"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." — Titus 3:4–5a
Christmas is the season for expectation.
The people of God wait each year with baited breath to peek again into that manger scene and celebrate Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Truly, this is the wondrous place where our hopes put on flesh and find their fulfillment. And yet, so often in this season, I’m not filled with the expectation of celebrating Christ, but instead I’m focused on fulfilling the expectations of others and myself. And those Christmas expectations crush me.
I hustle and bustle, checking off endless lists.
Will I get the right thing? Will I let them down?
I plan and fret about the gatherings of my loved ones.
Will there be enough of this or that? Will they enjoy themselves?
I weigh myself down with traditions.
We’ve always done it this way. Will everyone be disappointed if we don’t? Will I?
In all of it, I work and strive to make everything perfect.
Will it be good enough for them? For me?
This is my performance-based Christmas hamster wheel. And I really do find myself so often running in circles to meet these expectations (and more). But here’s the irony: living like this is actually anti-Christmas. When I strive under these expectations, I inevitably fail to do the thing I’m trying so hard to do: I don’t actually celebrate Christmas at all.
Thankfully, I know a way off the Christmas hamster wheel.
Years ago, I started realigning my Christmas expectations by focusing on Christ. To put it simply, I started putting Christ on my Christmas list. What do I mean by that? Well, he’s on my “to-do list” every day. Sure, I’ve got lots of things on that list this time of year, but I don’t neglect this one thing: Jesus. I spend time reading my Bible and regularly, throughout the day, I refocus on him by praying, singing Christmas hymns, and reciting Scripture. This is how I fight my Christmas-performance mindset, and I confess I often lose! But this year I have one more weapon in my arsenal: Titus 3:4-5a. These are the perfect words to speak over myself every time I need to refocus my expectations:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” — Titus 3:4-5a
Do you hear that!? “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done…” That means there’s nothing we can do to earn our seat at the table. Instead, God did everything for us. And that is where we find freedom.
This is the message we need on repeat in our heads this Christmas!
So, as you say it to yourself, I want you to remember these three things about expectations:
That is our true and best Christmas expectation.
No earthly thing could ever measure up to the wonder of God’s love as it was embodied in that manger so many years ago. This is the good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). And our minds and hearts can safely dwell in that wondrous place in the midst of the bustle of this season.
Will you join me in trading in striving for rest—knowing that Jesus has met every expectation for us? He is our greatest gift.