The following is my manuscript for a message I shared with the M.O.P.S. group that my wife co-led while we served at St. Paul's EP Church in Somerset, PA. It was geared towards the moms who share the burden of high Christmas expectations. But I think there is something in here that we might all benefit from. It might be time to lower our expectations just a bit.
Christmas Expectations...By Jay Higham
It’s a real honor to be here with you all this morning. I know how much M.O.P.S. has blessed Amy, so this is a true privilege for me.
This morning I want to talk about Christmas Expectations.
A couple of Sundays ago I came home from church to find Amy, struggling with all five kids, trying to take this year’s Christmas picture. Amy had picked out matching sweaters, had everyone dressed and ready, but of course, the kids were not cooperating.
#1 was fussing because he had to sit near #2. #5 wanted to sit with #2. And 3 & 4 were just giddy laughing at each other. I walked in to find Amy, pleading with the everyone, trying to get this picture, but it just wasn’t working.
So I come in, and being the fixer I am, I start barking out commands to the kids, attempting to get them to sit still and cooperate for the photo. But I wasn’t helping like I thought I was. In fact I remember making a statement that the whole process was a waste of time, it wasn’t going to happen, it really wasn’t that important.
Well that didn’t help anything. In fact Amy left the living room in tears because while I thought this was all a waste of time, to Amy, this was important, it wasn’t a waste of time, and it needed to happen. This was suppose to be the perfect Christmas picture.
I think we all have Christmas Expectations. Whether it’s the perfect Christmas picture with matching sweaters and smiling faces, or the perfect excursion to find the perfect tree. Maybe it’s the perfect Christmas Eve service with everyone dressed and ready, (and not falling down the stairs, arriving late, and finding no room in the inn).
As moms, you have expectations that propel your Christmas preparations. And while some expectations can be good, its the expectations that crush our hearts when they aren’t fulfilled that cause the most pain and frustration at Christmas.
This whole idea of Christmas Expectations got me thinking about the nativity. I wondered what expectations Mary might of had as she thought about what her first “Christmas” would look like.
Think about this with me. Place yourselves in the sandals of Mary, the soon to be new mom. What might you be expecting?
- Mary was still a young teenager. While it was customary for girls to be pledged and wed while in their young teens, perhaps Mary was expecting a little more time with her friends. Time to enjoy her youth, to frolic, and play, delaying the responsibilities that would come with adult life.
- We know that Mary was pledged to be married to a young carpenter named Joseph. Perhaps she was expecting the traditional wedding and celebration. Gifts, time with friends and family, all the proper and customary experience a future bride would be looking forward to.
- The honeymoon is time in which the bride and groom seclude themselves for a time of private intimacy. It’s a time to get to know each other in ways that courting/dating doesn’t allow for. Perhaps Mary was expecting time to get to know her new husband, who he was, and what the marriage would look like.
To Be Near Mom...
- There is a special relationship that develops between some women and their mothers in those early years of marriage as they seek advice as young wives. Things like cooking and favorite recipes, pregnancy questions, birthing practices, child rearing, and counseling as they try to figure out how to live with a guy. Perhaps Mary was expecting to be near her mom during those early months of her new relationship with Joseph and as she carried and gave birth to her quickly coming son.
Care, Support, and Help...
- We have hospitals, doctors, nurse, mid-wives, family, and support networks that surround us as we prepare to welcome a new life into the world. Perhaps Mary expected the advice of her mom, the wisdom of a mid-wife, a familiar and comfortable setting, and the support of other women.
To Live a Normal Life...
- We all want to enjoy life and the little pleasures, joys, successes, and adventures that we have along the ways. Perhaps Mary expected a quite life in a friendly community with family and friends near by. Perhaps she looked forward to visits from guests, raising a family in the traditional way, fulfilling her place as a Jewish woman in the society.
They were expecting a conqueror, one who would overthrow the oppression of Rome. They expected mighty leader ready to rebuild the great nation that Israel once was.
