A Hodgepodge of Goings On & Doings

A Hodgepodge of Goings On & Doings

December 2010
I remember as a boy one Christmas asking for a BB gun. I could relate to Ralphie from the hit movie, A Christmas Story. In fact we were so identical, we could have been twins! My mother was against me having a BB gun because she was afraid—you guessed it—I would put my eye out with that thing!

The scene in my house that morning was virtually identical to the Christmas morning scene from the movie. Like little Ralphie, after tearing through all my gifts I languished in waves of disappointment. Then my dad pointed out one more treasure hidden behind the tree. It turned out to be my dream come true: a model 1894 Winchester BB gun. Christmas disappointment didn't last that year.

What do you expect from Christmas? I don't mean, what presents do you expect, but what do you expect from the whole experience we have come to call Christmas? It is a whole experience because it is no longer just a single event. It has become a season, a hodgepodge of “goings on and doings” as one old woman I knew used to put it.

Back to the question, “What do you expect from Christmas?” More pointedly, do you expect all the goings on and doings to give you true and lasting joy? Inner peace? A sense of bonhomie toward all?

I ask because I believe we bring expectations to every Christmas. We expect fulfillment of an unstated promise to ourselves that the goings on and doings surrounding the celebration of the birth of Christ will satisfy our deep needs. But the nature of these needs is such that Christmas, even with all it has to offer, inevitably fails to live up to the hype.

Misplaced expectations surrounding the birth of Christ are not new. By mentally reviewing the characters in that first Christmas drama the case could be made for saying the only people whose expectations seem to be met were Anna and Simeon. Simeon had received a revelation about the coming Messiah from the Holy Spirit so he was expectant (Luke 2:26), and Anna lived at the temple “looking for the redemption of Israel” (Luke 2:38).

Everybody else—Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, the Magi, Herod, and Jerusalem were not expecting things to be the way they were. Joseph signs on expecting a normal engagement and marriage. But everything changes when his fiancĂ© announces she is pregnant.

Mary gets engaged to Joseph expecting a normal life. But when the angel visits, her expectations change. Nothing from that point on is as she expects.

The lowly Shepherds clock in for the night shift never expecting to hear angelic messengers or visit a baby born in a stable and lying in a manger. Jesus' arrival completely alters their lives and they go home rejoicing.

The Magi trekking from a distance expect to find a king surrounded by palatial surroundings. When they show up at the palace, Jesus isn't there. Instead they find Him in the house of a carpenter in a little village.

Scripture tells us “When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). Herod is not expecting to hear of a new king being born. When he does, he perceives it as a threat to his earthly throne. As for Jerusalem, the people aren't expecting another King to be born either.

All the expectations are misplaced, perhaps even misguided. Everyone at some point is looking at the goings on and doings around the birth rather than at this One who is born. But the actual coming of Christ fulfils God's promise to provide what humanity needs as nothing and no one else can. Jesus Himself, and He alone, in who He is and what He does, is the fulfillment. He is God's answer to humanity's deepest need. In Him, by Him, and through Him, is Life. Eventually all the Christmas story characters except Herod and Jerusalem recognize this about Jesus and, in faith, refocus their expectations on Him.

At Christmas we need this reminder again. It's not the pageants, bright lights, concerts, presents, or the myriad of other goings on and doings that we engage in this Christmas that will meet our deepest needs. It will only be Jesus Himself. To expect anything other than Him to satisfy is to invite disappointment. And disappointment won't disappoint us — it will show up.

So by all means let's enjoy our Christmas activities. But let's check our expectations, even now. Where are we placing them? Let's use the goings on and doings as signs pointing to the real Gift who alone can truly satisfy our needs. He won't disappoint us this Christmas.

About the Author:  Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson