We all want that statement to be true, don’t we? But each year, because of setbacks, missed opportunities or other losses, things never seem to finish quite as well as we had hoped for way back in January. As the calendar ticks along and we move deeper into December, we long to close out the year with problems solved and happiness restored, hoping it will all come to pass on one perfect day: Christmas!
We see all the advertisements, watch all the movies, and cannot help but think that everything will finally work out by Christmas this year. This year, our relatives will finally realize we were right and they’ll apologize for how they’ve treated us. This year, the gifts we give will finally leave our children in tears of grateful joy. This year, we’ll actually relax instead of scurrying around in a frenzy. This year, issues will be resolved and hearts will be mended—cue the music. Our hope for good things raises to a fever pitch as Christmas inches closer. We buy into it … completely. And then, every year, it inevitably fails to meet our lofty hopes. We are left feeling down and even depressed.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe the solution is not to hope at all—just expect the worst so we’ll be satisfied no matter what happens. That’s not the Bible’s answer. Ironically, Christmas is the answer, but not in the way the advertisements and movies would have us believe.
Near the very beginning of the New Testament, we see Joseph filled with hope and expectation. He is betrothed to Mary and probably looking forward to a sweet, quiet life together. But then, he finds out she is pregnant. This was not what he was expecting. He’s ready to divorce her and move on with his life. It is right then that the Word of the Lord comes to him from an angel, who says:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-23. Joseph hears God’s Word, believes it, and suddenly there is no longer any reason to sulk in his unmet expectations. Joseph remembers the promises of God, and trust him. Over 600 years before, God promised to send the Messiah. In Isaiah 7:14 it says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Immanuel means “God with us.” The sovereign, good, Creator of the universe comes near in human flesh. Like Joseph, our perspective will change when we meditate on God’s promises—even if our hopes aren’t realized on Christmas morning. Promises like these:
- Peace — “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
- Comfort — “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” 2 Corinthians 1:5
- Salvation — “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
- Sanctification — “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10
- Presence — “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
God does not tell us to give up all hope and expect the worst. Instead, the message is that our hope shouldn’t be in this world, but in the next.
God does not tell us to give up all hope and expect the worst. Instead, the message is that our hope shouldn’t be in this world, but in the next. And that is why Christmas actually is the answer. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ entering the world. He broke through space and time to cross the infinite gap between God and humans created by our sin. He did what we could never do on our own. And that leads to one more promise of God that should be our hope and focus this time of year:
- Return — “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21
That will be the final “Christmas,” when Jesus returns in glory at the end of history and puts all things right. This is also why, in some sense, all those unattainable expectations contain a little bit of truth. Each is a glimpse—a pointer—to Christ’s return. We will one day get the greatest of all gifts! Our difficult relationships will all be reconciled. We will be understood and loved. We will rejoice in his presence with those who have already gone to be with him. Our pain and loss and stress from the unrealized hopes of this life will at once fade away leaving only joy.
So this year, enjoy Christmas. Don’t stress out or expect it to be perfect. Instead, see in Christmas a glimpse of the day when all really will be made perfect. It will all work out in the end. Come, Lord Jesus!