Written Dec 24, 2016
Christmas! Wow, what a season. I cannot say I haven’t already cried today or that I have not cried pretty much every Christmas for a long time. What is it about Christmas that I wait to the last minute to shop, cook and clean? Is it that I am just this disorganized or do I purposely allow myself to be caught in the frenzy because the busyness keeps me numb until I slide into Christmas morning barely getting it done and exhausted, and ready to say goodbye to Christmas as soon as possible.
I have spent what seems like a lifetime of trying in vain to avoid what seems to await us all at Christmas time. One of the truest feelings that we desperately try to avoid with family, friends, shopping, music, eating, drinking, going to church and making merriment. It is the thing we always unwrap at some point during the Christmas season….Disappointment.
Maybe, I am wrong but Christmas seems like one of the most disappointing times of year and it makes no sense given we aren’t working, we are usually with our families celebrating love, joy and peace, and receiving and giving gifts.
Still, no matter how hard I have tried to avoid Christmas disappointment with just the right formula of Christmas cheer, baby Jesus, lots of family, limited family, travel, no travel, lots of gifts, 3 gifts, Santa, no Santa, 12 days of Christmas, 1 day of Christmas, high expectations and low expectations… I always manage to find it mingled in with pine needles and wrapping paper.
One would think as your kids grow older, it would be easier to avoid Christmas disappointment but it seems to be just the opposite. Or perhaps, it has taken years to become aware and to develop the courage to confess just how disappointed I am at Christmas. There I said it. I don’t know why I keep doing this but it seems like I keep subjecting myself to this yearly disappointment because either I am insane, I am a glutton for punishment, I am naive, I suffer some type of Christmas amnesia or that that I have tried in vain to pack up the disappointment with the Christmas tree and forget about it.
I guess I thought this year would be different and that by being proactive I could avoid disappointment by lowering my Christmas expectations to the lowest possible point. Yet as soon as I started shopping for my 3 teenagers, there it was- the reality that they would be disappointed. I tried to shop away that feeling but I couldn’t shake it and no matter what I purchased, I knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Now, here I am and all those feelings of disappointment that I had been running from the last month (all my life) have come to a head when only 1 of my 3 kids could manage to get up and go to a Christmas Eve breakfast with me. What came after breakfast was a text to my best friend that “I hate Christmas!” I tried to let all my feelings be anger and pull off the Clark Griswald rant but unfortunately, disappointment is more than anger. It is anger, sadness, guilt, fear and shame all wrapped up in one nice little package and now that package was unwrapping me.
I attempted to stop disappointment with some common sense talk about teenagers and the usual “reason for the season” but it didn’t work this time. This year I had nowhere to hide, nowhere to run and nothing to do. I thought I would take the advice I give everyone else and listen to how I feel and ask one question… why did I feel so freaking disappointed? What I discovered was that I was disappointed in my kids and they would most likely be disappointed in me. If truth be known, then it wasn’t just once a year we were both disappointed in someone, something or each other but it is all year long.
And, could it be that we try to avoid this feeling all year and use Christmas as a time that we can be enough and do enough, and avoid disappointment? Yet, is it possible that this extra being and doing is the very thing that sets us up to be even more disappointed.
So with tears in my eyes and disappointment staring me right in the face, I decided to acknowledge, accept, feel and confess disappointment. I admitted it, I cried and then I went to breakfast with my 1 kid. I tried to rally at and enjoy the sweet time and even the honest conversation that would have never happened if my other two had been there. I drove home thinking about why wasn’t the time spent with my son enough to fix my disappointment. I thought about how our circumstances had completely changed in the last few years and how I was no longer forced to keep the frantic Christmas pace and how I had time to think and feel something other than the anger of all the Christmas pressure dumped on me.
Yet, even my best reasons and analysis did nothing to keep me from feeling completely disappointed. So, I stopped trying to explain disappointment away and I started asking questions. Why wasn’t it enough to give nice gifts to my kids or share time together? Why couldn’t I do something to keep all of us from feeling disappointed? I even asked how the knowledge of the love, mercy and forgiveness that I had been given wasn’t enough from being disappointed in the very season of celebrating love, mercy and forgiveness?
