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With Christmas just two days away it’s time. Time for the Christmas ramp-up. The dash to get through all of our Christmas traditions. We’ll make our Christmas rounds, tear through wrapping paper, and likely consume more than we should – but won’t care because it’s Christmas. At the end of all the festivities I imagine most of us hope that Christmas 2012 will be remembered as a warm memory-making time with family and friends. Yet, admist the warmth and mirth of the holidays, there runs the very real possibility that a tinge of unwanted emotions can creep in on our holiday horizons.

When I was younger I never understood some of the sad nostalgia associated with Christmas. But, now that I’m older, I more fully understand the wide swath of the emotional landscape that is synonymous with this particular time of year. In all honesty, we are surrounded by what seems to be an endless barrage of smiling faces in nearly every media saturated corner of our digital lives. When that picture is consistently painted before us there can be a disconnect between what we ‘should’ be feeling and what we ‘are’ feeling. With that in mind, let me offer you this bit of encouragement.

First – It’s okay to feel that way. New Year’s Eve (which I should have saved for my next post) was my grandfather’s favorite holiday. I can still hear his voice shouting “Happy New Year” at the stroke of midnight. After his passing New Year’s still reminds me of his no longer being with us. Simply, the holidays do this to us. We’ve spent years making traditions and memories. When something shifts, as it always does, there is a bit of emotional restructuring that needs to happen. But it doesn’t happen overnight, or even in the first subsequent holiday.

Second – Temper our expectations. If we’re expecting the holidays to mend, cement, heal, and repair anything that may be missing then perhaps we’re asking too much. It’s also not a good idea to make our Christmas experience a prediction or a baseline for the upcoming year. I realize that sounds very Scrooges of me. However, I write that with the very best intentions. If I lament that my kids hate a particular gift, or if they don’t enjoy Christmas as much as I think they should, then I’ve set myself (and them) up for a miserable failure. I think it’s probably more wise to enjoy the moments, roll with the hiccups, and take in the entire experience for what it is… An opportunity to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child and spend time with the ones we love.

Third – It’s really about Jesus. I’m aware that some individuals resent saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Yet, regardless of whether it’s December 25 or January 30, it’s still all about Jesus. When we focus our expectations on who He is, what He’s done for us, and that He is the One who is always worth celebrating then it frames everything in perspective. Maybe your kids will have the most magical Christmas ever. Perhaps the gift I want is wrapped under the tree. But if not, then that’s okay too. Because 2000 years ago God wrapped Himself in flesh and came down into our mess to redeem us, to give us chances into the double digits, because He is crazy in love with us. I don’t know that it gets better than that.

Merry Christmas!