Story of my youth with pictures
My memories of my childhood Christmases are pretty spectacular – the flocked Christmas tree that was in the front hall that all my friends could see from our bus stop – listening to Christmas albums every day
Snow – in my memory it always snowed at holiday time – sitting by the front window watching for all my siblings to arrive home with their families
Amazingly wrapped gifts that everyone loved. My mom and grandma fixing an incredible meal for all of us.
These are the memories of the Christmases from my youth. I never remember that there would often be a big family argument – that my mom was always irritated that my sisters and myself never helped with the meals – that at times there was yelling and crying – I don’t ever remember that part – I’ve just taken the good stuff
Which have formed what I expect from the holidays today.
Still feel this way – I romanticize everything – Christmas eve – is going to go like this – I’ll work at church and my family will serve with me – then we’ll attend the last service together and light our candles and smile at each other and maybe put our arms around each other as the flame from the candle perfectly illuminates our faces – then we’ll head to a nice dinner – not hurried or anxious – we’ll order the right thing and have great conversation – stop by to see some extended family on the way home – put on our matching pjs and the kids will open their gifts from each other which they’ll love – Jeff and I will exchange gifts which we’ll love – we’ll watch Elf and put out cookies for Santa - they’ll head to bed and Jeff and I will finish wrapping. Perfection.
I think the last 2 Christmas eves – our dinner has been awful, and someone has ended the evening in tears
And I’m always unhappy with my gift – it’s real problem
What I expect and what actually transpires are two totally different things?
Expectation is defined as believing that something is going to happen or believing that something should be a certain way.
I believe every year that the holiday season is going to play out a certain way – the way I think it should be or I want it to be and every year I’m sad or disappointed or frustrated – can you relate?
Put on top of that cultural expectations
What everyone else is doing, seeing, buying, attending around us…
And social media – where everything is perfect – all the time – and we’re trying to live up to all of that
Do you ever look at someone’s pics on social media – and you know the back story – and you’re like – yah that’s not an accurate depiction
We’re trying to keep up with the jones – so easy to get caught up in this – I find myself doing this all the time – we better plan another trip – our kids need to get as many gifts as their friends – we should have something to do every night of December – we’re expected to do all the things and then there are expectations within doing all the things – you better be happy about it and smile – my kids call it forced fun
And some of you have negative expectations – oh our presents will never be as good as theirs – it’s probably going to be the worst Christmas ever – I bet Aunt Gertrude will say something inappropriate and Uncle Frank will have a fit
Expectations work both ways
And this year we have what I guess we can call covid expectations – many of us had a very different holiday season last year – anyone remember our Christmas eve outside in sub-zero temps and the candles wouldn’t light because of the wind – so our expectations for this year are even higher – it’s like we missed a year so this one better be great
And all of these expectations from others or the ones we put on ourselves and the people around us – they’re exhausting
And when our expectations are misplaced or focused on the wrong things – they will always leave us wanting – because circumstances and people will always disappoint
A friend shared a new definition of expectation with me this week
Expectations = planned disappointments
So, what do we do with all this?
How do we manage our own expectations and the expectations of the culture around us?
That’s why we’re in this series – Calm in the Chaos – kind of a surviving the holidays 101
But I’d like us to look at it more as thriving the holidays 101 – not just how do we get thru it this year but how do we thrive in it – how do we get to Jan 2 and feel like we’re winning – we navigated it all well
Last week Tim kicked us off by sharing how we navigate our finances during the holiday season – alleviating some of your financial drama thru trusting in the one who will give us what we need when we need it
And in the next couple of weeks, we’ll talk about navigating our grief or our loss as we enter the Christmas season and how do we deal with broken family relationships – how can we thrive when we’re forced to hang out with people we disagree with or maybe just don’t really like
I feel like the topic for this week kind of encompasses all of the other weeks – because we go into the holidays with expectations about all of these other things – and at times different expectations about all of this
My husband and I definitely have different ideas about what we will spend over the holidays
I’m currently wondering how I will feel about thanksgiving and Christmas as this will be my first without my dad – I have expectations about how I should handle it and how I think others should handle it
And family relationships can be hard – and I know that I walk into situations and rooms expecting that people will or should behave a certain way and when they don’t, I probably don’t handle it well
Expectations can taint all of these areas
As you look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and New year’s – those of you online and in this room - what are you expecting – how is the world around you – the culture we live in – the social media or media of any kind influencing you and your expectations?
