Remember the old-fashioned bubble lights on Christmas trees? After plugging in the tree, the colored lights immediately came on, but there were no bubbles. For a child watching, it seemed like hours. The anticipation and waiting were hard. Eventually they got warm enough, bubbled and brought smiles. But if one didn’t, disappointment set in. It was all or nothing sort of thing.
Kind of like expectations. They grow throughout December. We anticipate gifts, joy and fun. But if something doesn’t happen as we hoped, we are sadly disappointed.
How to keep expectations from getting out of control:
- Be realistic.
While it’s fun to dream of sugar plums and fancy things, be realistic about what to expect with your kids without being Scrooge-like. Christmas isn’t about entitlement. In reality, not everything on a Christmas list is under the tree.
I remember going through the “I want a pony” stage as a little girl. The problem? We lived in Chicago. I had to accept the fact that I could not and would not have a pony in my back yard. Instead got some toy horses to run in my imagination.
- Plan ahead.
Early in our marriage and ministry, as a young pastor’s wife, I had an idea to host an open house for our church members. My expectation was to have a beautifully decorated home (the parsonage) and serve pretty homemade Christmas cookies. The open house was a great idea, but my personal expectations were unrealistic. I should have planned a better. I was pregnant, due in early January. On the day before the open house (December 23), I rolled out sugar cookies, stayed up late baking, and got frustrated with the sticky dough. This activity must have brought on labor, because I was at the hospital by 8 in the morning. Later that day, instead of holding an open house, I held my newborn son. I came home to dozens of stale Christmas cookies. I should have planned ahead in more ways than one!
- Discuss your expectations as a family in several important areas.
Talk about your family’s expectations for gift giving. No one is a mind reader. But be truthful. Offer suggestions if asked. Sometimes we have opted to get a larger family gift in lieu of smaller individual gifts.
Also, discuss your family’s expectations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Are you planning on attending a worship service? Are you hosting a meal? If others are coming, can you ask them to bring side dishes? Be realistic about how much your family can do in one day. Spread out the family gatherings if possible. Since we have always lived away from our families, we had to plan travel either before or after December 25.
By discussing expectations, you and your family will know what to expect for Christmas.
“Wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is in Him. Psalm 62:5, NKJV
Ultimately, we need to put our greatest expectation in the Lord, not in any other person, thing, or event. Christmas is about Jesus, born for our redemption. It’s not about having our expectations met. I encourage you to draw near to the Lord, so that He will be your strength as December unfolds. In Him is the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we need in the flurry of the season.
But what if things don’t go as you expected? It wouldn’t be the first time in history. Mary and Joseph dealt with unplanned events that became the blessing of the first Christmas. It was not what they expected, but it was God’s plan.
The lyrics of the song “A Strange Way to Save the World” bring to mind the unexpected and unlikely way that God worked His plan for our redemption through Jesus Christ.
May your expectations not be in any person or gift but in the gift of the person in the manger.
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Next in the “Words for Christmas” blog series: hope.