final_advent_cover4.jpgSo [the shepherds] hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word . . . and all who heard it were amazed . . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-18, 20 (NIV)

The shepherds were no doubt hard workers, but they were nowhere close to the top rung of society in Jesus’ day. Yet, they received their own personal invitation, from angels no less, to go see the Christ child. Scripture does not tell us what expectations the shepherds had, but they were clearly not disappointed because they left glorifying and praising God. After all, can you envision the shepherds’ delight at finding the Christ child exactly as the angels had described?

When I think back over past Christmases, my joy appears to be tied to the expectations that I had. For instance, as a child, I enjoyed Christmas if Santa delivered the gift that I had requested on my wish list. Amazingly, my Santa, a single mom on a tight budget, always came through–even when the gift was a Swatch watch that required her to travel to a city over an hour away.

As an adult, the joy that I experience at Christmas comes not from the gifts I receive but from having my family together. I learned this lesson the Christmas after my sister got married and moved to Boston. That Christmas, my sister could not make the trip home for the holidays. I realized then that I had taken for granted being together as a family every Christmas. Spending that one Christmas apart taught me to value the other Christmases that she has gotten to come home.

Reflecting on my past Christmas expectations reveals that having my family together makes my holidays richer. However, I can find enjoyment in knowing that I have a personal invitation to worship the Christ child every Christmas, whether my family can spend the holiday together or not.

What expectations do you have for this Christmas that must be met in order for you to enjoy the season? Are your expectations realistic? Like the shepherds, perhaps you could find enjoyment in simply knowing that you have a personal invitation to worship the Christ child.

Father God, thank You for sending each of us a personal invitation to behold Your Son, not just at Christmas, but each and every day. Help us to recognize and remove any expectations that we have placed on this season that might restrict us from enjoying Your presence so that we might, as the shepherds did, go about glorifying and praising You for all the things that we have heard and seen.

What steps can you take to make your holiday expectations more realistic so that you can enjoy the season?