Great Expectations and Vague Disappointments

“Visions of sugarplums . . .”

I had visions of what Christmas would be (although it didn’t include sugarplums). Nothing grandiose; after all, we had no local family and none coming in for the holiday.

My visions were more for the season than the day: a Christmas play or two, a few musical events, tours to see lights in neighborhoods and possibly at one of the professionally done (and profitably charged for) places, shopping for alternative gifts at the Gifts That Give Hope fair, Christmas movies, dinners with friends or out together. Oh, and ending the season debt-free.

I haven’t totaled up the budget yet, so I don’t know how the last one turned out (but if previous years are any indication, it’s not promising). As for the others? We did get to one beautifully powerful concert and one night of touring neighborhoods to see the lights. The gift fair was uplifting; we had a wonderful time picking out meaningful presents for others and ourselves. We watched all our favorite Christmas movies. And friends who knew we would be alone on Christmas Day did invite us over for a delicious meal with their family.

Not a bad fulfillment percentage. 

And yet as the Christmas weekend unfolded, I found myself feeling vaguely disappointed. I couldn’t pinpoint any particular reason. Well, it may have been triggered by all those happy extended-family photos appearing in my Facebook newsfeed. I would open up the app, start scrolling through and a few moments in need to close Facebook to keep from ending up even more dissatisfied with Christmas. But it was more than that. The holiday seemed flat, even with great services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

What were your Christmas disappointments and dissatisfactions?

Maybe it was the way the family really behaved that belied the posted happy Facebook picture. Perhaps the gift you wanted didn’t come or the gift you selected with such care went unappreciated. Maybe you had a list of expectations for yourself to create the perfect winter wonderland and you didn’t succeed in completing it. Or you did, and spent the holidays exhausted and bitter that no one noticed. Perhaps your family members ended up with the plague and your Christmas dreams certainly did not include people puking or sniffling.

Just maybe, this life, these experiences were never meant to satisfy us. 

“For they are not the thing itself,” said C. S. Lewis in the quote above. “They are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

The chorus of Carolyn Arends’ song “Reaching” says:

We are reaching for the future
We are reaching for the past
And no matter what we have we reach for more
We are desperate to discover
What is just beyond our grasp
But maybe that’s what Heaven is for

Maybe we will always have vague disappointments, no matter how much effort we, and others, put into making any occasion memorable. We are not yet in heaven, and we cannot make this it. As Lewis says, our best objects and experiences are “only the scent of a flower we have not found.”

Arends is right when she sings:

I guess, I shouldn’t think it odd
Until we see the face of God
The yearning deep within us tells us
There’s more to come

So when we taste of the divine
It leaves us hungry every time
For one more taste of what awaits
When Heaven’s Gates are reached

And so I (and you) learn to live with the disappointments, the dissatisfaction, and welcome it as a reminder that this place, this life, as good as it may be, is not all there is.

There is more to come.



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