Even as I was living it, I realized it might go down as my favorite Christmas ever. It was better than anything I had experienced in the past and would likely be better than anything I would experience in the future. Life was good:
- we had moved into a house where we expected to raise our kids
- the kids were old enough to be excited about the event
- they were young so Christmas was full of excitement and mystery
- Christmas Eve services went great and I had a few days off work
- my marriage was great
- I was happy
- it snowed (which is highly unusual where I live)
At one point, I remember watching the snow and thinking, “It can’t get much better than this.” It was a truly great Christmas celebration.
But it wasn’t that good. It was great, but it wasn’t life-changing. I wouldn’t trade it, but had it not happened I still would be fine. (See: When Christmas Goes Wrong)
Compared to the expectations of many people, my greatest Christmas would be a disappointment. It’s not that my day was bad; it’s that their expectations aren’t realistic.
Many people do not have reasonable Christmas expectations. Year after year they experience a disappointing holiday season primarily because their expectations are wrong. The expect Christmas to be something Christmas could never truly be. It can be good, but it can’t reach the level of perfection which the movies portray or many of us desire.
Life is too messy and we are too imperfect for any Christmas to ever reach the level which many people assume it should.
3 Christmas Truths
Your Christmas won’t be perfect. Fairy tales are great, but they aren’t reality. Things will go wrong. Instead of expecting everything to go as we expect, give yourself, others, and life itself some room. Some years family will have to spend the holiday apart. At times you won’t feel well. Sometimes the ham won’t cook properly. On occasion you might buy a bad gift. That’s life. Instead of letting a disappointment ruin your Christmas, use it to make your experience better. As we recognize the disappointments, we can have a great appreciation for what is good.
Nobody’s Christmas is perfect. We oftentimes grossly exaggerate how good someone else’s life is. We see their pictures on Facebook and imagine everything in their home is perfect. It’s not. Most other people have just as many problems as we have. While they project perfection, they experience anything but perfection. Stop comparing your experience to the experience of others because there is no way to truly know what their lives are like. In nearly every case, it is fair to assume other people are far less happy with their lives than we perceive.
A bad Christmas isn’t the end of the world. Some people will have a bad Christmas. No matter what our expectations are, things will go dramatically wrong. Plans will fall through. Loved one’s will die and no longer be at the celebration. Marriages will end and that first Christmas will be hard. Sometimes people will spend Christmas alone. This isn’t what anyone wants, but it is an experience of many people. If you have a horrible Christmas, it’s sad, but it’s only one holiday. It doesn’t define you as a person or the totality of your life. It might motivate you to make some changes so it doesn’t happen again, but a bad Christmas shouldn’t be given too much weight.
Christmas is often a season spent with family and friends. Because that’s the expectation, any division or sorrow with those we love can make the season very difficult. Everyone should expect aspects of grief, sadness, and disappointment during the holiday season. But if we know that it’s part of the season, we can experience those times while also seeking and finding the good moments. (See: God Shows Up in Unexpected Places)
Whether this holiday will be your best ever or will be a bit of a disappointment, accept the bad and find the good. Then, you will likely have a merry Christmas.