December 20th – five days until Christmas.
For some, Christmas will play out like a Hallmark movie. The family will be happy, the kids respectful and obedient, the gifts perfect, the weather ideal, and the romance – well, it will be romantic! All the warmth, satisfaction and happiness anticipated to be part of the holiday will magically come to pass.
However, for others this is anything but “the most wonderful time of the year.” For them, Christmas is a season of expectations – mostly unfulfilled, almost always by people. There is often a lingering hope that this will be the Christmas that the family actually forgives each other and reconciles; or the spouse is attentive and helpful (assuming he or she is even still there); or a rebellious, wayward child comes home. Memories of being hurt or let down by people are sometimes so strong that there is no hope for the season, just a looming sadness that accompanies the lights and music that seems to bring everyone else such joy.
That is the danger of depending on people to provide our feelings of value and significance; our sense that we are worth loving and worth being with. We expect others to behave a certain way so we can feel good about ourselves and who we are. Often the expectation is so fundamental to our core beliefs that it becomes a “need” – we “need” our spouse to change; we “need” our family to accept us; we “need” to be invited to that party or function; we “need” to have something happen so we don’t feel left out and abandoned again this year.
Sadly, expecting and needing people to behave a certain way is almost always destined for disappointment. You can hope folks will change, even pray they will – but depending on them to be the source of your identity will always leave you wanting. This is one of the fundamental realities of my pastoral counseling.
Thankfully, in five days we will celebrate the arrival of the ultimate, singular Source of everything we need.
More than anything else we need salvation and Luke writes of Jesus in Acts 4:12:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
But in addition to being rescued for eternity, Luke records Jesus’ own words as He explains how He is the ultimate Source to meet our deepest needs:
“The Spirit of the Lord is one me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…” (Luke 4:18)
And Paul declares in Philippians 4:13 that Jesus is the ultimate Source in daily living:
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
So this Christmas, let’s shift our focus to Jesus, the ultimate Source of everything we need. It will make being around people a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”