Lowering the Christmas Expectations

Nearly every December I tell Daniel that I don’t feel like I’m in the Christmas spirit, to which he often asks, “What would feel like the Christmas spirit to you?”

I usually can’t pinpoint the feeling, but I know I would know it if I had it. And I usually don’t. 

This year is no different. Every year brings a combination of things that contribute to my lack of holiday cheer. Some years it was infertility. Some years it was pregnancy. Some years it was post-partum hormones going crazy. And some years it has just been the fact that we have a life filled with responsibilities, small children, and a host of other things. 

It’s called being an adult. 

I’m starting to realize that my expectations for feeling like Christmas are largely owing to nostalgia and not reality. I remember years gone by where I could read for hours, preparing my heart to worship the newborn king. Those years I felt ready, I just can’t remember when that year was anymore. It’s been so long. Instead, I’ve grown up and had to find a new normal, one where preparing my heart for Christmas looks less like relaxing mornings and evenings meditating on the incarnation and more like trying to get my kids to sit still for one short story out of a children’s bible. 

Preparing my heart for Christmas in adulthood, and more specifically in the years of small children, is different than it used to be, and that’s okay. It’s not a commentary on my preparedness or my spiritual health that I haven’t had a chance to read much, or that we don’t have any big advent plans for the kids (besides just continuing to read the Bible to them). It’s just a commentary on my life right now. 

But even more than that I’ve been struck by my own misunderstandings regarding what I should be feeling this Christmas. Yes, I should be worshipful. Yes, I should be rejoicing. Yes, I should be expectant. But Christmas isn’t about a feeling, and it is definitely not about my own expectations regarding my feelings. The truth is I expect far too much from my feelings at Christmas—and then I’m often woefully disappointed in them. 

Advent is about a person, not my feelings. It’s about what he came to do—give his life as a ransom for many, even me and my fickle feelings (Mark 10:45). My feelings are at the mercy of all kinds of things—my sin, the sin of others, my season of life, my lack of sleep, my need to eat food, or any other thing you want to throw in there. Jesus came to a world that wasn’t ready for him at all, a world that expected something different than what he brought. The world wasn’t ready, so much so that they missed him completely. I don’t want my expectations to make me do the same. I want to forget my unrealistic expectations of what my Christmas feelings should be like and simply wait and rest. I want to be ready, even if I don’t feel ready. 

So as I walk through another Christmas season battling my expectations of what I should feel, I want to hold those expectations loosely. Maybe someday they will come back, maybe they won’t. Or maybe, if I let them go new feelings will emerge. As seasons come and go, so do our feelings. But Christ remains the same. 

“O come let us adore him.”