What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Is it finding the right tree and getting the house decked out with lights? Is it baking and eating holiday foods? Do you enjoy buying and wrapping gifts? Watching Christmas movies? Singing special carols or sending out cards?
There are many nice traditions in an American Christmas, but I’m feeling a little tired of it all.
Maybe it’s unpatriotic but I am thinking about another side of this holiday.
About the disappointments of Christmas.
For me, it started with Santa Claus. I really believed in him and I remember arguing with the kids at school who said he was not real. When they proved me wrong, wooo, that felt bad. Real bad. How stupid of 7-year-old me for believing in Santa. It was seriously upsetting.
And what about gift-giving and receiving? That can be sad.
When I was in 4th grade, I couldn’t wait to find out what the big present from my parents was. So in the dark of night, I did what probably all of us have done at least once: I snuck to the Christmas tree and opened that gift, slowly and carefully to find . . . a large purple poodle dog. Huh? Wasn’t I too old for a stuffed toy? Disheartened, I rewrapped it, and no one ever knew.
Some years later, I made a quilted wall-hanging for a loved one and I was excited to give the gift. But months afterward, I found it, still in its box, on the floor of a closet, lost in the shuffle of the many other gifts, I guess. That was a bummer.
This week I was disenchanted at a show that I thought would be enchanting.
And two days later I left a party feeling let-down. It was just not what I’d expected.
Ohhhh. That’s my problem. My expectations.
Years ago I saw a short play* about a housewife who had a man from Jamaica working for her, painting her dining room or fixing her roof, I can’t remember. He was not a church-goer, but she asked him to fill-in as a wise man for the church drama. He didn’t know the Christmas story, so she explained it to him.
And he became enamored with Jesus.
On Christmas Eve, he came to her house, ready for the drama, wearing a flowing gown and silky turban. She was running late, weary and complaining, but the happy wise man, in his great ‘Ya, mon’ accent, reminded her of what she’d taught him about Jesus.
In my mind I can still picture the scene. The lady’s eyes are fixed on the Jamaican man, listening to the old story told with his boyish joy. And then he got her — and me and the whole audience — to sing with him, his arms flapping and waving and we sang like never before. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”
It makes me smile remembering.
Today is a good day to remember. And to repent. I am that irritable housewife who needs to give up her self-centered expectations.
I think I will start a new favorite Christmas tradition: Flap and wave and sing “Joy to the world” like that crazy Jamaican wise man.
Maybe I can get you to sing with me.
*Many thanks to Jim and Carol Shores.