Advent Day 24
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus says, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful thing like Christmas and turn it into a problem.” And that’s me; I’m Charlie Brown. I take what is beautiful and good about Christmas and turn it into worry and stress and anxiety. And like Charlie Brown, I get hopeless and depressed because, for another year, Christmas fails to live up to my expectations.
And what are my expectations? The perfect tree, homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, piles of gifts under the tree. I want our family to have traditions. I want to recreate the magic I felt as a child. I want to incorporate meaningful spiritual exercises into our advent experience. And I want to feel a deep, spiritual experience of Christ and his birth. On the heels of the expectations are the demands and the “shoulds” of how to make it all happen, and they all fall squarely on my shoulders. The hunt for the perfect tree shouldn’t begin at Home Depot, it should begin at a tree farm and end with boys with a saw cutting down a tree. Homemade cinnamon rolls should begin with butter, not with a butter knife popping open a can of Pillsbury. But the problem is, I can’t make it all happen. I fail. And so our tree comes from Home Depot and our cinnamon rolls come from a can. All the failures, all the disappointments, all of it leads to hopelessness. And ultimately, after I finish the self-inflicted shame, I pin it all on God. Not only have I failed myself, but God has failed me. And I get angry at God for not fulfilling my expectations for the perfect Christmas. I let go of hope.
How do I reclaim the hope that Christmas brings? There are two kinds of hope, worldly hope and godly hope. Worldly hope is a desire for something that we want to come to fruition. This hope places its bets on things that have a concrete completion in the here and now. Things that we can point to and say, see, my hopes came to be. But worldly hope can be a disappointing hope. This disappointment is a universal human experience and there are two possible outcomes. First, we don’t get what we want and become cynical. Or second, we don’t get what we want and we let the pain and disappointment of our frustrated hopes lead us to God; we let it teach us about ourselves. This leads us to the hope we are made for. This response is the segue-way to godly hope. Godly hope is the hope behind the worldly hope. Ultimately, God is our true desire. And hope in God is a sure thing. It’s a future hope, one that will be fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ’s return becomes a reality. Christ in me the hope of glory.
In the end, Charlie Brown finds the meaning of Christmas. He sees it in his pathetic little tree, propped up by Linus’ blanket and decorated by the gang. And, like Charlie Brown, I find the hope in Christmas when I hear the story of a baby born in a manger. And all the expectations fade away.
©stephanie g. pepper
Hold on to Hope December 22, 2015
Advent Day 24