My son prayed last night that we would have low expectations this Christmas.
“Please, Lord Jesus, help us not to have our expectations too high, but help them to be low so we won’t be disappointed in how it turns out.”
This, my friends, is 100% my fault.
It’s a strange thing because for most of my life I’ve set boundaries and barriers. Walls of protection so that large hurts can’t leave a mark and small ones? They can’t even touch me. I’ve always been the one to set the bar low knowing that disappointment is a feeling I don’t want to allow in.
I call it realism. The world calls it cynicism. This knowing that things aren’t going to go right anyway, so why delude ourselves into thinking it might.
But for some reason, Christmas is different.
At Christmas (and if i’m honest, Mother’s Day too) my expectations are huge. And not in the way you might think! It’s not that I’m ever dissatisfied with gifts or the amount of them there are under the tree. It’s not that I want more stuff or more trinkets or more tinsel. Instead it’s that I’ve held Christmas up to be this perfect day – I mean, Christ was born! The shepherds came, the angels sang, the wise men showed up with gifts and Mary just treasured all of these things up in her perfect, little, calm heart.
It’s not too much to ask that my Christmas look and feel like that too, is it? Like perfection, I mean. Like peace and joy. Like Christ himself come down into our living room with fairy dust and sprinkle it on all of our heads so that suddenly we’re perfectly selfless and only desire the good of our fellow man.
Turns out I’ve elevated the story of scripture to such a lofty place that my expectations of it all go through the roof.
I mean, my whole life I’ve been told that it was a silent and holy night. That there was heavenly peace. I’ve sung loudly about joy to the world and that the earth is ruled by his truth and grace.
What I’ve done is take this to mean that our Christmas would reflect these things. That we would have a silent night. A holy night. That all would be calm and all would be bright. I’ve taken it to mean that radiant beams would be streaming from thy holy faces of MY children. That it would be all in excelsis de-o’s and loud shouts of Rejoice! Rejoice! Ema-a-anuel. I took the songs at their word and that the Lord God would fit my children for heaven to live with thee there.
Do you see where it’s all gone wrong?
I’ll tell you what our Christmas looks more like. It looks like 5 humans who like to get their own way suddenly all huddled together in a room trying to be thankful in their own strength while really just thinking, “My brother is such a jerk, why can’t he stop chewing so loud!”It looks like sinful hearts in a broken world trying to pretend that we aren’t sinful and aren’t broken for this one day so that mama can get her dream of silent and holy and calm and bright.
But then someone uses a tone that implies they’re better than everyone else, and someone else gets up to get cereal during morning devotions and someone didn’t get quite excited enough over that gift that cost way too much, and so why do we even bother? And someone showers for too long, and the coffee gets cold and they want to play Beastie Boys instead of carols and somewhere along the way it gets too much and I cry. Because they all suck.
And this is my own sin. My own broken heart in this fallen world. The hope of perfection in a day on this earth that is never going to be perfect. Never meant to hold all of our hopes and dreams. Never meant to fill our hearts completely.
I’ve set my kids up to think that they ruin Christmas. My tears and disappointment in the day, my own selfish pride, shows them that they aren’t enough. They’ll never be enough. They can’t measure up to my lofty goals of everyone getting through one hour of opening presents without an argument or a harsh word.
The truth of it is my kids aren’t enough and yet they are. I’m not enough, and yet I am. My husband can’t be the enough that I sometimes thing he ought to be and yet, he is completely enough.
We are all broken, limping along with bruises and scars in this busted up world. My tears on Christmas morning evidence of my own wicked heart.
We aren’t enough because we weren’t made to be. It’s the very reason we need a Saviour. And yet, in Him, we are enough because He has made us righteous through his own death on that savage and sacred cross.
I don’t think we need to set the bar low this Christmas. I think we need to look around and see that none of us are different, none of us more holy, none of us more righteous. We all come wounded, sick and sore. We all come weary. We all come with dark patches still on our hearts that we wish we could overcome. We all try to cover our limp with a swagger. Bandage up our bruises to be more beautiful. Slap on a smile to cover up the scars.
If only we could see that the limp and the bruises, the scars and all of those things we call imperfect is what brings us to Him – then maybe we could embrace Christmas for what it needs to be. A celebration of Him who came down from glory for us who are so far from glorious. If we saw that, we wouldn’t need to perform or perfect or polish. We would simply know that we’re all broken and in need of Him – and our Christmas morning will be no different then broken people gathered, displaying their foolishness, yet knowing we’re covered by all that He is.
No tears this year. No bar set low. Instead, grasping I’m just like my kids. A flawed and weary traveler on this earth, longing for more. A broken heart longing for heaven.