As I sat down with my family recently for our annual viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas this year, I was prompted to think about our culture’s and my own sense of entitlement associated with Christmas. The entitlement of the phenomenally unkind children in Charles Shultz’s story is meant to be grating, and I can remember smugly judging their poor understanding of what Christmas is for from a fairly young age. Even my very young children comment on this when we watch the program.
This year as I watched, realized that even as we judge the children in the story, we often have our own sense that we may deserve a certain kind of Christmas. It is present throughout our culture in any number of songs, movies, and stories about how good people are rewarded with love, gifts, and other blessings. As this narrative surrounds us, I think we all approach the holiday with expectations of some kind, whether we realize it or not, and sometimes these expectations get in the way of our being able to truly give to others.
As I reflected on this, I remembered a time a few years ago when I was preparing a Christmas celebration for my children and they were behaving very badly. As I continued working hard that evening to realize the plans I had made to delight my children, I grew more and more frustrated as their behavior grew worse and worse. Around the time I was about to present them with the gifts I was so excited for them to have, I lost my temper and began to tell them that they would not be receiving their gifts that night because they didn’t deserve them. Before I got the words out, the Lord spoke to my heard and told me that we (I) didn’t deserve Jesus either.
A few minutes later, after I recovered myself from my sudden and deep sense of conviction, I was able to joyfully present my children with gifts that they did not necessarily deserve because I remembered Jesus came to a world that did not deserve His sacrifice. Jesus left His place in heaven to take on all the discomfort of humanity and become a child, born under socially questionable circumstances, raised by a poor family in first century Palestine, and eventually die an ignominious death for the sake of people who deserved no such sacrifice. For those of us who believe, the whole point of Christmas is that we do not deserve for Jesus to come to us, and yet He came anyway to make right all that we have made wrong.
Remembering what Jesus gave up for me when I did not deserve it helped me let go of the expectations I had of my children and give freely and joyfully to them, it helps me to be present and giving to family members who may not show me love in the way I would like, and in this way, through the love of Jesus, I am able to bring a small amount of peace, joy, and love to others during this holiday.
God bless you all!