Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Party was Last Night...

I imagine Mary without a book called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  I imagine her not knowing what to expect.  All she really knew was his name and that he was the Son of God.   Well, yes … there’s  that.  But still, what was she to expect?

She must have made plans.  After all, she had nine months. She must have thought things through.  Even the Bible says she pondered them in her heart.  While most of us choose colors, themes and nursery furniture, I’m quite certain she never would have chosen ‘early mid-eastern stable’ for her nursery theme.  She must have had some expectations.  But I’m sure they were nothing like my expectations and disappointments of Christmas. 

Every year, I build and rebuild Christmas… trying to find meaning in the preparations… significance in the celebration…traditions for my children… satisfaction in perfection.   My friends will laughingly, lovingly tell you I am the furthest thing from a perfectionist.  Forget about breaking New Year’s resolutions.  I make and break Christmas resolutions every year:

    1.      I will buy tree lights, cards and ornaments right after Christmas on sale.
     2.    I will start my Christmas shopping in late August after the kids start school.
     3.    I will start my Christmas cards in September.
     4.    I will keep an organized, indestructible list of what and who I have bought for.
     5.    I will wrap all presents before Christmas Eve.
     6.    By next year I will have all the stories of our Advent Jesse Tree in order and memorized.
     7.    I will make it meaningful for all members of our family.

I admit… I never succeed.  Why do I feel responsible for making Christmas meaningful for everyone when God has already done it?  I think I am better at celebrating communion once a month than I am at Christmas, once a year.  At least in communion, I am alone…  communing with God.  He knows my heart.  He gets me.  I confess, I grieve, I contemplate, I repent, I remember and give thanks.  At Christmas, I am not alone.  I am surrounded by chaos, commercial bells and whistles, lists of children’s expectations and the all encompassing, self-imposed role of ‘Maker of the Merry Christmas.’  Um… no offense, but I’m pretty sure that job was already taken by Jesus.  And God only used one star to decorate the whole shebang.

Today, my heart stings in fresh disappointment.  In the middle of yet another road trip hauling kids to their expected destinations, I returned a call to my favorite neighbor.  I was so happy to hear her voice… an oasis.  Then, suddenly, in one of those Twilight Zone moments, I realized… breathlessly… that I had missed our neighborhood Christmas party… last night… at her house.  -- Oh. No. --  My mind raced.  My heart thumped… in the rhythm of ruined expectations.  My brain was jammed into “rewind” without first pressing “stop” … because why?  I was out over spending.  Distracted because I had left everything to the last minute.  And in the middle of Kohls of all places, I was called to a last minute music rehearsal for the Christmas Eve service… to which I rushed unprepared.  My mind was like a chain link fence of excuses rattling in my brain.  The tears came.

Bah.  Don’t be too impressed by my monarch Advent preparations.  Apparently, while there are beautiful and great truths I have found in raising monarchs, the sad truth is I am still not prepared to truly celebrate Christmas.  If I could spin my own cocoon right now, I would.   I would like to crawl inside and weep over ruined expectations and hurting my neighbor’s feelings. For now, my covers will have to do.  If Mary knew me, she would have expected that I would need her son to save me… from myself. 

Come Thou long expected Jesus.

Patricia Spreng

joining with Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus


  1. thanks for this pat.. brought some comfort to the battles in my soul cause i as well never feel ready for christmas and never manage to get things ready in time.. think christmas is a peak time for expectations and disappointment as well...we should start to take it as what it was meant to be.. thanks again..

  2. Perhaps the lack of preparation is the real preparation. It's the "surprise" that got mary -- and catches the world unexpectedly

  3. You have NO IDEA how much I love this post! You have just described far too many of the Christmases in my life. And you made me laugh in the telling of it. I'll admit the laughter was just the teensiest bit rueful, but hey, at this point, I welcome any laughter at all. Have a Merry one, dear Pat. And put some of those Christmas songs up on your blog. I love listening to your music.

  4. Oh, Pat... You can be my neighbor. You won't forget -- we don't have a party. Oh, but why do we try so hard?

    So many reasons to love your contemplation here. "Why do I feel responsible for making Christmas meaningful for everyone when God has already done it?" I confess I don't do a crazy lot for Christmas. But I often feel as though I've missed the mark, like the folks in my house and in my life deserve better. But I just don't get it done. And I don't know why it troubles me.

    Contrasting Christmas and communion? You take me in right there....

    And while I'm busy stringing random thoughts together in your box, let me say thanks to Diana for reminding me of your recordings on this site. I'd forgotten them! So, I just went and listened to Unforgettable. Love.

    Merry Christmas to you, dear Pat. I'm smiling tonight remembering the blessing of meeting you this year.

  5. Did you steal my Christmas resolution list?

    You made me laugh and squirm here, Pat. Trying to live up to expectations, comparing my nursery to those of others, overwhelmed by all the wants and needs and not being able to deliver, and finally at the end even caving in and spending what I don't have, and forgetting to commune, to sit next to the manger--yeah, I love and hate this post. :)

    Merry Christmas, friend, and I'm making a resolution to party with you this next year--maybe a Panera Bread lunch?

  6. I just don't know what to say here! Somehow I love that you wrote about this after your lovely Monarch Advent series. I think it really punctuates the point that, no matter how hard we try, and no matter how noble our efforts to prepare, God indeed is the only who can make Christmas meaningful. As usual, He does it in such surprising, alarming ways. Like reminding us of just how much we need Him. Merry Christmas, Patricia. Meeting you this year was a gift!

  7. You girls... and David... right here, with your words of understanding and encouragement... thank you for lifting my head. I am smiling at the gift of your friendship and love. Wish I could look you in the eye and hug you all.

  8. I am ever thankful for grace Patricia - that He looks on the heart and sees all that truly matters.
    Thank you for your dear, honest heart. I am right there with you. Somehow, this year, in a small apartment with little time for Christmas preparations, in the midst of building a new home, Christmas has come quietly to my heart.
    It has been a joy getting to know you Patricia. You are an absolute blessing.
    Merry Christmas!

  9. Ah, Pat.

    That is the beauty of Christmas. It comes...however much, or little, we do to prepare.

    Christmas comes. It's glorious.

  10. Smiling, laughing and weeping while reading your eloquent discription of the tension between being a Mom (and a recovering Catholic one at that) at Holiday time and needing to prepare yourself as an individual child of God to celebrate the gift of the Christ child. So many (perceived) expectations to create the perfect celebration for everyone in your life.... Let me tell you, dearest friend...... if you were the "perfect" wife/mother/friend/sister/daughter/neighbor, you would be FAR too busy meeting perceived expectations to be the loving, lovable, fun, inspiring, creative, delightful, endearing woman that you are!! You already are perfect!

  11. I popped over from Lyla's and am so glad I did. I totally get this. No matter how I try, there's always the last minute craziness that leaves me sad for letting it in my life, stealing my focus.

  12. Just reading and re-reading that question you ask, about our attempts to make Christmas somehow more meaningful when God has already done just that. Thank you for that. Just beautiful.

    And this ... "she never would have chosen ‘early mid-eastern stable’ for her nursery theme."

    You are something else, girl. I love your wisdom and your humor and your way of seeing. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. May you be blessed in 2012.


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