“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:5-8 English Standard Version
As Advent Season began this year, I chose the new book, Emmanuel by Ruth Chou Simons. It is a beautiful book filled with original art by the author. On day 1 I was challenged with the question of whether I would turn from expectations to being expectant. As I pondered this exhortation, I was reminded of a Christmas morning many years ago.
I had expectations when I was younger about what Christmas morning would look like in my family. But over and over I was disappointed by my Daddy’s behavior each year. He would always tell us not to get him anything. (Which I now say to everyone. Oh my, I have become my parents! I digress.) One Christmas morning when I was in my late 30s, we were exchanging gifts, and my Daddy abruptly got up and left the room. My expectations of an ideal Christmas morning were shattered, yet again. I was so disappointed, and I could feel anger stirring inside me. I had had enough. So, I followed him into the kitchen, where he set at the small table holding his head. Frustrated with him, I said, “Can’t you just stay with us while we open our gifts, even if you don’t want any gifts?” His answer changed my view of him, and others, in a very profound way. He told me that when he was a boy, he was told that if he was good that Santa would bring him gifts. But Santa didn’t come. I was taken back in time. I was given a glimpse into one of my Daddy’s most painful recollections. This was a memory that flooded him every Christmas and with every gift that was given or received before his eyes. I have tears as I type these words. Can you imagine the depression-era child who thought he wasn’t a good boy because Santa didn’t come in his youth? It still hurts to think of the pain this triggered in my dad year after year.
I am forever grateful that I followed my father into the kitchen that day. It certainly shaped my view of him. A new light was shed into the person he was. I once thought he was an angry, callused, and uncaring hermit who was tolerating us, at best. The new illumination showed a young boy who felt he was unworthy of gifts. It changed my relationship with my Dad. It changed my view of lots of people and lots of situations. I now give others lots more grace and the benefit of the doubt. I realize that we all carry wounds and brokenness. I have learned not to depend on my own expectations of others. And I don’t take everything so personally. My Daddy’s departure from the gift giving wasn’t about the rest of the family. It was all about his wounded and rejected heart.
How can you adjust your expectations this season?
Expectations of the gifts you will receive?
Expectations about the events you will attend?
Expectations about the people you visit or host in your home?
Expectations about the food you will eat?
Expectations about the decorations in your home?
Expectations of your travel plans? Believe me, I have had to let go of lots of expectations in several airports this year.
Oh, how we can get bogged down in Christmas expectations.
I pray that this year you and I will remember that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem will never disappoint us. He has come. He was born to save our very souls. He is what Christmas is all about. We can have expectancy in God, but not in expectations of the man-made rituals of the season or in others. Expectancy in Christ gives us eternal HOPE.
Ruth Chou Simons closes Day 1 with this prayer:
“Dear Father, we praise You for all You have done and have yet to do. Help us to long for You alone rather than the expectations and desires that do not satisfy. Realign our hearts according to Your Word, that we may have a heart posture ready to receive Your provisions. And when we’re tempted to bend toward our earthly desires and ways of thinking, teach us to recount Your faithfulness and remember that You are God. While we wait for Your purpose to be revealed, while we look to Your Word, soften our hearts to trust in You instead of ourselves. Amen”
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Excerpt and artwork used by permission from Harvest House Publishers from Emmanuel by Ruth Chou Simons. www.harvesthousepublishers.com