No matter what age we are, we all have really high expectations for Christmas,don’t we? Those expectations are what’s behind our frantic searches for the perfect gifts, the detailed meal planning and baking extravaganzas, the ever-more spectacular displays of lights that brighten dark December skies in our otherwise quiet neighborhoods. We have so many hopes and dreams for this holiday we’ve come to think of as magical. When we’re young, those dreams are as simple as shiny toy cars or pretty baby dolls. But as we age, the hopes for the holidays become more complex. We hope to mend a torn relationship, we dream about better health for ourselves, we wish for more fulfilling jobs or more time to pursue our passions. We wonder which of our aging loved ones might be celebrating their last Christmas this very year.
Joy isn't always easy for me to find, even (maybe especially) during this season. It’s cold outside, the stores are crowded and confusing, I’m tired from rehearsals and concerts. Plus, I’m always missing somebody - when I’m in Michigan, I miss my son and his family. When I’m in Texas, I miss my mother and my friends. This year I will be missing my Dad in a permanent way that will never change.
Still, tonight as I sit in my little upstairs office and look out over the colorful twinkling lights scattered down our street, I wonder. Maybe I expect too much of this whole Christmas thing. Maybe joy would come more readily if I adjusted my expectations. It’s so easy to get swept away by media hype and commercialism, by the stories we hear from friends and co-workers about their holiday plans and parties, by happy memories of Christmases gone by that can never be re-created. We feel as if we must have those things, do those things in order to truly experience the holiday in all its glory.
The truth is, if we’re living and breathing, if we have a warm home that we love, if everyone in our family is at least relatively healthy, than why shouldn’t we be joyful? I don’t need to have an extravagant, over the top kind of celebration filled with comings and goings and events and parties and gifts and fancy clothes. I like my quiet days and nights, I like curling up with books and movies and puppy dogs at my feet. In fact, I get giddy with excitement about all those things. I won’t apologize for that to anyone, especially not to myself.
My little tabletop Christmas tree with its golden bows and lights brightens a dark corner of my living room and makes me smile each time I pass by. I have a collection of angel ornaments and figurines placed carefully on the mantel and scattered around the rooms. We have a tall pine tree outside strung with strands of big, colorful lights.
It is enough. In fact, it’s beautiful.
Because if we expect material things and events or even the behavior of other people to fulfill our hopes and dreams for the holidays - and for the rest of life - than we will always be disappointed. The kind of spiritual satisfaction each one of us longs for never comes from anywhere but within.
Adjust your expectations. Don’t be plagued by the worries of what might come or disheartened by what might have been. Let memories of holidays past warm your heart rather than allowing them to hurt it. Discover the beauty in everything you already have - your family, your pets, your home, the world around you. It is all there if you allow yourself to see it.
And it will be enough.