Anticipation. Expectations. More often than not, my expectations disappoint me. Nothing brings this to light more than the holidays.

In Sunday’s sermon, Phil Geyer alluded to getting some really good gifts—particularly those that were picked out especially for him by his adoring daughters. I often think of the gifts my own children have made me, or picked out with painstaking care at the Dollar Store. I have a coffee mug with a really profound quote on it and a set of measuring cups that apparently cost a just a dollar, but which I wouldn’t sell at any price.

I will never forget unwrapping Electronic Battleship at the age of 13 after asking for it since I was nine. Not sure what it says about a kid who wants nothing more than to destroy her opponent with the flicker of lights and explosive sound effects that only the electronic version of the game can produce, but there it was, one of my best gifts ever. Second only to a completely unexpected and welcome pair of cowboy boots my husband purchased for me several years ago, which I still wear to the chagrin and embarrassment of many.

What about all the gifts you didn’t get? What happens when your children no longer take an art class in school and don’t have clandestine access to clay? What happens when you prepare for weeks baking and shopping for those few days you will spend with relatives you rarely see, and then someone gets the flu and the holidays are spent tending to sick people and sleeping?

What happens when you can’t bite your tongue and you say something hurtful and the gift you gave your spouse is lost in the mist of the cloud of bitterness you cruelly unfurled? What happens when the wonder and significance of Jesus birth gets tossed aside with the crumpled heaps of wrapping paper that are quickly disposed of after presents are exchanged?

More often than not, my expectations disappoint me.

In my mind, even though I know better, I still anticipate holidays full of Norman Rockwell moments, with perfect cups of Wassail that everyone enjoys, a poignant retelling of the journey to Bethlehem, followed by stories of fond Christmas memories, and children who, after unwrapping gifts, will exclaim: “Thank you for these wonderful presents, but let’s all remember the reason for the season and that Jesus is the most important gift of all!”

Maybe this describes your Christmas, and if so, I have hope that we will get there. But, for the time being, knowing that I will be disappointed, I have created a mantra that says, “Keep your expectations low, and you will never be disappointed.” I find this works when it comes to the holidays and presents and long-anticipated vacations.

 I have created a mantra that says, “Keep your expectations low, and you will never be disappointed.”

But, I fear it’s not a healthy approach. I don’t believe Jesus came to suffer with us on this planet and sacrifice everything if that’s the best mantra we can come up with.

I can almost envision God getting ready to become man, emigrating from a divine existence to our messy, dirty, awful world and repeating, “When dealing with these people, keep your expectations low and you will not be disappointed.”

No, he knew who He was dealing with and said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and [you will not be disappointed].” I substituted the last part. Matthew 11:28 actually says, “I will give you rest.” I’ll take that, too.

At this time of year, amidst the disappointment, I am reminded that there is always Hope. The Hope is Jesus, and Christmas is not the only time we can celebrate it. Even when the Poinsettia’s and nativity scene are removed from the church’s altar, Christmas isn’t gone. Jesus is still here.

 The Hope is Jesus, and Christmas is not the only time we can celebrate it.

And like Simeon, the subject of Sunday’s sermon, who waited faithfully his entire life for the arrival of a baby he believed would come, we will not be disappointed in our anticipation of seeing Jesus show up in each new day.

And what I find even better than the next day being Christmas, is that the day after that can be Easter. The promises of these two events aren’t relegated to a day or two a year and they aren’t defined by the status of presents or relationships or even a state of mind. They just are. And they always will be.

So, when I woke up this morning, realizing that Christmas had come and gone and we were sick for most of it, it was OK. The joy of the Lord is knowing that He is, every day. Instead of my mantra being, “Keep your expectations low, and you will never be disappointed,” it should be, “Look for Jesus, and you will never be disappointed.”

“Look for Jesus, and you will never be disappointed.”