It was all over. The presents were all unwrapped, boxes and paper filled the floor, our daughter was down for her afternoon nap and there was a quiet lull moving through our house. But before I set in motion the clean up effort that was desperately needed, I went to go do what I normally do in moments like that, go make a cup of coffee. As I made my way into the kitchen to heat up some water, my wife joined me and we began to talk about the joy and delight of the morning.
The excitement of giving gifts to one another.
The fun of seeing our daughter’s face light up as she saw her presents.
And the anticipation of what it was that we were going to receive.
And as we were talking about all of these things, we began to reflect on the fleeting nature of Christmas morning. There is so much anticipation and longing that builds and builds in the month of December. We can’t wait for Christmas morning and all that comes with it. And as we wait, we recollect wonderful memories from years past and hope that this year will meet or maybe even surpass our memories from those past years. And all the while, we see commercials like this that create a desire for experiences like the ones seen in this commercial.
Well, maybe not those exact moments, but some sort of story book moment. You get the idea.
But then… before you know it… the morning’s here, it’s over and then it’s gone.
And as my wife and I were talking in the kitchen, we began to reflect on how Christmas morning has the potential to leave us feeling more empty than filled. With all of the anticipation, hype and memories of years past, we naturally create some sort of expectation in our mind of what the morning will be like. Sometimes our expectations are met, but what happens when they aren’t? I once heard Ravi Zacharias say,
“The loneliest moment in a person’s life, is when they experience what they thought would bring them ultimate satisfaction and joy, but after it’s over, it leaves them feeling empty.”
Everyone has some vision of the “good life,” of ultimate living. And everyone is ordering their lives toward that vision and living to that end. And at Christmas time it’s easy to live with the misconception that the “good life” lies in the here and now, and that it’s found in things like Christmas morning.
When we live with the thought that Christmas morning (and other experiences like it) are ultimate experiences where the good life can be found, I’m not so sure we truly enjoy them. We begin to place so much pressure on these moments hoping that we will finally have this ultimate experience of true joy, true happiness and lasting satisfaction. But when we get on the other side of that moment we come to realize that the experience didn’t bring all that we hoped it would bring. And each time that same experience rolls around, we find ourselves a little bit more guarded and maybe even growing a little bit more cynical thinking, “Only fools let themselves get excited about things like that.”
Now, before you cast me in the light of a Scrooge or a Grinch, let me say that I love Christmas, especially Christmas morning. And I think there’s great reason to find great joy on Christmas morning (and other experiences like it). However, I think that true joy in those moments comes from putting them in their proper context.
As my wife and I continued to talk in the kitchen, we discussed that what we’ve learned over the years, is that the way we truly enjoy these moments isn’t by putting pressure on them to be ultimate moments, or seeing them as an end in of themselves, but rather seeing them as a means to an end, or better yet, a pointer to the end, the Kingdom of God. The context is the juxtaposition of the temporary and the eternal. When these temporary celebrations are put in their proper context, we begin to see them and enjoy them for what they really are, pointers to the reality of eternal celebrations in God’s Kingdom with all of God’s people,
where there is better food and wine than we could ever image, and it comes at no cost,
where gifts under a tree pale in comparison to world ruled by justice and righteous,
and where peace on earth is ultimate reality for all humankind.
Earlier I said that everyone has a vision of the “good life,” some notion of ultimate living. And we are all ordering our lives to that end. And I am coming to find that when we see the fantastic moments we have in the here and now as being foreshadows to ultimate living that’s wrapped up in Jesus and his Kingdom, then we are able to embrace them, enjoy them and not have them leave us empty, dissatisfied and disappointed when they are over.
So, now that we find ourselves, yet again, on the other side of Christmas morning,
What are the things for which you are longing?
What are the things you hope will bring you ultimate joy?
Is it trinkets and toys wrapped in paper and bows?
Is it temporary moments with your family and friends?
Is it God himself and his Kingdom of eternal celebration that never ends?