I don’t expect many people to come to this site on this day—Christmas Eve. But if you have taken a moment to do so, here’s just a bit of encouragement for this day.
Whatever you’ve done for this holiday, consider it enough. You are probably the only person who knows exactly what you have done and how much money it cost and how much time it took. You may have a family member who enjoys judging others so that they always fall short, but otherwise, people will not be examining your life carefully to assess how well you have “done” Advent and Christmas. You’ve done what you were able to do: you sent holiday cards, or didn’t; you did lots of extra baking and cooking, or maybe not so much; you connected with people, or were unable to do so as much as you’d hoped; and so on. Show yourself grace and wisdom and say, “It is enough.”
Whatever you hoped for during this holiday, give thanks for the reality. The USA culture hypes up this holiday season to absurd proportions. Mainly, all the hype is to sell us lots of stuff—it’s really about making money. Yet if we’re not careful, that mania seeps into our heads and hearts, and without realizing it, we pump up our expectations to impossible proportions. We expect a family that usually squabbles to suddenly get along smoothly. We expect an already full schedule to make room for hours of more time for multiple extra tasks. We expect our own hearts—heavy with recent loss or health problems or relationship problems or ongoing anxiety and depression—to become light and joyous just because we string a few lights.
I think that about all we can do about these out-of-control expectations is to stop and give thanks for our reality, to name specifically our gifts and blessings and tear our focus away from the hype and the high expectations.
Whatever you have failed to accomplish during this busy season, let it go. I could easily look at every Advent/Christmas season of my life and see failure. This is true partly because I have trouble keeping my expectations and plans realistic. This is also partly true because the holiday season does not prevent the world from proceeding on its difficult course, and so in addition to holiday stress I may be down with the flu or have a funeral to go to or yet another national disaster that drives me to prayer.
So it becomes a normal part of my every holiday season to look at all of it and let it go. Give it all back to God. Give up my angst and my disappointment. Give up my desire to make everything work better.
Today is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow is Christmas. Take some deep breaths, thank God for the life you have, ask for what you need, and ask especially for the hope that we cannot generate ourselves but that must come from the very heart of Divine love.