By Erica, Contributing Writer
Christmas can put joy in your heart or stress in your chest.
If you’re a good Christian then you really do love the true meaning of Christmas – the gift of Christ that we certainly never deserved. The miracles of Him coming to earth, the fulfillment of foretold scriptures. You love the song of the angels announcing His birth, the excitement of the shepherds finding Him in the night. It’s not a beautiful story, it’s a beautiful reality…He was the baby that grew to be the God-man that died for our sins on the cross and rose again! But then came Christmas cards, parties, plays, gift buying, wrapping, and delivering.
We can bear a heavy load during the Christmas season if we live enslaved to expectations!
Sources of Wrong Christmas Expectations
- Others – Others may require you to participate, buy a certain type of gift, give and give some more. Some people will give bad feelings to you when their expectations are not met. We become people-pleasers when we fulfill negative expectations.
- Yourself – We all have ideas of how things should be and what we should do to make them that way. Sometimes the expectations we have of ourselves cripple us more than the expectations coming from others.
How to Release Yourself From Christmas Expectations
Keep the Main Thing (God) the Main Thing
What does God require of you at Christmas? The same thing He requires of you every day of the year. He is the source of all right expectations. God wants all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. His will for your life is never to be stressed out.
- “… and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mark 12:30
- “…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
While the rest of Scripture will help you fulfill these commandments, these verses contain God’s expectations in a nutshell. If any of our daily activities within the Christmas season keep us from loving God and loving people (being too busy to read His Word, pray, or even be unkind toward others) then we should reevaluate our attitude and keep God the Main Thing.
How do you keep other people from expecting you will be at their Christmas party or pay for a gift you cannot afford?
Communicate in a right way.
Tell people if you want your family to be home on Christmas morning for your own personal traditions. Tell them if you can’t afford a $50 gift exchange. There’s no other way for people to expect anything but your participation if you do not tell them otherwise.
While we understand that many people will fight for what they want to create in their mind as Christmas and may even react harshly to anything negative toward their plans, we still have to talk to them plainly and treat them in love. The part of loving our neighbor as ourselves is giving them respect even when they do not act worthy of it.
To keep Christ in all of our Christmas activities, we must treat others like Christ would.
If your loved ones do not understand and you have done your part to communicate effectively in love, then simply do what you need to do. Give them and their expectations (and disappointments) to God.
Live Within Your Means
Living within your means is living within the budgets of time, talent, and treasure. There’s only so much of your family, your time, and your money. If you’re seeking a simpler Christmas then you may have to say “no” to something in order to say “yes” to peace and simplicity. It may take a while for others to catch on but if you communicate in love and keep God the Main Thing, then I think that people will grow to understand that your life has more meaning when you’re living free from those burdens.
Releasing yourself from Christmas expectations may mean that you need to release yourself from your own expectations. Be humble. We feel the obligation to fulfill expectations sometimes because we dread failure when we do not perform up to a HIGH standard. Pride can make us perform out of obligation with selfish motives of self-exaltation. Humility enables us to give joyfully without any expectations of return. It says, “God has given me so much that I do not deserve, let me share some of His love with you.”
You don’t have to buy the biggest, best, most expensive, or even lots of items. You don’t have to host the family dinner, buy all the groceries, and do all of the work. You do not have to deck out your lawn with 1,000 lights.
Living within your means should mean that your life is meaningful, not full of stuff, full of meaning.
The greatest meaning a Christian has in their life is Christ. Make all you do in this season reflect your love for the Saviour!
If you’re living according to God’s expectations, then you see that love is the primary motivation for the activities you plan, the places you go, the gifts that you give. I think in many ways if we will let go of the Christmas wish lists, credit cards, and activities we can actually enjoy the moments of baking cookies, admiring the Nativity scene, singing the carols, and sharing the Christ of the Christmas story and His salvation.
Do not allow yourself to be enslaved this Christmas to any expectation other than what God expects of you… love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as you love yourself and you’ll be on your way to enjoying one of the most wonderful times of the year!