Our neighbors installed an inflatable Santa Claus in their front yard last Christmas, but when the season had run its course, the Santa deflated, a condition that epitomizes our over-blown Christmas dreams.
There’s no time of the year like Christmas to develop unrealistic expectations. We enter the season with bright hope, but something always goes wrong. Even when things go right, our wished-for happiness never arrives. We close the season empty and yearning for that elusive “something more.”
Carolyn and I had an experience some years ago that underscores our disenchantment with Christmas. It took place at Boise’s Festival of Trees, an event we attended with our grandchildren.
As we moved from one brightly lit Christmas tree to the next, pointing and exclaiming, our littlest granddaughter, surfeited by splendor, lost interest—until she came to a tiny manger scene. She paused transfixed.
We tried to move on, but she lingered, pressing closer to the child. Finally, reluctantly, she agreed to leave, looking back over her shoulder to get one more glimpse of the crèche through the trees.
As we left the building Melissa took my hand: “Papa,” she whispered. “Can we go see the baby again?” So we returned to the manger and I waited while she gazed adoringly at the Child. I thought to myself, ”How easy it is to overlook Jesus amidst the trees.”
Christmas comes and goes and we ask, ”Is this all there is?” For, you see, our deepest longings are for something more than Hallmark moments and memories. We long for God and His love. The child in the manger is that for which we’ve been looking all our lives.
It’s been said over and over, but it needs to be said again: Jesus is the reason for the season. Nothing else will do. Christmas, as our culture defines it, will always disappoint us, but Jesus never will.