Each Advent and Christmas season, I expect my house to be beautifully decorated, delicious cookies to be baked, hand-addressed cards to be sent, songs to be sung, presents to be carefully wrapped, family parties to be warm and fun, the homily at Mass to be magical, my favorite party attire to fit flatteringly, presents I picked to be just what the person wanted, my heart to be perfectly prepared for the Lord’s birthday, everyone to get along smashingly…to name a small subset of my perfectly reasonable expectations.
This year, a business trip the week before Christmas thwarted a lot of my usual holiday plans. I was excited about the trip to sunny California and the work I’d be doing there, but disappointed and a bit frantic I was going to miss checking all of the boxes on my growing to-do list.
I thought about cramming everything into the few days before Christmas. I mean, how can I not bake a bunch of snowman cookies while watching every Hallmark Christmas movie? Staying up until 3AM several nights in a row to bake and decorate cookies is reasonable, yes? After realizing how nutty I was being and what kind of unrealistic pressure I put on myself, I decided to let it all go.
Things aren’t going to go according to my meticulously scripted plan. They never do. Even when I manage to check all the boxes, things go wrong. My car is going to break down. (2003) I’m going to buy what I think is the perfect gift for someone, and they’re going to return it. (2014) The frosting for my cookies will have a weird texture. (2009) A relative is going to talk about sex or politics at the family party and make everyone uncomfortable. (Annually)
So I changed my expectations for the holiday season.
Rather than rushing around to get everything done, I’ve been enjoying the days leading up to Christmas. I’ve been doing the reflections in my Blessed Is She Advent journal. Going to confession. Painting my nails red and green. Sleeping in 3 hours past my alarm. Spending time with my husband. Eating mediterranean food. Snuggling in a soft blanket. Drinking my coffee while it is still warm. Wrapping presents while catching up on my favorite TV shows.
It has been so freeing, friends. I’ve never felt so spiritually prepared for Christmas. I invite you to let go of all your holiday expectations and the activities that aren’t absolutely necessary or fulfilling, to give you time to focus on what matters.
The Lord loves you. He sent His only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to free us from our sin. The Lord is coming again. Let that be the only expectation you cling to this holiday season.