When Holiday Expectations Go Unfulfilled

Author: Sarah Dohman

I was born the day after Christmas.  In fact, I was born at 2-something in the wee hours of the morning.  Had I come any sooner, I would have been a Christmas baby.  Every year growing up, and well into my 20s, my family would sort of roll the celebrations into one continuing party.  Happy Birthday Jesus! Happy Birthday Sarah!  This tradition roared on for many years.

Until one year, it stopped.

At least in the way I expected it to be every year. God had whispered into my older brother’s heart and led him to Virginia for an internship after dental school. There in the state that claims to be the “Mother of Presidents,” he met his girlfriend, now wife, and decided to not come home for Christmas, nor my birthday.  For the first time in 27 years, my constant partner in Christmas and birthday celebrations would not be in Oregon to join in the fun.  My holiday expectations were shattered.  I didn’t tell him at the time, but my heart ached.  A piece home as it had been, was missing.

For many during the holiday season, expectations go unfulfilled.  Maybe you’ve recently been through a divorce.  Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one.  Your family cannot afford the Christmas traditions you’ve come to know and love each year.  You have to work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or the day after.  All your relatives canceled on your holiday party last minute.  You had to say goodbye to a furry friend.  For all one knows, your family is celebrating in various parts of the country this year, never to be that nuclear unit again.

When holiday expectations go unfulfilled, I cannot help but think of dear Mary and Joseph, Jesus’s parents.  I imagine Mary had dreamt about her wedding day, and the anticipation of children to come shortly thereafter.  I imagine Joseph envisioned a life with Mary, one where he worked a steady job, provided for his family, and led an honorable life.

Their expectations, much like ours, flew out the window.  In Matthew 1:18, the Bible shares of Mary and Joseph being engaged.  This was no normal engagement, as Mary “was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  Scandalous!  So much so, Joseph wanted to throw in the towel and sneak away quietly.  Thankfully, God knew and understood Joseph’s fears and told him via an angel in his dream that Mary had conceived from the Holy Spirit.  Joseph was to have a son, and he was to call him Jesus, who was to save his people from their sins.  The angel’s message fulfilled a prophecy from the Old Testament, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

As the birth of Jesus neared, Mary and Joseph were traveling in a small town called Bethlehem, where Joseph was from.  They were to register here, as he was of the house and lineage of David.  Then in the sleepy town of Bethlehem, Mary was laboring.  She and Joseph were not able to obtain a conventional bed for the birth of their son.  Their expectations for a cozy, clean birth, were upset by the arrival of their son in a barn, filled with animals.  In Luke 2:7, it says “she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  Mary didn’t get to shower after her long and laborsome birth story.  But in her presence, there was a son like no other.  One who would fulfill all expectations.  The One who would be the King of Kings, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords.

When holiday expectations go unfulfilled, I know I can rest in the One who fulfilled expectations of everlasting hope, joy, peace, and love.  Jesus, fully man, and fully God, came into this world humbly, and left this world to be cared for by His Holy Spirit.  He will accomplish all that is written of Him.  He will be our comforter, He will be our deliverer.  If ever your heart is to be sad or forlorn this holiday season, cling to the Hope we have in Jesus!

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