Expectations. We all have them, especially during the holiday season. We have expectations of what activities we will be doing, who we will spend time with, what gifts we will receive and purchase, what food we will be enjoying, what our decorations wil look like in our house and the list goes on and on. In our minds we have things "all planned out." At least I know I did.
We are spending our first Christmas in our new house - the first house we have owned. Oh, I had grand plans, you know the ones where you have picked out all the great Pinterest ideas you are going to do to be crafty, thrifty and make your house and holiday experience amazing! It is also my first Christmas as a stay at home mom, so of course I had "all the time in the world" to do these great things and was going to have a wonderful "advent" season with my children, complete with activities, crafts, etc. In my mind I had planned where decorations would go and picked the perfect spot for the tree.
So what does a person do when life takes a turn and plans and expectations aren't met? Well, if you are like me, my initial response tends to be to pout and be quite sad. Our family wasn't going to be able to do our usual Saturday after Thanksgiving tree cutting which had become a tradition for us because we were celebrating Thanksgiving with our family in Missouri. That was ok though - we could get a tree the week after Thanksgiving, right? Well, we ended up with a stomach virus that cycled through each one of us the entire week. By the following Saturday we were all on the mend and off on our trip to CA to celebrate J's birthday, with plan B being: we will put up a tree when we get back. But guess what, plans changed. Sparing you all the specifics, our travel plans for the holidays changed and the short version - - putting up a tree for less than a week wasn't going to be worth the time or the money.
Every "plan" that I had built up as an expectation for Christmas wasn't happening. Today is December 12 and we don't have a Christmas tree up, no cute Pinterest things made and we just got out the advent calendars yesterday. My sweet little girl even asked, "why do we start with number 11?" We can suffice to say that on Monday when all of these realizations hit, I was, yes, just as you might guess, pouting and sad.
However, on Sunday, God's word spoke to give me exactly what I would need to reflect on Monday while the pouting and sadness were going on. The passage was Luke 1:46-56 - Mary's Song. What God really showed me on Monday as I reflected (and pouted along the way) was that God's holiness and who He is (strong, merciful, caring, Holy) doesn't depend on if all of my "Christmas expectations" are met - He is who He is no matter what and God's actions towards us flow out of who He is - not based on anything I have done.
Throughout this song, Mary rightly identifies who she is, a humble servant. In recognizing this, she humbles herself so that Christ may be made much of. I think many times my identity and joy get warped. I think that my identity as a good mom and wife wrongly get tied to things like having the house perfectly decorated, doing all the cute crafts and of course making sure we did all the "just right" advent activities with our children. I fall into making much of myself when in reality, I am just like Mary, I am a lowly servant, who comes to Christ with empty hands, poor and in need of Him. Mary's song doesn't make much of her and what she has done, it makes much of Christ and the mercy He freely gives. Mary's song is a song that echoes that the gospel is for each of us and that each one of us is in need of the gospel.
God is sovereign and He knows my heart. He knew that my heart was heading into advent season anticipating the wrong things - I was anticipating that my expectations and plans be met and that if they were, I would be joyful. In reflecting on all of this, I think God knew that I needed to not have that tree so that I could have a heart ready to be blown away by his mercy and grace.
Don't get me wrong, all of those things mentioned above can be fun and good, but they can't replace a Holy God who calls me to worship Him above all things. Am I completely over this "tree thing" - probably not, but God is working on my heart and my prayer is that over the course of the next few weeks I would be blown away in worship - that as Mary sang, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant . . . for he who is mighty has done great things for me and Holy is his name," this would be my heart cry. Because in thinking about it, life in Christ is much better than a Christmas tree or any Pinterest craft I could ever do.