Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas expectations

The last few days I have found myself not really looking forward to Christmas for reasons I did not know at first. It was not that I dreaded it. There just seemed to be the anticipation of it missing from the week leading up to Christmas. I just felt a little bit down and unexcited about the whole thing.

In the last few days I have realized that my feelings came down to expectations I have of Christmas and knowing that they will not all be met this year. For me, the best part of Christmas and what I most look forward to is the time with people - time with my family, people I care about.

Christmas has many traditions on my family . . .

. . . making crepes together on Christmas morning. Multiple crepe makers going, syrup being made, fruit sauces being prepared, bacon or sausage frying, my Mom, both my sisters, and I together in the kitchen bumping into one another as we work to get everything ready.

. . . opening our stockings right away when we get up. As kids it was how my parents got a little extra sleep on Christmas morning; we could open our stockings as soon as we got up and then we would play with what we found there until later in the morning when Mom and Dad were up to open the gifts under the tree.

. . . going to a Christmas Eve service at church followed by a lasagna dinner with my family.

. . . a big family Christmas dinner at my grandparents' in the late afternoon.

. . . my whole family being together on Christmas day . . . Dad, Mom, both of my sisters, and me.

Over the years, those traditions have become expectations about Christmas, and this year it will not all happen. Things will look different from the Christmases I remember growing up. I know this is the reality of growing older, but I do not really want to let go of those traditions.

And so, I found myself in the last few days having to adjust my expectations for Christmas. I do not have to forget about the traditions of my family growing up and in a different way many of those things will still be included, albeit at different times or missing some important people.

But, while there is nothing wrong with any of the traditions my family has had, the problem comes when they become an expectation of Christmas that I hold in such high regard I feel like I cannot celebrate Christmas without them. Family is important. But, the real reason for celebrating at Christmas is to take the time to acknowledge God coming to earth - the greatest gift of all.

Maybe, like me, you find yourself not really looking forward to Christmas this year. But, as we stop to really reflect on what Christmas is about, those traditions remain just that, traditions. We do not make them expectations that set us up for despair because they do not take the place of what is truly important.

Maybe it is time to stop and take the time to truly reflect on the reason why we celebrate.

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