Growing up, Christmas was my favorite time of the year. I loved spending time with my family, I loved getting presents, I loved going to church and singing Christmas songs, and I loved knowing where my gifts came from (no offense Santa Clause).
There was something magical about the Christmas season. I know that sounds cliché and I wish there was a more eloquent way to say it, but it’s as simple as that: it was magical.
My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t like Christmas. She loves Christmas hymns and the Christmas story, but she’s not really a fan of the season. (I’m working to win her over a little bit more each year!)
I love Christmas, my wife doesn’t as much, and then I became a pastor. I have to admit, celebrating Christmas as someone in the pews verses someone in the pulpit is significantly different. There were a couple of years where it was downright difficult.
I remember trying to celebrate Christmas like I always did as child—spending time with family, eating, joining them for a Christmas Eve dinner, while also keeping up with my job as a pastor—planning Advent services, Christmas Eve services, and preparing sermons for them all. Trying to do both left me deeply unsatisfied, even frustrated at times.
The season I had come to love, let me down.
Just the other day, Allyssa and I were talking about Christmas. What we realized is that so much of it of our joys and frustrations with the season are rooted in our memories of it from our past. She doesn’t have as many amazing memories about Christmas as I do. You would think having great memories of Christmas would make every Christmas that much more special. Sadly, this is not the case. Great memories from the past do not help you create memories in the present. In fact, good memories can cloud the present just as much as bad ones.
Memories of all sorts—the good, the bad, and the indifferent—can create unhealthy expectations.
Over the past year, and especially during this season of Advent, I’ve tried to let go of some of my unhealthy expectations—whether good or bad. I want to accept life as a gift, today, without comparing it to the past. I want to live in the now, with all of it’s joys and challenges.
As a pastor, I want to be the best that I can be. As a husband, I want to celebrate this season with my wife and our families. As a child of God, I want to stop and recognize, once again, just how beautiful this gift of life really is.
I want to create new Christmas memories, by letting go of the ones in my past.