Expectations. I am full of them. I have expectations about how my children behave, expectations regarding the cleanliness level of my home (although some of my friends probably don’t believe that one), and everyday, I have expectations about how my day will go. And, really, some expectations are good and necessary – they help us make sense of and navigate this crazy world.
Around Christmas, though, my expectations can sometimes go into overdrive. I have a picture in my head about how I want things to go – how we need to be a cozy little family every night reading a Christmas book or watching a Christmas movie, or even having a harmonious family game night where people don’t end up getting frustrated that they lost. In my picture, there is no fighting, there is no complaining, there are no bad days AT ALL between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The littles all listen intently to every one of our Advent readings and are totally immersed in the reason for the season and not the prospect of gifts, and I am gentle and calm everyday.
Doesn’t that all sound amazing? What better way to celebrate Jesus’ birth, his coming to be the sacrifice for our sins, than to be perfect?
I forget that just like Jesus came into an imperfect, struggling, dying, frustrated world – with stinky farm animals, nonetheless – Christmas comes into my messy, broken, thirsty soul. Into my house where people get angry, siblings fight, and we aren’t always kind. Into a place where our plans don’t always work. Into my assumption strangled Christmas season. The season where, when the world doesn’t meet my expectation, I get frustrated and lose all the joy that I am supposed to be celebrating.
Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. What is more amazing than that? But put up against my failed expectations, I lose sight of the beauty, the miracle.
Somehow, this year, so far, has been different. The past few months, I have prayed that the Holy Spirit open my eyes to seeing God in my life, every day. It wasn’t specifically related to Christmas, just for life in general, and I didn’t realize how drastically that little prayer would change my Christmas season. Instead of planning out how my day will go, how my Christmas will look, I am looking for God. I have my eyes open to see Jesus, God with us – to see the real gift of Christmas.
Instead of finding the joy of the season in remaining calm, patient, and loving for a complete 24 hours, I see it in my littles impromptu living room dance number to Harry Connick Jr.’s “Frosty the Snowman.” Instead of making sure we attend every Christmas event that occurs, I delight in the glowing, colored Christmas tree lights (because that’s what the littles like – I am white light person, myself) reflected in the glass cabinet doors in my living room. I am filled with joy by something as simple as seeing my old man dog, my first baby, running in the frosty morning hay field with his neighbor dog like he is a little puppy again. It’s taking Little Red to buy presents for her brothers, and drinking in her contagious, bubbly anticipation of the giving.
All of this, all of these little God signs throughout my days, throughout my Christmas season, really, they are just a picture of grace all around. Grace that came down to earth as a little baby. Grace that bled on a cross for my sins. Grace that comes into my messy, into the world’s messy, and loves anyway. Grace that draws us in, closer to our family, closer to the baby in the manger, closer to God with us.