The problem with all of this is, the birth of the Messiah wasn’t as anyone had expected. The future Redeemer of God’s people was to be a king. A king; the likes of ing David, the greatest king of Israel. They were expecting a conqueror, one who would overthrow the oppression of Rome. They expected mighty leader ready to rebuild the great nation that Israel once was.
And like Mary, and all of Israel, we too have expectations about what Christmas should be like and who Jesus really is. But the truth is, God’s plans for our lives are not what many of us expect.
The Gospel of Luke shares the most detailed look at Christ’s birth. In Chapter 2 of Luke’s narrative we read the birth of our Savior. Take a minute and read Luke 2. [ Click Here - Luke 2 ]
I suspect Mary lived a life she never expected to live. From the stable to the foot of the cross, any dreams or expectations she might have had were let go so that God’s will could be fulfilled through her and her son. And if we know anything about how God operates, it’s that He doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
So with all that said, what expectations do you have for your Christmas celebration. Have you sought out the perfect tree, shopped for the perfect gift, snapped the perfect Family Christmas Photo, or lived the perfect life this past year?
If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that God isn’t looking for the perfect, but dwells in the imperfect. And the only thing we can truly expect is that God will do the unexpected.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that the expectations we all have about what Christmas SHOULD look like, will painlessly vanish and that we would wake on that humble morning and realize that through a series of unexpected events, the God of Creation redeemed His people in the birth of a little baby, in a stable, in a town called, Bethlehem.
- jay higham
It's November in western Pennsylvania which usually brings about crisp, cold days. But we've been experiencing some beautifully warm days this past week and I am soaking it up. I am blessed to be able to take morning runs with my sweet dog on one of the local trails in our community. Since this is a new phase of life for me with all 5 kids in school all day, I have been enjoying the alone time I have in God's creation as I exercise. I usually put my headphones in, find a good Bible-teaching podcast to listen to, leash up our dog and away I run.
As I was running one day this week, I started to pay attention to my surroundings and the season of we are in. Lots of leaves were on the trail leaving just a little color left on some of the trees. I started to think about the seasons and how each one has a beauty of its own. Then my mind wandered to how each season of our lives also has a beauty all its own. In some ways I couldn't wait for the season where all 5 were in school all day, and yet part of me dreaded it. I loved having little ones at home with me all day. Yes, there were many challenges along the way, but for the most part I truly cherished it. Now I find myself in a new home with new surroundings and by myself most of the days. Jay and I have discussed and prayed about me looking for employment outside of the home but feel that for now, I have enough work to do to keep our home running. So we we will continue to make the sacrifice of living on one income.
Lately I have been struggling with the reality that my kids aren’t little anymore. I’ve also been dealing with the challenge of leaving a church where I had grown to love the people dearly, and quite frankly, the pain of how our season there came to an end. But as I ran, looking at the rolling green hills and the fall colors still left on the trees, I felt God’s presence and peace fell upon me. Soon the trees will be bare and brown, and we will wait for snow to brighten up what’s become dingy and dead. It was in this moment that I was reminded of the life that comes out of God’s love for His children. As God continues to shape me, I am more and more aware of His presence and peace during tough times. While it may look like things around my are dying, He is preparing to bring new life from within my circumstances.
In my heart I could hear His loving voice tell me to enjoy the life that is around me and the new season He is bringing me into. To watch as His hand creates something new and exciting out of something that was lifeless and dull. Only a loving Creator can do that.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we read, “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” And it is in His time, not ours. So I will be thankful that I have a Heavenly Father who takes the time to show me His love over and over again; and who gently reminds me through His Word and His creation.
Sometimes we have to go through seasons where we watch things come to end. But praise God, that He brings beauty and life even out of death.
Hi we're Jay & Amy, and we've been married for 19 years and are super blessed to be busy raising our 5 kids; 4 boys and 1 girl. We juggle the adventures of life and ministry and share what we are learning as it relates to marriage, family, raising kids, serving in the church, and chasing after Jesus. Raising a family is hard work, especially in today's culture. But our hope is to encourage you and your family, as we live for the glory of God.
Have you ordered Jay's Christmas book?
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.