There is something magical about the Christmas season. From Thanksgiving on, people spend a significant amount of their free time and extra money preparing for one day. There are cookies to bake, cards to send, music to listen to, houses to decorate and gifts to buy. After a month of build up, Christmas finally comes. After a month of building expectations, it is next to impossible to have them met. If you are like me, I have grown tired of not having them met, so I have mastered the art of managing expectations. Don't get me wrong -- I love Christmas, and I love the cookies; but I am very careful not to let my heart get all in to these aspects, because having your expectations crushed can be one of the most painful things in the world.
It is so easy to be jaded when our expectations are dashed that most of us don't even realize that it has happened. Every year that goes buy, we find ourselves saying more and more often that it just doesn't seem to feel like the holidays. However, every now and then you bump into someone, usually a kid, who could not be more excited about Christmas -- or a birthday, or Disneyland, or summer or whatever. It is usually through the eyes of kids that we get a picture of a life that is really great and worth living.
What has happened during the course of years to make our hearts numb? I think the answer has something to do with self-preservation, with protecting our hearts at all cost; in the process, our hearts become even more damaged. I know I am not alone in experiencing pain and heartbreak. I am not the first person to have his hopes built up high only to have them crushed. Because it is so painful not to have our expectations met, we gradually lower them until we expect very little (if anything) from anyone anymore, including God.
This is not the way we were designed to live. It is our expectations that allow us to live life to the fullest. This Christmas season, I highly recommend that you watch Christmas Vacation
starring Chevy Chase. The entire movie is a about a man who never lets go of his expectations. Every event, every moment is a highlight and needs to be shared. Even the arrival of his brother-in-law adds to the narrative of hosting the best family Christmas ever. There is something naive about his character, and it is easy to mock him for these expectations; at the same time we are drawn to him as a person and impressed with his love toward his family. Even his apathetic teenaged kids know their dad loves them.
When we have expectations, our hearts are quickened, and we are on alert for things to happen, for things to be special. The same is true in our walk with Jesus. Isn't it amazing that kids always come back from camps and mission trips profoundly impacted by the Holy Spirit? Part of it is the trip, but the truth is our camps and trips are pretty average. What isn't average is that for the month or two leading up to these trips, we have special meetings, special fund raising and special lessons all preparing for an amazing trip. After several months of preparing for an amazing trip, what happens? We have an amazing trip. Even the kids who threw up the entire week talk about what an amazing trip it was.