At the end of the day it is a mixed bag, isn't it? Christmas that is. The season begins with a bang (actually with a Turkey on Thanksgiving). Fresh from the table (and a game or two) shoppers are rushing to the store. They are looking for that great deal, waiting in line at Walmart for the ridiculously priced iPad. They storm Victoria's Secret and even camp for a week at Best Buy.
Christmas opens with a promise that this is going to be the year when the magic happens. The family will get along. The presents will actually be special and appreciated. No more socks or ties. This will be the year when chestnuts roast and Jack Frost tickles our nose. The kids will smile, the family will sing, the bells will all be silver and sweetly chime "ding-a-ling." Can't you just hear them ring?
The Hallmark channel will get the tears flowing, perhaps at the same time the marshmellows are roasting. After the movie Grandpa will tell us of "the glories of Christmases long, long ago."
We fall for it year after year don't we?
Yet never are expectations met. After the wrappings are discarded we are soon checking our email, Facebook, and texts. By noon the Christmas music sounds dull. It is an experience that is over and yet we hope that it might peek it's head around the corner and excite us again.
Some years we come face to face with suffering. A loved one in the hospital. No money for presents (and barely enough for food). Perhaps Christmas greets us with a death. Sometimes a loved one even dies on December 25th. There is little time or desire for presents. We are met at the door by grief. The tears fall. Being home for Christmas will never be quite the same.
But what then? Do we drown in our tears? Or do we grieve with a senes of hope? You see the message of Christmas is a message of real promise and true expectation. The Christmas story tells us that God pitched a tent here on the earth. He came to live among us as a baby, a boy and a man. And he lived a perfectly righteous life, died a substitutionary death (substituting for sinners; taking what they deserved), and was raised again from the dead.
Christmas should be a reminder to us that our hope is not found wrapped in beautiful paper, nor is it in family unity and peace on earth. Our hope is in Christ alone.
So when Christmas winks at you with promises of happiness--remember. Remember that the promises of the Christmas season will not be found in gifts, and family, food, and music. Those may all be good gifts from a kind and gracious God--and we should thank Him. But they are not the end. They are pointers. They point to Him. And the suffering that we may face at Christmas--its not the end. It is just a reminder that the glitter and gold of this world is quickly tempered. Suffering should point us to Christ. He suffered for us that He might bring us to God. As you exchange gifts, exchange expectations!