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
If I were a song writer, I wonder if I could write a song as beautiful as this one from Andrew Peterson. As a parent of teenagers, Be Kind to Yourself is something I want to say to each one of my kids.
We all know the challenges that come with the teenage years. Sure, we as parents fret and complain about our teenagers, but let's remember what your teen is going through. There's a battle raging within as they find their place among their peers. The culture is constantly bombarding them with images and stereotypes, and the message that there's always something better if they would just _____________ (Fill in the blank.)
It's not easy. And we too often forget all that they are dealing with; the pressures, the changes, the mistakes. But our kids are gifts. They come from God to remind us of just how much he loves us. And it's our job to remind them of who they are.
I love this song by Andrew Peterson. Be Kind to Yourself, from his album, The Burning Edge of Dawn, release on October 9th, 2015, is one of those songs that when you hear it, the emotions stir up and bring you to a sweet place of pause. Pause as your remember that that you are a parent, charged with the task of loving our children unconditionally. And to encourage them to see themselves, not through the lens of a distorted culture, but through the love and grace of a Creator that see a work of art.
Take a minute to watch this video.
Now, go and hug your kids!
- the higham family
Do you have kids?
Do your kids have smartphones?
One more question.
Do you think your kids might be a little obsessed with their smartphones?
Welcome to the club! I think if we're honest, most parents might say that they are a little worried, even frustrated with the amount of time their kids spend on their smartphones. From the very beginning, we have tried to monitor the time and usage of our kids with their smartphones. And with all the right intentions we placed perimeters and guidelines on our kids, and how and when they used their phones. We thought we would be parents who would totally master the personal device issue. WRONG!!!
I share that because as a parent, I know how important their smartphones are to them. And while I would love to be able to control how my kids use their device, all I can do is look for ways to find a balance. That's where this book comes in.
Jonathan McKee is a long-time youth worker and parent who has invested years into understanding how culture trends impact teenagers first as a full-time youth pastor then as full-time resource provide, author, and speaker. His latest book, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid, is one that has become a quick favorite of mine! Jonathan talks about the book in this interview. Watch the clip.
If the video does not appear, click on the link to watch it on YouTube.
52 Ways to Connect with your Smartphone Obsessed Kid
As a parent who has 3 teenagers, each with iPhones and tablets, and 2 more kids to follow, again with devices, this book is a great resource to move us as a family past the disconnect. Simple and easy to read, you'll find 52 Ways to Connect with your Smartphone Obsessed Teenagers a helpful resource with great ideas. The point is to get your teenagers talking.
Available in printed paperback and ebook, we want to recommend 52 Ways to Connect with your Smartphone Obsessed Teenagers, to you for your parenting tool box. Use the links below to order through our affiliate partner, Amazon. To learn more about Jonathan McKee, and ministry to youth workers, students and teenagers, visit his website. There is a link below.
Hope you find this resource helpful!
- the higham family
It's always exciting to see your kid do well in their activities. Whether sports related or academics, their success is to be celebrated. And here in the Higham house, we get really excited when one of our kiddos does well! Just yesterday, we received word that Nate was honored with the high school's Athlete of the Month.
So Wednesday morning, Amy gets a text message from Nate that he had been named the school's Athlete of the Month. I think it's well earned. Nate works hard as an athlete, leaving everything he has on the field of play. He's a total team-player, not thinking of himself as anything more that a member of the team with the responsibility to play hard, do his part, and support and encourage his teammates.
Nate delivers a pitch in one of the early season games for the HS Varsity Baseball Team.
Nate receiving one of his medals at a local invitational event.
Amy and I are super proud of Nate and all the hard work he has put into his seasons. We've watched him win and we've watched him lose. And his integrity in both has made shown his growing maturity as an athlete.
So congratulations, Nate! Enjoy your moment. Savor every second. But remember that who you are is not found in how high you jump, how fast your throw, or how far you can hit a ball. You are a child of the Most High God, and nothing and no one will ever change that! So play as you live, for the glory and applause of the One who gave you the talent and gift to do what you love!
- the higham family
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.