“What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?”
Ok, let’s talk smack.
Christmas grapes – er, expectations, I mean.
Hallmark movies are playing around the clock, dispensing sappy-sweet sentimental cookies and candy canes by the truckload. Decorations are going up. Carols are crooning, credit cards are cha-chinging.
And the pressure is building.
Can you feel it, too?
Stock the freezer with the right goodies. Stuff the stockings with the right gifts. Provide meals and sweet family moments that will warm the heart cockles.
Whatever those are…
And sometimes, despite the intent and effort, the hallmark moments don’t happen.
Call it sour grapes, if you like.
Such great expectations build up around Christmas. The season of love and good will, lovely in theory, sometimes leaves us cold, with our teeth set on edge. When family feathers ruffle and the moments don’t roll out smooth like a batch of perfect gingerbread, it’s easy to throw up our hands in dismay and pucker like a lemon.
‘What more could I have done?’
Maybe we need to take care with those great expectations of ours. Piling on more activities, more responsibilities, more items on the to-do list, more tasks in order to secure some sort of Perfect Christmas Maker trophy defeats the purpose of a ‘holiday’, doesn’t it?
If we take our cues from our culture, from the media, from some sort of hallmark-induced euphoria, we may miss Christmas altogether.
Maybe Christmas is less hard work and effort, less expectations of ‘sweet grapes’, than it is just being.
Being quiet enough to rest. To breathe. To be.
Being sensitive to the needs of others – and our own, in balance.
Being willing to let go of unrealistic expectations, so that what really is, can be really enjoyed.
Being open to accepting the deep love of God that Christmas represents.
If any of the characters in that Bethlehem drama could speak to us, could share what they learned, it might sound something like this:
‘The decorations don’t matter. All you really need are some clean rags and a place to sleep.’
‘You need to turn off the noise if you want to hear angels.’
‘The best gifts can’t be held in your hands.’
‘Be willing to search for the child in the manger.’
It was always, only, about the baby. Seek Him – and all the rest falls into place.
Now, those are great expectations.
Rethink your approach to Christmas with me?
Father, we get so wrapped up in what a perfect Christmas should look like that we forget what Christmas is actually all about. Help us to rethink our unreachable expectations of perfect hostessing and making everyone’s dreams come true, and shift them back to the baby in the manger, to being rather than doing. Amen.