that in losing ourselves in Christ we gain relationship that sustains, even in death.

We can acknowledge that in our weakness He is made strong, as he forgives and offers daily mercy.

I’m the world’s worst at expecting something way too amazing only to set myself up for a fall.  I want it all – the snow, the twinkly lights, the family gathered in love, and the peace and silent night as the candles flicker by the fire. 

I’m getting better (little by little) at looking up instead of down, laying it down instead of carrying it around, and leaning into Him instead of holding up a fist.  And it all helps, as we surrender to the Maker of the sun, the moon, and the stars and remember that he rules, he governs, and he knows us all by name…when we’re elated or disappointed…and he’s with us to bring joy as we acknowledge His name.

by Marcy Lytle
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