Christmas is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year.
But sadly, the Christmas season comes with unrealistic expectations of endless bliss which are fed to us by retailers and the media.
Is it that we envision lovely and abundant decorations to put up in a magazine-worthy home, cheerful family members and guests gathered around a crystal and china-bedecked table laden with gourmet foods, and a roaring fire on the grate with the perfectly groomed hound asleep beside it?
We’re told that everyone should have a Norman Rockwell Christmas or a Pinterest holiday filled with entertainment, a plethora of friends and amazing gifts.
Often we view it through childlike eyes, hoping to recapture the wonder and magic of past childhood memories.
This, of course, is usually impossible, a trap and a lie laid to deceive us.
We want to give our family the prettiest and most exciting Christmas ever, but we can become discontented and disillusioned with everything because it cannot match up to our built-up expectations.
Pinterest is only a symptom of underlying dissatisfaction with the gifts the Lord has provided. We collect groups of photos of truly beautiful (and often worthy) things in order to have a visual of our perfect shopping list.
We spin our wheels to obtain that rare ingredient or material to make some exotic dish or project taking our focus off of the precious souls already within our sphere.
No finger pointing here…I know, because I’m all too prone to this, especially since I need to post to Pinterest as a blogger!
Granted there is nothing inherently wrong with having and doing nice things, but they compete for our affections.
I find it so easy to forget Christ, our first love, and grow a heart of stone.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” ~James 4:1-3
Hard words, yes? We (I) can get irritable and stressed out when we have visions of what to do and things to buy in order to make our creations, but it doesn’t often go as we’d wish, and we spend more money than we should. That stress is the opposite of what we really desire ~ peace and calm, unity and joy.
Could expectations of our children being grateful and cheerful all the time or our husbands ‘doing’ certain things or ‘being’ a particular way puts pressure on them?
The reason for any striving is that we have taken our eyes off of Emmanuel, the Christ-child, come to earth to do the work the Father planned from before time.
Oh, Lord, that it were not so!
Whenever I take my focus off of Jesus, I look around for something to fill my self-centered heart.
The first thing I tend to want to fill it with is beautiful things. “Oh, how I love that fireplace, that rug, that lovely ambiance, or that comfortable chair and blanket.”
And the ads that appear right here are part of the problem even thought they help fund special needs children’s medical care. We are surrounded by marketing!
At the time, I expect it to satisfy me, but the expectations are NOT MET in the end and can be a slow fade to materialism ~ not only in us but in our children. We leave them a legacy of misplaced expectations, you see, breeding more and more discontent.
At best, the “Merry Christmas” we all are looking for will not likely be remembered the following week.
Instead, the rushing around and pains to get the ‘look’ just right will be the stressful memories that last.
Usually the anticipation far exceeds the reality!
Some of our most enduring memories are of simple read-aloud times, all gathered together and snuggled into jammies as the pages of a really good book are turned, no preparation needed.
Dinner can just be a little late!
We tried purposefully to lower our material expectations.
So pray about the whole family foregoing some of the fluff for things of substance and enduring value:
- Find a volunteer opportunity here
- Visit or take cookies to an elderly neighbor or make opportunities to visit a nursing home in your area
- Make Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes as a family for Operation Christmas Child
- Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter for a day as a family
- Work with your church’s benevolence or care ministry to help a needy family and ask what they really need that fits your budget
- Adopt a serviceman or woman who has been injured or write to one.
- Minister to children of a prisoner in the name of Jesus through the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Project.
Consider involving your children in your holiday projects as their age and abilities allow.
Ask for God for wisdom in how to build strong and enduring bonds. Make the time as pleasant as you can.
This will be a constant struggle throughout our lives. But with prayer and relying on the Lord’s strength, He will shape us into the radiant women He desires us to be.
This Christmas, let our hearts and minds be fully fixed on the Christ child and spread the joy that comes from knowing Him overflow to your husband, children, and neighbors.
Christ will NEVER disappoint.
He is all we will ever need.
“My soul, wait silently for God alone; my expectation is from Him.” ~Ps 62: 5
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