When Christmas Doesn’t Meet Our Expectations

How to Respond When Christmas Doesn’t Meet Our Expectations - Grace Fox

When things don’t go as we plan, we can either let those unfulfilled expectations ruin the season, or we can view them as an opportunity to trust Him.

Sometimes Christmas doesn’t meet our expectations.

We enter the season with high hopes but find them dashed:

  • We spend hours preparing for long-distance houseguests, but a blizzard delays or prevents them from coming. Or we’re the ones scheduled to travel but find our plans changed due to weather.
  • We anticipate a warm, fuzzy family get-together, but one of those family members brings an attitude that hovers like a raincloud over the entire group.
  • We put the finishing touches on decorations and food prep, and then we end up sick or called in to work due to circumstances beyond our control.
  • We assume our kids or siblings will stick to the traditions we’ve embraced for years, but they make plans of their own.

Disappointment and tears

I remember one Christmas past when a cousin and his family of six drove nearly a thousand miles to spend the holiday with us. I looked forward to their visit—I bought and wrapped gifts for them, decorated the house, and prepared food in advance to keep things easy after they arrived.

But things didn’t turn out as I expected. Bronchitis hit me on Christmas Eve, and I spent the next day in bed while my husband and our guests cooked the turkey dinner and entertained the kids.

When Christmas doesn’t meet our expectations, we most likely respond with disappointment. Depending on the circumstances, we might shed a few tears. Sadly, some folks might get angry and cast blame.

Mary’s mother

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been challenged to think about unfulfilled expectations from the perspective of a woman never mentioned in the Bible—Mary’s mother. We read nothing about her, but we can probably assume correctly that she had expectations for her teenaged daughter.

How might she have felt when Mary told her that she was pregnant? Chances are good she’d always assumed Mary and Joseph would wed and a family would follow. In that order.

How might she have felt as she watched Mary and Joseph set out for Bethlehem—a long and exhausting journey for anyone, let alone a young couple expecting their first child?

How might she have felt knowing Mary would probably give birth without a woman’s helping hands? Perhaps she’d assumed she’d share that precious moment with her daughter.

Mary’s mother no doubt experienced significant unfulfilled expectations on that first Christmas, yet God was obviously present and involved in her situation. The same is true for us today.

Yes, God is present and involved

When things don’t go as we plan, we can either let those unfulfilled expectations ruin the season, or we can view them as an opportunity to trust Him, to look for evidences of His faithfulness in their midst, and to thank Him for His sovereignty in our lives.

Action step?

I have no guarantee that Christmas will turn out as I expect. Neither do you.

But we can choose our response. Let’s choose well, okay?

Know you are loved,


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    1. Yup– unfulfilled expectations have a way of popping up not only at Christmas but throughout life. Choices, choices. How we respond is sooo important. Thanks for commenting, Lisa. Have a great day.

  1. I remember a Christmas like that. I had taken all three adopted children by plane to Florida. My parents had a small cotage there for the winter. My sister’s family was all there. We were all crowded into a tiny space. It was the first time for my girls to meet the family. My son was the first to be sick with all the usual flue symptoms. Everyone got sick. If someone felt better they took care of those who were sick. It went thru the whole family. And it turned out to be a very memorable Christmas.

  2. Hi Nancy. Yikes! Indeed–a most memorable Christmas. We can look back on Christmases like that and laugh in retrospect, yes? I’m sure most everyone has at least one story to tell like that.

  3. Thank you so much for your devotion.. I believe we try to imagine what our Christmases should be, praise the Lord He doesn’t let us down, only ourselves. I loved the thought about what Mary’s mother might have been thinking. Thanks for your sharing.

    1. Yes, somehow we conjure up thoughts about the “perfect” Christmas, but in reality–is there such a thing? When it doesn’t meet our expectations, then we struggle with disappointment, etc. The best thing is to keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas, bask in God’s great love for us, and extend His love to others. And be flexible 🙂

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