They’re on their way to your house, even now, and who knows what visions of sugar plums are dancing in their heads. Are they imagining the big greeting, the fresh flowers in their bedroom, and their favorite meal just coming out of the oven? Days of sleeping in, waking up to fresh coffee brewing, lounging over breakfast, visiting old friends, and hanging out by the fire doing some pleasure reading?
Meanwhile, what are your expectations? Are you counting down until you have a little more help around the house? Maybe you’re looking forward to having someone wrap that pile of presents you have stuffed in your closet and finish your last-minute errands for you. And you are positively giddy with joy over handing off the kitchen clean-up duties. And then you’re expecting lots of heart-to-heart talks and one-on-one time.
So what could go wrong with this impending collision of expectations at Christmas? And what can we all do to avoid such an unnecessary collision? Here are a few ideas.
1. Review your expectations, whether you are Mom welcoming home your kids or you are the kids traveling home. Have you allowed some expectations to take root, and have you been watering them diligently?
2. You knew I was going to say this next: surrender all those expectations.
3. Now ask God for some ideas of how to be in the hostess or guest role. I know that moms don’t really feel they are hostessing their children, which is why they have high expectations of help. And grown children, whether married or away to college, may view themselves more as guests, which explains why they might expect the red carpet to be rolled out for their arrival. Both of these are wrong.
4. If we simply reverse our priorities, things will go much better. Instead of thinking how the Christmas break can be more of a blessing to me, I should be thinking of ways that I can make it a blessing to others. This sounds simple, but it isn’t. Not a bit.
5. Have some ideas in place. Rather than expecting help with the dishes, intentionally give them the night off. “Why don’t you go hang out with your little sister while I get these done?” Rather than planning to skip the family meal to go be with friends, why not offer to babysit while Mom and Dad go out to dinner and to a show? You get the idea.
6. When we have unspoken expectations, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and maybe even resentment. “All he did the whole time he was home was hang out with friends. I hardly even saw him.” Or, “My mom just kept loading me up with chores, and I never even got to hang out with friends.”
7. How much better to view the time as an opportunity to serve one another. Determine that you will pray and work with the desire to see your relationship in better shape at the end of the visit.
8. Sentimentalism about Christmas can create a longing for something that we just can’t attain. So keep your head in the game and remember that we are celebrating a very real Savior. Though snow and lighted trees are beautiful, Christmas is commemorating a Savior who humbled Himself. We want to imitate Him, which will make our homes wonderful at Christmas and all year long.