So, what do we do to keep our expectations in check? How do we enter this season in the healthiest of ways?
It’s simple – don’t have any – check them at the door – let them go
Keep your focus on what matters – on who matters
And Jesus is very clear about what and who matters all throughout scripture but we’re going to look at one specific moment – he has an encounter with the teachers of the religious law – and this account is in 3 of the 4 gospels – we’re going to look at the account from Matthew chapter 22 starting in verse 37
the religious leaders were always trying to trap Jesus so they ask him which is the greatest commandment – thinking there is no way he can get it right since if he picks one commandment that would imply that the others really aren’t that important
But he is quick with his response and very clear and succinct
It says in Matthew’s account in chapter 22
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
Pulling up the same words that are used by Moses in Deuteronomy 6
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
And words spoken from God to Moses in Leviticus 19
18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
He is very clear about what the greatest commandments are. In the account in the gospel of Mark chapter 12 – Jesus ends it by saying this:
“No other commandment is greater than these.”
I believe every Christ-followers initial and overall calling are these 2 commandments – we all must do this and then we will figure out how our specific calling implements this – Jesus doesn’t need to go over the other commandments because they will all fall into place if we truly follow the greatest commandments – we can’t help but heal brokenness when we love the Lord with all that we are and love others as much as we love ourselves
And most of us - we love ourselves a lot
He doesn’t say love the lord a little – he says with your whole heart with everything that you are – fully, deeply, - abiding in Him – to remain, continue – know him well
And then the second part – it doesn’t say it’s kind of important - not almost as important – but just as important– no he says, and the 2nd commandment is equally important
Love God. Love each other.
And this is really hard – I mean Jesus doesn’t hesitate in his response – he says it quickly and adamantly – these commandments are the most important – but they are also the hardest – so difficuIt – because it requires all of who we are – every facet of our lives – our being – it takes time and energy
It’s what the entire Christmas story is about
God sent us love so that we could love
God sent us unconditional self-sacrificing love in Jesus so that we could have hope
In 1 John 4 it says:
1 John 4:9-12
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
Love God. Love each other.
I believe if we do this – if we enter the holidays -or life in general - living out these commandments
Expectation will turn into hope.
Our expectations will only be met in the hope of our unexpected savior.
Expectations can be about you
Hope is about Jesus
Expectations can rely on other people and circumstances to meet what you want
Hope relies on Jesus
Expectation – how will this work out for me?
Hope – what can/will Jesus do in this situation?
Your unrealistic expectations may be getting in the way of what the Spirit wants to do.
Your unrealistic expectations may be a barrier to how the Spirit wants to move.
Set your expectations aside and make room for the unexpected.
Hope is the unexpected.
Hope is the surprise.
Hope is Jesus.
He was completely unexpected.
Expectations = planned disappointments
Hope = unexpected joy.
Can you move into the Christmas season void of expectation and full of hope?
Hope that if you love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself, He will surprise you with the unexpected?
For those that haven’t here and online – maybe now is the time to surrender to give your life – your whole self to the unexpected savior – to Jesus – maybe that’s where you start – a new Christmas for you
In a few moments, you’re going to see people that have made that commitment – make a public declaration of their surrender and declaration that they will love the Lord and love others – a statement of their hope
Start each day with scripture, silence and prayer – all sorts of reading guides – focus on and build a relationship with the one you’re supposed to love
Get outside of yourself – what can you do for others – the giving tree – so many organizations that need you – volunteer – giving Tuesday – the Christmas store – the food pantry – coffee with someone in distress – focus on the others/neighbors you’re supposed to love
Experience life with those you love – honor my dad
Set boundaries – we’re not doing this – we will do that so you don’t succumb to the cultural pressure
Story of thanksgiving.
Love God. Love each other.
And watch your expectation turn into hope.