Great Expectations?

Great Expectations?

I am not exactly sure how some of the images and expectations of what our holiday season should be like are formed, but I have some ideas: As a child, I remember retrieving whatever mail we may have gotten before Christmas and tearing into the holiday cards. And to this day, years later, few greetings are able to compare to the designs featuring Currier and Ives snow scenes, even though Bob Timberlake designs come close. I always thought it would be wonderful to spend Christmas and New Year’s in the Northeast (you know – enjoying time like that captured in the movie, “White Christmas”).

I remember that magazines would feature Norman Rockwell artwork on their covers. One stands out in my mind: I still see the family seated at the table all clad in their Sunday best (replete with ties, dresses, and fine linen). Dad, excuse me, “Father” was standing proudly as he carved the perfectly shaped golden-brown turkey. I am sure, too, scenes from “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Waltons,” and even “The Cosby Show” help solidify our expectations of family; these programs, as well as mental images of what “should be,” help us romanticize and even fantasize about how things should be, especially when we are still trying to set a time and date to meet and Christmas is about two weeks away.

Yes, harmonious gatherings around beautifully appointed tables can be wonderful experiences. But more often than not, at least one individual at one of our holiday gatherings is unkempt and runs in at “the last minute.” Turkeys are sometimes prepared with the giblets still inside (because no one thought to look for them before the bird was roasted). The soufflé may have fallen, the potatoes might have lumps, and the rolls may even be slightly burned. But these details are just that – details. They do not define us, nor do they lessen our love of others or ruin the joy of the season (or the gathering for that matter). They can even offer memories about which we laugh years later. “Perfect” holiday gatherings are not defined by the consistency of the gravy or the way participants are clad. They are not measured by the length or “quality” of our various traditions. Instead, smiles, laughter, joy, and even quiet moments shared with those we love are really what matter. They are what contribute to our memories and even concepts of families and self-worth.

So as you prepare to enjoy the holidays with those you love, extend grace to others and to yourself. Do not feel that you have to execute a perfect event or that your holiday will be ruined because you cannot give the most expensive of gifts. Perhaps you – we – should expect something akin to what might occur with the Simpsons, not plan for a Martha Stewart event. Try to remind yourself that television shows may be the only places where crises are solved in less than 22 minutes. Understanding this may not make for the “holly jolly Christmas” of your dreams. It may, however, bring some joy to your world (and help others relax too!). It might even help you bring worship and praise back to your holiday celebration, if they have somehow lost their place.

Blessings to you and yours throughout this holy season.