Beginning: “For Unto Us a Child is Born!” The fulfillment of prophecy, boundless excitement, angels visiting shepherds in the fields, wise kings from afar. The joy of an infant, a newborn.
End: “Is this the King of the Jews? Crucify him.”
The Christ story seems to contain a huge jump indeed. And yet is it really so different from our own?
Beginning: Joyous tearing of paper, the magic of the North Pole. Reindeer and cookies, caroling and sleigh rides. Countless pictures of adorable children.
40 years later: Credit card bills, sloshing cold, wet mud. Counting calories, snapping at each other. Infamous work holiday parties. Children as disappointments, or even abominations.
We know both of these story lines backwards and forwards, and yet they still seem to keep repeating, on macro and micro levels.
So how do we keep we making such big, polarizing leaps.
And how do we stop.
There is a lot of nuance to the Christ story I’m skipping over (i.e., born in a manger because the Jews weren’t expecting Mary and Joseph). There was a time when, however, they happily laid down their cloaks before his donkey’s path–and still called for his death not a week later. Again, that’s the timeline-compressed version. But the people had clear expectations of him, clear ideas of his role, and then he didn’t do what they wanted.
The one for whom angels sang.
Thirty three years later, a public menace.
It’s tempting and easy to say, “Not I. Never!” But how often do we commit the same crime in our own lives? How often do our expectations get out of hand, ESPECIALLY around the holidays? They say the holidays are hard for a reason, after all.
Reality check: What do we expect from others this holiday season?
Truthfully. What do we expect from our family members, our friends? Is there an obligation for us to receive a card, a call? Do they HAVE to behave a certain way, remember a certain date, send a certain gift? What expectations for behavior have we put on our children, our parents?
Moreover: What are we expecting from ourselves? Do we HAVE to do certain things, look a certain way? Do we have to recreate a certain tradition, prepare a certain dish? Do we have to donate to this and that organization?
And what are the consequences if those things don’t happen? Are others uncaring, lazy? Do we label ourselves failures, disappointments?
There are countless movies this time of year of magic & magic lost (Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause, Godmothered, Home Alone, A Christmas Carol), and yet–are you still letting it happen? Am I?
Maybe. In the frazzle of the news and seemingly endless mundane details, bargains, and practical demands: maybe.
We have to get things done, after all! Like Cousin Gabe in Noelle or Toy Santa in The Santa Clause 2 (the one with a plastic tushy), timelines must be adhered to! We must employ reason to uphold our rule of law, or chaos shall inevitably ensue.
But maybe, just maybe: maybe a dose of compassion will go pretty far.
Maybe, just maybe: maybe our expectations are taking us places we never wanted to visit.
Maybe we can all benefit from a hot cocoa break. Maybe reason can allow us a minute to relax, to breathe deeply, and to pause for a moment of rest, self awareness, and peppermint.
And maybe, just maybe: maybe we can give our own Christmas stories a happy(er) ending, too.