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The Preacher’s Corner by Donna Hopkins Britt

“How was your Christmas?” my friend asked me.

“Fine.”

“What do you mean, ‘fine’?” she said with concern.  She had expected, “Great!” or “A blast!”  Instead she got the very non-committal, “Fine.”  She reads me well.

We forgot to lay down the Christmas Morning Ground Rules for our 5- and 7-year-old.  We forgot to remind them to wait until after the clock says a certain time, and to come get us before racing to the tree.  Consequently, their excited voices at the Christmas Tree awoke us at 4:01 AM.  We didn’t get to set up the camera or enjoy the magic on their faces or understand what they said when they saw their new things under the tree.  Christmas morning was not great, it was only “fine.”  It helped to admit it:  I was disappointed that the morning had not gone as I had intended.  You can bet we’ll remember those Ground Rules next Christmas Eve!

Expectations are at an all-time high over the holidays, and we cannot fulfill them all well.  The perfect gifts, the perfect parties, the perfect New Year’s Eve plans, the perfect worship services, the perfect family members….  Impossible.  Something will disappoint us.  I wonder, consistently, how to lower expectations and simplify life.  Our Sunday School class will soon be studying The Organic God, by Margaret Feinberg.  In preparation, we were talking about organic food.  A Sunday School classmate noted how odd it is that we have to pay more to get less.  Organic and local food has fewer food colorings, preservatives and chemicals, and costs more.  It’s just another way we have spun out of control, looking for quick and cheap solutions, and forgetting the long-term problems that usually accompany them.

One impressive thing about Jesus is that he was not into quick fixes.  I’m thinking specifically about his organic—natural, simple, pure—relationship with God.  Time and again, the gospel writers tell us Jesus went away by himself to pray.  He knew that he couldn’t just go to Shabbat services once a week and expect that to fulfill God’s expectation of him.  He knew God expected more from him.  God needed more from him.  He could do things God, as Spirit, could not.

Is not the same true for us?  We have connections and abilities that God does not have.  God needs us.  And to be able to fulfill God’s expectations—whose expectations are more important than anyone else’s—our best example is Jesus.

As you think toward the 51 weeks ahead of you, how much of that time do you want to devote to God?  How many hours do you need to set apart to pray, so that God can be active through you the rest of the time?  Do you think setting aside time to talk and listen to God would positively affect your priorities and expectations?

I can’t get that Christmas morning back.  So how do I/how do we cope with our unfulfilled expectations?  Since the people who do not fulfill them are beyond our control, the change has to be within us.  I can only make changes in how I handle disappointments and plan to do things differently next time.  Thankfully, God is always willing to give us more chances to get it right.  That’s “grace.”  If you do set aside time to pray, invite that grace to surround, relieve, and guide your actions and priorities throughout the year.

Donna Hopkins Britt is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, 608 Campbell Avenue, SW, Roanoke, and can be contacted at [email protected].

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