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Finding Harmony in Advent – Day 12

December 12, 2013


Our Dreams of Christmas, Versus the Real Picture

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows,
    but now light is shining on them.
You have given them great joy,Lord;
    you have made them happy.
They rejoice in what you have done. Isaiah 9: 2-3b GNB

In our family photo album there is a picture I’d like to destroy, but instead you see I am sharing it for the world to see! It was taken on Christmas morning when I was 13 or 14, but instead of the idyllic Christmas scene of magazines, what you see is a girl in ratty old p.j.s, (far left), hideous pink curlers complete with a curler net, next to my yawning sister. I am only half awake.

Not exactly the most flattering photo, yet I share it because it graphically reminds me that the reality of Christmas holidays so often fall far short of our romantic projections or remembrances.

  • We dream of pleasing our children with the perfect gifts, yet somehow the model we chose isn’t quite right and the kid throws a fit. Or it immediately breaks.
  • We dream of being surprised by our spouse with a personal gift instead of a can opener.
  • We dream of a lovely table with just right decorations and happy family members: we get folks who want to hurry to see the football game or parades .
  • We dream of parents who’ve stopped harping on kids’ faults, and then dismay ourselves by discovering we’re doing the same thing with our own kids.
  • We dream of a Christmas program at church that brings smiles or tears to the eyes, but end up with a headache trying to get costumes together.
  • We dream of an artfully composed family photo; what we get is family members who don’t want the hassle of dressing up and toddlers who desperately need a nap.

Masters at the art of deluding ourselves, we curl up Christmas night deflated and fatigued.

I wonder if God ever feels the same way.

That first “Christmas” God planned the most wonderful gift the world had ever received: God’s own child. God found the perfect parents: humble, earthy kind of people who wouldn’t let this Divine child go to their heads. And in yet another subtle touch of understated irony, God saw to it that Jesus was born not in a setting fit for a king, but in a cow shed. Perfect, down to the last detail.


But what does the world do but reject this child-man-Jesus, and kill him. But God offers us the chance to have the gift of Jesus live with us anyway, in a spiritual kind of way, if we accept the truth of God’s gift.

Maybe that’s the way to avoid real disillusionment this Christmas. If we know the grace of God in our lives, then we can live with the child who didn’t get the right gift, the dinner that went sour, even the race to eat so people can enjoy games or open gifts. Getting rid of illusions about Christmas helps us deal with the inevitable ups and downs of a busy day stacked with so much anticipation.

May we all experience God’s peace in our preparations and holidays.


Sometimes it helps to share our disappointments and holiday disasters.
Any stories you are brave enough to share?


My story (without the photo) was first published in my regular syndicated weekly newspaper column, Another Way, see  (which can be used in any local paper; email me for details).


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  1. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas thoughts once again and also for the picture.
    Actually if you hadn’t mention the curlers and pj’s’ I would not have even noticed !
    One thinking back to Christmases past, I would have to say there were several years after the death of our eldest daughter at the age of 9 1/2, there were several years where it was very difficult to be happy and focus on the true meaning of Christmas
    .However with four younger children we realized that we still had to teach them what Christmas was all about and refocus our thinking of Him and that He came for us, which was really the most important thing.

  2. What a painful thing to live with especially while the children were young. You were able to refocus your energies and thoughts which is a good reminder for anyone. Thanks.

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  1. Finding Harmony in Advent: Day 17–Mars, Venus, and Families at Christmas | findingharmonyblog

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