managed expectations versus the thrill of hope

Photo by Kathleen Caron

Photo by Kathleen Caron

As a defense against the bombast and commercialism and noise and hyperbole, I’d been toying with the idea of doing as little as possible to prepare for Christmas.  Just the bare minimum, just enough so people don’t think I’m lazy.

I don’t need more to do.  I don’t have time or energy to spare. I don’t have extra money to spend. Mostly, I don’t want to expend all that time, energy and money, only  to be disappointed when Christmas fails to deliver the promised magic.

Hauling all that stuff out of the attic, when I’m just going to put it back a month later. Baking dozens of cookies, when I don’t personally eat sugar.  Deciding who should get a present, and who should get a card; long lists that need to be checked off, one by one by one.  None of it was making sense to me, in my present frame of mind.

As often happens, I read something that change my thinking.  My friend Janelle Ross is writing a lovely series for Advent on her blog My Men and Me, and her gentle thoughts pierced through my armor of apathy. I’ve been looking at Advent as an endless series of obligations, when really it is a gift. I’ve traded the thrill of hope for managed expectations.

The season of Advent was never, ever, ever about decorations or cookies or wrapping paper or any of that (although there is nothing wrong with any of those things.) It’s not about preparing my house. It’s about preparing my heart.

I live as if disaster were imminent. Without attachment or expectation or even much hope. Because if you don’t hope for much you can never be disappointed. I am completely ready for the zombie apocalypse or a tsunami, should one land on Chantilly, Virginia.  I have martial arts training and provisions and an escape plan mapped out in my mind. But I’m not ready for the birth of the Savior.

So I decided to see Advent in a different light. Forget about the competition for the most beautiful, perfect Christmas.  This is a time to get ready for the miracle of God coming to earth to rescue us from sin. It is a time for generosity and welcoming, a time to gather in. Time to shake off my weariness and embrace hope.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

And it’s not about me.  My family has their own expectations about Christmas that I need to honor.  I asked Joe which Christmas decorations he wanted to put up.  He thought for a moment. “Well, a tree for sure.  The nutcrackers on the mantle. The skating pond would be nice.”

Joe set up the miniature skating pond with the skaters that glide around on a magnetic track.  Marie and I got a tree, and Hubs set it up in the family room.  Strung with white lights and glittery stars, the little balsam fir turned into a twinkling confection of silver and gold. Our humble home seems almost romantic, warm and dark and candle-lit. A welcoming place.

I feel hope creeping into my heart like a little mouse on quiet feet. I am almost prepared for a miracle.

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.  C. S. Lewis

What miracle are you hoping for this Christmas?  Please share in the comments, I would love to know!

About the Author

Kathleen Caron

I'm good at finding stuff, and I love to share all my discoveries. I write about the intersection between faith, family, fellowship and food.

  • Anne Peterson

    I think it was wise asking your family what was important to remember as far as decorations. It’s amazing to me how much we have done that really didn’t matter. And we never learn this till it is subtracted. Good post, Kathleen.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Well Anne, I was in danger of going in the opposite direction and doing nothing. And that would be wrong. When I put up the decorations, I realized how much comfort my family finds in our little traditions.

  • Janelle

    I’m so touched by this, Kathleen. I pray for quiet thrills and hope and rejoicing for all of us. Love you, sister friend.

    • Kathleen Caron

      I can’t tell you how much your Advent posts have meant to me. I haven’t had time to comment, but I’ve read each one. I love you too Janelle, you are a real blessing.

  • Christa Sterken

    This post actually made my eyes tear up so that I hardly see the screen. This is just beautiful. Echoing Janelle’s prayer for you

    • Kathleen Caron

      Christa, I feel like you are a person who carries Christmas in their heart all year round. I would like to be that kind of person too. Thank you for your prayer and friendship.

      • Christa Sterken

        Well I do literally think about it a lot. Makes family a bit nuts, but how I would love you to hold me accountable to the heart of the season. Not just the expectations of a writer with a healthy imagination

  • kathunsworth

    Hey Kathleen for me christmas is about people, my wish this year is for a family I know who are hoping for a miracle. My friends husband has a terminal illness. This is where everything is put in perspective for me. I imagine it being my very last christmas, what would I do or want? I would want the ones I love around me. I would want to make happy everlasting memories and mostly thank god for each and every day I get to spend with the ones I love. So I pray for a christmas miracle.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Kath, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s husband, that is so hard. I can’t imagine how painful it must be for them to walk through this time. You are a good friend to pray for a Christmas miracle for them. Christmas is about loving people, if it is about anything at all.

  • Joan

    Very touching post, Kathleen. And I relate to your thoughts.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Thank you Joan, and may I say, I am really enjoying your series about Christmas carols. I walked the dog around my neighborhood tonight, singing the old favorites quietly to myself, under the night sky, and found so much comfort.

  • Pamela Hodges

    “I feel hope creeping into my heart like a little mouse on quiet feet.”

    Me too Kathleen.
    I forgot to relax and prepare my heart. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Kathleen Caron

      I hope Christmas blesses you so much Pamela! Your generosity, kindness and fun spirit bless so many people. Love you friend!

  • oddznns

    Kathleen, Come advent time it tends to get dark doesn’t it? And the nights get so long … I’m glad the stars started peeking out for you.

    “This is a time to get ready for the miracle of God coming to earth to rescue us from sin…. I am almost prepared for a miracle.”

    Every day and every waking is a miracle, as is the son, the daughter, the husband, the house. And Him, the dear One, entering.
    Thanks for reminding me that I shouldn’t let those “lists” defeat my Xmas.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Yes, I am very vulnerable to Seasonally Affected Disorder, which can color my view of everything. Indeed, every day is a miracle, and I am so grateful for my life and my dear family. I’m just wondering Audrey, is Christmas as commercialized in Singapore as it is here?

      • oddznns

        It’s so commercialized they decorate the streets in Mid-October!~!!
        I don’t go overboard and I don’t have the “expectation” problem but I do let myself get “burdened” by my responsibilities towards both the older folks and the younger ones in my family — all of whom expect Audrey to be the purveyor of Xmas as we’ve always had it – ham, tree, presents, party for one and all… all at my house.
        It can get one down;(

        • Kathleen Caron

          I’ve still not worked through this. I have so many deadlines in my life that the annual addition of this one huge deadline (getting everything done by Christmas)–well, I just resist it mightily. Shall we make a vow that we will not let anything steal the wonder of Christmas from our hearts? Not deadlines, or expectations, or traditions, or guilt. We will celebrate the birth of Savior, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

  • Anastacia Maness

    Wow, Kathleen! A very thought provoking post, especially since I can definitely relate with not putting up decorations this year.

    Well, we did put up a trampoline for the kids which I figured would be more fun than a tree that would just get knocked down anyway. Hmmm…

    I did tell my parents to leave their tree bare and we’ll bring our decorations with us. I have the envelopes addressed for Christmas cards. That’s saying quite a bit since I didn’t do cards at all last year.

    And (so I don’t sound like a total Scrooge) we did throw a Christmas Party for teens, went to a walk through Bethlehem event, and will be Christmas Caroling this week. :)

    I just want you to know, I really do enjoy your posts, Kathleen!

    • Kathleen Caron

      Anastacia, I think you have really captured the true Spirit of Christmas–a trampoline, a Christmas party for teens, walking through Bethlehem and Christmas caroling–that sounds like a very, very, merry Christmas! Bless you my friend!

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