And then it hit me… Could Christmas really be about celebrating disappointment and what looked like the biggest disappointment…a baby in a manager.
Think about it! Jesus showing up as a baby in a manger was a huge disappointment,
Yes, it was a complete disappointment when the entire story of the Old Testament is pointing, talking about and leading up to a Savior of the world… but God gives a baby.
When all the people in the Bible were being told of a powerful and mighty king who had healing in his wings, who would move heaven and earth to redeem them…but God gives a baby.
When story after story had been told for thousands of years about miraculous plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, God being present in a temple, holiness resting on a mountain, Yahweh being found in cloud and a burning bush, and stories about Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Abraham, Moses, David and Elijah…but God gives a baby.
What about Mary and Joseph having their reputations and lives ruined, and are forced to flee from their home and into hiding… because God gave them a baby.
Not only did this baby seem like the biggest disappointment that the world had ever seen, but Jesus grew up to look, live and die like a disappointment . “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2
Jesus was promised as a gift to the world and yet this gift disappointed us so much that we crucified it.
Could it be that Jesus became disappointment so that we could freely live and in living life, we could be disappointed but in that disappointment, we could remember and reach out for help, hope and healing from love that does not disappoint and is not disappointed in us.? Could it be that Jesus was able to transform disappointment and that this real feeling is a divine gift that can change not only our expectations but tell us who we are (loved) and prevent us from using finite people and things to try to fill an unlimited need for truth, hope and love. Perhaps, disappointment is the way to discover an infinite need that exists not just at Christmas time, but every single day.
Why can’t we all be honest? We are disappointed. We are disappointed in ourselves, our lives and even our family and friends. We thought we could build perfect lives, perfect selves, perfect kids and a perfect Christmas, and avoid disappointment. I think deep down we thought that if we did all these things, then Jesus would not be disappointed in us. I also think if we could really be completely honest, we thought we could make Jesus enough for us.
Do you think that if you could sit with disappointment, instead of running from it or trying to fill the void yourself, then you would see you are sitting with Jesus and He isn’t disappointed that you are disappointed in yourself, others, this world and even Him. He isn’t even disappointed that you can’t completely trust him or obey.
Could it be that Jesus isn’t threatened by your disappointment? He knew disappointment would create a space that only He can fill to show you how much He loves you.
Strangely enough it seems like in writing this that I have finally unwrapped that gift of disappointment and I found Jesus. The only one who is not disappointed in me and the only one who doesn’t disappoint. It seems that in being found by Jesus through disappointment, I found thanksgiving and I am thankful that there is nothing, no gift, no party, no experience and no amount of family and friends that could fill my infinite need for Him. Oh my… disappointment seems like that most amazing Christmas gift that Jesus has given me to set my kids and I, and even Christmas free from the crushing expectation to “not be disappointing” and to free me from focusing on Him being enough for me and to rest in that I am enough for Him.
Could it be Christmas has just arrived and through the one thing that I have refused to confess?
And now my friend, this is my Christmas wish for you too! I hope that you have a disappointing Christmas because if this season and it’s stuff were really enough, then we would miss out on the divine love that we were designed to receive every single day. The kind of love that fills us up and overflows out of us -so we can live a life that’s real and not perfect with people who are real and not perfect.
Do we really want our kids and our spouse looking to us to be and do enough at Christmas time and have no reason to look up from this world for something more? If we make no room for disappointment, then we make no room to be human, to be honest and to experience the Baby who set us free to live a life full of disappointments and a life full of love, truth, joy, hope, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It seems like Christmas is a special time to feel disappointment, in order that we can be filled with the Love that will never disappoints.
Merry Christmas Friends! I hope today you unwrap the gift of disappointment and in that gift you find a love that will not let you go, loves you beyond anything you could want or imagine and promises to work all your disappointments for good.