Surprised by Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Recently, my two little grandsons, Charlie and Tyler (3 years and 2 ½) were playing with the Fisher Price Manger set on my coffee table. After playing with the angel, baby Jesus and singing, “Away in the Manger”, Charlie and Ty grabbed their trucks and decided to deliver pizza to Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Great idea, don’t you think? Since there was no room in the inn, I’m guessing food was in short supply as well.

Watching my grandsons play got me thinking about expectations.  I’m guessing that when Mary imagined giving birth to the promised Messiah, she didn’t picture giving birth on a barn floor with the stench of animals filling the air. I doubt Joseph expected every hotel in town to be full.  Wouldn’t you love to have a quiet conversation with Mary and Joseph and ask them how they handled their unmet expectations?  Even though that first Christmas was far from perfect, we are told in Luke 2:19, that Mary treasured the whole experience in her heart. I think both she and Joseph were surprised by the hope that filled their hearts even though their birth experience was far from perfect.

The Holidays seem to stir up expectations in all of us.

But, expectations can create stress and rob us of the hope, joy and peace. With all the hype in our society about having a merry little Christmas, many of us put pressure on ourselves, or others, to create the “perfect” Christmas. Our hopes might include cookies that taste like Martha Stewart’s, magical gifts that light up the eyes of our loved ones, or a house that is creatively decorated resembling something out of Better Homes and Gardens.   We may imagine a peaceful day with relatives even though our extended families are dysfunctional and peace has never been part of the equation.  Here’s where the rub comes. When expectations aren’t realized, it’s easy to feel disappointed, disillusioned and in short supply of hope.

God’s desire for you is that your heart be so full of hope this Christmas that it overflows. (Romans 15:13) But, in order to experience overflowing hope, you might need to let go of some of your expectations.   Why don’t you try this; get alone with God and ask Him to search your heart and show you the expectations you have for Christmas day. Dare to be honest with yourself.

Are you expecting your husband to buy you a romantic gift? Are you expecting to cook a big dinner and have the house sparkling clean by the time guests arrive? Are you expecting your children to be grateful for every gift they receive?  Are you expecting a Hallmark moment in your strained relationship with your mother?  Write down any expectations that come to your mind. As you write, prayerfully surrender each expectation to the Lord. Imagine laying each one down at His feet.

Then get a box and put your list of expectations inside.  Wrap the box in Christmas paper and put a bow on top. Place the box in a prominent place; like under the tree, or on the mantle.  Throughout Christmas Day, when twinges of disappointment stir in your heart, look at the box and remind your self that you let go.  Silently, in your heart, whisper a prayer of thanksgiving. Give thanks for God’s perfect gift, Jesus.  He is the only one you can expect to meet your every longing.   As you do this, you might just be surprised at the hope the fills your heart!

What are you hoping for this Christmas?  What does it look like for you to let go of your expectations while still embracing hope?

About Becky Harling

Becky Harling is a frequently-​​sought-​​after speaker and the author of Finding Calm in Life’s Chaos, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, and Freedom from Performing. In addition to her speaking and writing ministry, Becky serves as a women’s ministry consultant, a spiritual life coach, and […]

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