[This is the Christmas Eve message of my colleague, Pastor Glen VanderKloot. To subscribe to Glen's daily inspirations, send an email to email@example.com; simply type SUBSCRIBE on the subject line.]
It seems like everyone has expectations for Christmas. Some of these expectations are realistic, many are not.
What do you expect for Christmas? What about you? Are you expectations realistic, or not?
Kids and lots of adults are expecting - presents. Sometimes they are expecting something that is just never going to happen.
One child put on her list that she wanted a chimpanzee adopted from the Jane Goodal Foundation - cost $1000. Not gonna' happen!
One woman staying at a shelter was adopted by a church for Christmas. She put on her Christmas list: bath towels, wash cloths and a karaoke machine. Not gonna' happen!
Often soldiers in war zones hope and expect a Christmas truce. May happen, but probably not.
Many families are expecting family unity, reconciliation and behavioral change. May happen, but probably not.
All the characters in the Christmas story had expectations.
Mary and Joseph expected to get a room at the inn in Bethlehem. But there was no room in the inn!
Mary expected a much more favorable environment than a barn for her son to be born - but that is where she gave birth.
The shepherds expected to see in Bethlehem what had been told them by the angel. And they did!
The wise men expected a prince - born to royalty and wealth. Instead they found a baby born to peasant parents.
The wise men expected to find a baby who would be a king - not a baby in the manger.
The wise men expected Herod to be a man of his word - but God warned them in a dream that he was not.
It seems like everyone had expectations for Christmas. Some of these expectations were realistic, many were not.
What about you? What do you expect for Christmas? Are you expectations realistic, or not?
It turned out that the expectations for that night in Bethlehem just were not important. It turned out that whether their expectations were realistic or not was not important.
For independent of whether their expectations were met, everyone in the Christmas story was changed. They could not come to the manger, into the presence of Almighty God, and stay the same. How God changed
each of them was much more significant than their expectations or even the realities they discovered.
Mary was changed as she treasured in her heart all that happened.
Joseph was changed as he acted in faith accepting Jesus as his son, marveling at all that had happened.
The shepherds were changed, leaving the manger telling everyone what God had done and praising and glorifying God.
The wise men were changed as they bowed down, worshipped and gave gifts to the Baby Jesus.
The same is true for us. Our expectations do not matter.
What does matter is whether we open ourselves to Jesus and let God change us. We cannot come to the manger, into the presence of Almighty God, and stay the same.
Are we ready to let God change us?
Are we ready to treasure in our hearts the Christmas story?
Are we ready to act in faith and marvel at all God does?
Are we ready to tell everyone about Jesus, praising and glorifying God?
Are we ready to bow down and worship the Christ Child?
Are we ready to let Jesus be the focus not only tonight, but all nights?
Are we ready to turn over our lives to Jesus?
Are we open to receive the love, peace and forgiveness that God offers to us in the Christ Child?
These are the questions that matter.
As you come to the manger tonight, may God change you into all that he desires you to be. Amen