Christmas and Great Expectations

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/07/2020

It’s that Time of Year

It’s Christmastime. The time of parties and family gatherings; the time of traditions and trees; the time of quiet reflection and worship.
And this year will be no different: or will it?
As much as we’d like to have this Christmas season be like any other, we have to admit that 2020 will stretch us and challenge us.

Christmas Vacation

If you’ve watched the movie “Christmas Vacation” you’re familiar with Clark Griswold as he tries to create the perfect Christmas holiday. In the beginning, he comments plaintively:
 “All my life I’ve wanted to have a big family Christmas.”
And he tries desperately to accomplish that task.

Things slowly fall apart, but Clark won’t give up his dream:
“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old- fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.”
We recognize his desires for we harbor them within ourselves. We all have great expectations.

The Picture Perfect Christmas

1. The perfect portrait.
We first must recognize that no one ever has a picture perfect Christmas. Despite what you have seen on social media?

Those smiling faces? How many takes did it take to get that picture? How many diaper changes and clothes changes were required? Recognize the humanity that lurks behind those posts.

2. The perfect tree.
No one has a perfect tree. You may have gone to cut yours down on a snowy day that resembled New England, with hot chocolate and cookies.
The tree may also have a big bald spot on the area that is turned towards the window, out of sight. It might be scant: a Charlie Brown tree.
You may have an artificial tree. Is this considered second best?
Or, it might be a retro green ceramic tree with plastic lights on each point.

3. The perfect family.
In “Christmas Vacation” Clark sits in the attic watching old home movies, reminiscing about the good old days. Nostalgia reigns, for a moment.
But no one has the perfect family. And aren’t we all imperfect? As we age, we realize we ourselves might be the crazy Aunt or Uncle with idiosyncrasies.
No family is free of conflict or differences. But during the holidays, we tend to look through “rose colored glasses.”

4. The perfect Christmas Feast.
What does that look like anyway? Is it on Christmas Eve? Or Christmas day? Is it a Feast of the Seven dishes, or pasta, or vegetarian?

5. The perfect present.
We may look high and low for “just the right gift.” Going from store to store, looking for the perfect gift that will light up their life. This year, ease of shopping has been restricted and much of our shopping has been online.
But then I found this online:

“I don’t remember what I had for Christmas when I was one, two, six, or eight. I do remember my Grandad’s roast potatoes and my Nanna’s tablecloth.
I remember us squishing around a table and it feeling magical.
I remember the magic of the tin of chocolates being passed around.
I remember playing games with family.
I remember walking up a cold, frosty path and feeling warm inside.
I remember the smell of my Grandad’s cologne.
It’s the memories that make the magic last a lifetime, not the gifts.”

Perfectionism and Reality

And so, for this Christmas especially, our striving to make our holiday “perfect” might in fact, fall very short.

“Did we in our own Strength Confide, Our striving would be losing.” (“A Mighty Fortress,” Luther.)

There are so very many factors that will contribute to a “Different kind of Christmas this year.” How can we approach Christmas and not be sorely disappointed?

1. Recognize Perfectionism.
Perfectionism is a harsh taskmaster. It was present in so many of my clients; I’ve worked on that stubborn root within myself for a long time. But my long time friend Dr. Michael Emlet from CCEF has said this:

“Make faithfulness your aim, not perfection.” #ccefcon 10/26/12

2. Recognize Comparison
Comparing ourselves to others is a cousin to perfectionism. Comparison kills contentment. In this year especially, our family gathering may be smaller. Some may be missing from our table. None of us will have “the perfect” family gathering this year.

3. Recognize “We’ve always done it this way.”
Not this year. This is the year to adjust, bend, and be creative. While traditions may be important, (See Thanksgiving Traditions), where can we accommodate 2020 nuances?

4. Recognize God Incarnate.
2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

A Broken World, A Broken 2020

God Himself entered into our broken world, becoming poor for our sake.
He Himself would recognize the brokenness of 2020.
He Himself would understand our battered will, a raveled mind, and broken dreams. But He would also hold our frayed hearts in His tender hands.

Toys for a King Mary H. Dewer
What gifts to please a little boy Who has the whole world for His toy?
Through Him, in Him and with Him live
The lovely playthings I would give—
Black branches traced on afterglow,
Blue moonlight on the wind-glazed snow,
Music, and singing words—but these were always His. Upon my knees I cannot ask a King to take The stars He watched His Father make.

Here on the clean straw of His throne, I lay the only things I own—
A battered will, a raveled mind,
A broken dream I cannot wind. If I had come to Him before,
And laid them on the stable floor,
Not scratched and finger-marked with sin, How new and gay they would have been. Yet strange things catch a baby’s eyes— There in His hand my frayed heart lies.

(Dedicated to Betty Jane Jensen, 1927-2019)

Published by Counseling from a Christian View

Counselor, Teacher, Wife, Mother and Grandmother. It is a privilege to serve God. All my roles have taught me more about God's grace and mercy. And all of life is counseling.

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