In my former job, I spent a considerable amount of time talking to folks new to China about their expectations. We looked under this rock and that rock. What do you expect your role to be? How do you think God will use or grow you? What do you expect from folks back home? What do you expect your interactions with the locals to be like? We’d look at scenario after scenario.  Week after week, brick upon brick we looked at our expectations.

One of the anchoring quotes for the discussions was:

Expectations need to be recognized, evaluated and either discarded or committed to work on for progress. Expectations and Burnout by Eeningenburg and Bliss (Don’t you love that Bliss wrote a book on expectations?!)

Like a broken record, I’d say, having expectations isn’t the problem, it’s unexamined expectations that can bite us in the behind.

Setting Season Expectations

Expectations can be seasonal

St Augustine said, “Christmas is fast approaching. And now that Christ has aroused our seasonal expectations, he’ll soon fulfill them all!”

At first glance, I loved this quote. Yes, yes! I do have seasonal expectations and I so enjoy this season! But then I slowed down and reread the part about Christ arousing the seasonal expectations and I realized only some of my seasonal expectations are rooted in unadulterated Christ (is my love of Christmas lights really pointing to Christ? How about all of the Christmas ornaments that point to memories of trips or experiences?).

And that part about how Christ will fulfill them all. I don’t think his great goal of this season is that I have pretty snow while I’m drinking Chai and looking at the tree. I also don’t think he’s opposed to these types of experiences.

St. Augustine has helped me to slow down and examine what it means to have seasonal expectations and where they might be located.  Why do we celebrate Christmas? As a Christian, it is the birth of Jesus who came as the ultimate sacrifice to set us free to be more fully human, in stronger relationship with the triune God, and to be shiny, not tarnished, image bearers.

I have gone back and forth on how to organize these thoughts, with so much over lapping existing, it’s like a big venn diagram in my head.

Do we look at the areas we can have expectations and categorize them as good or bad? Helpful or not so much?

Do we think in terms of “inside the church” and “outside the church” and what we expect in each arena?

Do we focus on what we expect from activities and rituals that foster relationships and memories? {Which I do think is part of what Christ arouses in us this time of year.}

At this point I want to throw my hands up and say ARGHHHHHHH. Due to the mini-family crisis I mentioned last week I don’t feel like I’m organizing my thoughts clearly. If you’re expecting deep insights, sorry to disappoint :). If you’re expecting me to just show up, offer what I can, and receive from you, we’re in the messy middle, eh?!

When it comes to seasonal expectations, Christ does arouse within us the desire to connect with memories and people. And to remember that he came to bring hope and salvation. To join us in a bigger story. And the beauty comes in the variety and the ebb and flow over time in how we remember and join in the story. Our family story involves fig pudding, tamales, ornaments, and Christmas books. And one person’s obsessions with lights and other people’s normal enjoyment of them. {I am the one.}

Form over function.

Our greatest disappointments often come when we focus too much on the forms. It has to look like this. And miss the function. Am I reminded of the mystery of God becoming human? Am I connecting to people? Am I resisting certain cultural messages that say our value is measured in things, while looking for ways to connect to people?

What expectations do I need to recognize in order to evaluate it and potentially discard or update or implement as is?

The Christmas season can be a bit like walking through a landmine, wondering where an explosion is hidden. It doesn’t have to be this way. By setting more realistic expectations –maybe lowering some of your expectations and for the more cynical, maybe raising them—focusing less on stuff and more on people, St. Augustine is right. Christ can fulfill them all.

What is a unique tradition in your family during the Christmas Season?

Linking with The Grove. Word prompt: Expectation

Expecation small

Leave A Comment

  1. Danielle December 20, 2013 at 7:27 am - Reply

    I love the call the examine our expectations. It’s amazing how many of our expectations are almost subconscious, that is, until they are broken. Recognized, evaluated, and then discarded or committed to. Such a simple formula. So hard when people and emotions are involved, but really it all does come down to that simple formula.

    Thanks for showing up in the messy middle of it all, friend.

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      Amy December 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      OH yes! It’s when we CRASH into an unmet expectation we shake our heads and wonder what happened. Until be work it backwards … but that can take such time!

  2. David Rupert December 20, 2013 at 8:53 am - Reply

    We do set ourselves up for a fall when we have all of these fantasies about the perfect Christmas.

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      Amy December 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Indeed, we do :)

  3. Carolyn December 22, 2013 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Love this. “Our greatest disappointments often come when we focus too much on the forms. It has to look like this. And miss the function. Am I reminded of the mystery of God becoming human? Am I connecting to people?” Yes. This is exactly where I get derailed. Thanks so much for the reminder, Amy!

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      Amy December 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Wish it weren’t so easy to get derailed Carolyn :)!! Thanks for the comment!!

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