Authored by Dia
It’s almost Christmas! Decorations, gifts, yummy food, and carols await. It marks the passing of time and is celebrated by many the world over.
Just like anything else where there is heightened excitement and anticipation, you are also more susceptible to disappointment. And even if there aren’t any disappointments and everything is epic and awesome, there is (at least for me) a slump after the fulfillment of something awesome. You look forward to Christmas, plan for it, shop, give, receive, eat, party, and then it’s over and you’ve got to get back to “normal life.”
What helps me at such times is to think of a year as a roller-coaster ride. There are times when I’m high and times when I’m down. And sometimes for me, Christmas can be like a huge steep exhilarating climb, with an equally sharp drop.
I want to share with you how I’ve learned to avoid experiencing a disappointing Christmas.
* First, I realized that my expectations affect my experience. Relying solely on other people to make Christmas wonderful for me wasn’t enough. I needed to be proactive and take some control over my yuletide experience.
* Next, I learned to expect that I’d be giving more than I would be receiving. I concentrate on thinking about others’ needs, and find ways that I can do something for the less fortunate or for my loved ones.
* I avoided allowing my happiness to be based on people or circumstances. I remind myself that things don’t have to be just perfect for me to be happy. Instead, I try to contribute to things that I know will bring someone else happiness. I aim to be flexible, and try to enjoy things even if they don’t turn out as I’d wanted.
* I started to take “me” time. Christmas is always busier than other times, so I try to take alone time often. During this time, I pray and reflect. I think about the upcoming year and things I would like to do differently or goals I’d like to reach. I’ve found that taking this time has meant that I enter the new year with hope and motivation rather than disappointment.
* Whatever I give and whatever I do, I try to do it as if it were for Jesus. Christmas is a time to celebrate Him; that’s my touchstone during this holiday month.
Believe it or not, doing these things has helped me to enjoy the Christmas season much more fully; and the best part is, I haven’t felt the emotional dip that usually hits afterwards.
One of my favorite childhood Christmas stories is called “The House that Glowed.”1 A boy named Johann is thrown out of his home on Christmas by his wicked stepfather. He walks to the village and notices many fancy houses and assumes the people in such rich dwellings must have enough to share with him. He goes from house to house to ask for food and shelter for the night, only to be rejected at every door. Dejected, he leaves the village, and on the way he sees the light of a small, humble cottage. He knocks on the door and a kind old widow appears. Before he can even ask for help, she ushers him inside, sets him by the fireplace, and prepares a warm meal for him.
Suddenly, she notices a warm, beautiful glow filling every corner of the cottage. People in the village notice it too. To the villagers, it looks as if the cottage is on fire, so they run to see what’s happening. When they arrive at the cottage, all they can see through the window is the old woman caring for the boy. Quickly, they knock on the door and ask her why there is such a bright light coming from her house. “I really do not know what happened,” said the widow, with a smile of wondrous joy on her face. “I just seemed to hear a voice saying to me, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My children, ye have done it unto Me.’”2
On a Christmas many moons ago, I visited a home where I felt true Christmas spirit. The family I was visiting had recently given birth to a child with disabilities, and it had been a year of adversity and struggle for them. But I felt such tangible love and peace in their home, like I’ve rarely felt before or since.
Often the places we find the most love, happiness, and a large portion of Christ’s presence are not where we would normally be searching for those things.
I challenge you to refine your expectations this Christmas. You can still search for the Christmas spirit and the warm fuzzy feelings, but look somewhere new, try to do something memorable for someone else, and watch yourself having a wonderful time.
I’m sure that many of you have discovered the joy of giving. Giving is something I’m passionate about. I experience real, gratifying joy every time I give. It’s counterintuitive, but the things I think will make me happy often disappoint, and in places I least expect it, I am surprised by joy.
When you think back on special occasions, what do you remember most? Do you remember exact conversations and happenings? Some people do, but I remember feelings. When I reminisce, the exact happenings and details are generally a bit fuzzy, like an out-of-focus photograph. But I remember feelings so acutely, how the situation made me feel, either joy or sorrow, or both.
I think the overall feeling we get from a person or situation lasts in our memory long after spoken words fade.
What Christmas memories will you create this year? What feelings will last? I hope that they will be feelings of joy and generosity.
1 The House that Glowed, published in Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, 1950.
2 Matthew 25:40 KJV.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Andrew V. Copyright © 2011 by The Family International