Fantasies are dangerous things, especially during the Christmas season. I’m not talking about Narnia type fantasies, rather, I’m talking about the kind of fantasies, desires, and expectations we construct in our heads about what we want during Christmas. If people, events, or circumstances don’t meet our expectations, we are left reeling with feelings of let-down, depression, or at times, even anger.
Fantasy-fueled expectations can easily become tyrants in our minds and devils in the garden of God’s good love.
Not like they expected
If there was ever to be a holiday in which we celebrated God in His sovereign control over things going not how we planned, it’s Christmas. Very little went as Mary and Joseph expected. Mary didn’t expect to become pregnant without being married and I’m sure Joseph didn’t expect the news that his soon-to-be wife was with child. They both didn’t expect that they would have to make the journey to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, then eventually back to Nazareth, nor that their baby, out of desperation, would be born in a stable.
Beware the hollow echoes
Christmas is a celebration of the unexpected.
This is why we need to beware and heed caution to the fantasy-fueled, expectation factory that is the American cultural event that we call Christmas. Almost every Hallmark movie, TV commercial, or classic film promises us a false reality. These programs tell us that we’re going to group hug while we carve the Boar’s Head ham and gather under the Christmas tree in our matching pajamas, laughing in pure joy while festive music plays in the background of our homes.
The false myth of this “Christmas reality” is that if we can get our holiday to look like the whimsical collages plucked right from movie and magazine covers, then we’ll experience the “Christmas spirit” and be “happy and full of good cheer.”
The problem with this is that everyone’s collage looks different. Some of us are battling chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, the stress of not having enough income, or sometimes our families will come home with the dreaded flu or cold that wreaks havoc on a household. The result of dashed Christmas fantasies is that it gives place for selfishness, anger, irritation, or depression to take root in our hearts and distract us from what this season really means.
The true Christmas spirit
The second we begin to shift our focus off the real reason of Christmas and start looking for some other “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) is the moment that we long for something that will never come. Why? The answer is simply that we live in a fallen world. Something has gone wrong in me. Something is wrong with you. Something is broken. The “broken” something is the severance of God from humankind, and that severance has overflowed into every aspect of our lives. It’s in the governments we run, the businesses we lead, the families we raise, and the education we teach. It’s everywhere. We have no power to save ourselves from this flawed and decaying construction of pride that we’ve built up, and no amount of might and education would be enough to usher peace into the world.
Jesus is the only answer to the things we seek and crave at Christmas, and it’s important for us not to lose sight of His gift to us in the shadows of all the Christmas hoopla. It may seem odd and a tad counterintuitive to consider our brokenness during “the most wonderful time of the year.” Instead of distracting ourselves with the lights of the trees and the sparkly tinsel–which are not bad things in themselves–we should consider the reality of sin and the Marvelous Redeemer who came to save us from the brokenness that we live in. He has come to sit with us in our darkness in order to bring hope and healing to our hearts.
So, to keep Christ at the center of Christmas (and during the rest of the year), we must consider the bad news that makes the good news wonderful. So we mustn’t stop there! We must build anticipation.
Our society looks forward with anticipation for Christmas. The excitement for December to finally roll around so that we can unravel our lights and dust off our Christmas tree, all in anticipation of the 25th. We celebrate the first Christmas because we know that the second is coming soon and that we can celebrate His birth fact-to-face in glory.