Advent isn’t just a time of hope – it’s a reminder of in Whom to place that hope!
That seems pretty intuitive – almost “Captain Obvious,” really… but there’s a reason why we get an annual reminder of this!
If you work in any kind of commercial enterprise you’ve probably encountered the notion of “expectations management” before. Keep expectations reasonable (or lower) and exceed them. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver! The idea being that disappointment is the result of unmet expectations. If we extrapolate this, we come to the conclusion that if we hope too much then we’re sure to be disappointed.
Some of the things that can disappoint us at Christmas are:
- the food you’ve painstakingly planned and prepared doesn’t turn out as well as you had hoped it would
- some members of the family didn’t manage to make it to (or prioritise) the family gathering
- that the same two members of the family who are always at each others’ throats are at it again!
- that you’re too tired to enjoy the day, much less the season
- the music at the Christmas Mass is sub-par
- the neighbour’s party is loud and there are excesses of drugs and alcohol and their behaviour on the other side of the back fence is disruptive and so NOT what you think Christmas should be…
and… and… and…
See what I did there? Where was Our Lord in any of that?
These things ARE irritating when they happen. But if we place ALL of our hope in Jesus and His coming, we should be able to be peaceful amidst the chaos of life in our fallen world.
Not in an avoidance sort of way, you understand.
I mean REAL peace, all the while acknowledging inconvenience or unpleasantness and experiencing how those things feel. Living life, but keeping things in perspective.
Yep – we live in a fallen world.
Yep – at least SOME of our best laid plans for our Christmas gatherings and celebrations will invariably go wrong.
But I reject the idea that hoping for too much is the source of disappointment. Rather – hoping for things in anÂ inordinateÂ way is the source of disappointment.
It’s great to have plans, and natural, human hopes for our upcoming festivities – but these should all be subordinate to the coming of Our Lord, and what that truly MEANS for each one of us. If we’ve spent any time in prayer or meditation at all this Advent, we’ve somehow been confronted with our profound NEED for Jesus. We KNOW we need to let Him into our daily lives more. Our hearts are crying out for Him from the depths of our fallenness! (Who knew the De Profundis was such an Adventish prayer?!?)
Expectations management may well be applied to client relationships in industry, but it does NOT belong in our faith life! We have an INFINITE God who has adopted us as His children! We have an INFINITE Saviour, Emmanuel, God among us!!
When He in whom we hope is infinite, and His love and desire to draw us to Himself is ALSO infinite, how could we ever be disappointed?
If the family is fighting, or someone just doesn’t show up – it’s hard, but it’s just an example of the fallen reality that Christ’s coming is intended to heal! When the fight breaks out, or you get word that someone isn’t coming… give it to Him. Really and truly make that act of your will – surrender it to Him and ask Him to help you be that person in the family to lift everyone else’s spirits!
If the turkey is a little too dry, or something burns, when you’re preparing the Christmas meal? I don’t believe even that tiny (in the scheme of things) annoyance is beneath the notice of the infinite King who became small, became an infant, for you. Look over at the little nativity scene that is set up in your home (or in your mind’s eye, if you don’t have one) and imagine the baby Jesus being such a cute and cuddly little bundle of baby that your heart just melts, and look, there, you’ve already found something more meaningful than whether or not the food is perfect.
Etc. etc. My point: invite Jesus into EVERY ASPECT OF THE DAY. Sometimes, ironically enough, it’s these little things that can help prompt us to remember Him, whose day it is. We might forget to even THINK of Him if everything went perfectly! See it for the invitation it is to include Our Lord in the feast of His own Nativity!
I truly hope you and your family have a very blessed and joyful Christmas! I hope you can find your peace in Him – the fulfillment of your hopes in Him! Be gentle and patient with yourself, be gentle and patient with others, drive safely if you’re travelling, and include Him in every aspect of the Christmas Season that your creativity allows!