Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and already I’m feeling the crunch of time. Not about Thanksgiving because it is my favorite time of year. I’ve already shopped for my non-perishable food items at Senior Day. I’ve planned my special recipes preparation and marked my calendar for next week.
It is not Thanksgiving that overwhelms me. It’s Christmas. The season, not the reason.
I normally don’t watch commercials on TV. They are my chance to get a snack or change fresh-washed laundry to the dryer or take little dog out or any number of quick tasks that can be completed during that three to four minutes of time.
I prefer to DVR programs and zip fast-forward through commercials. Because they entice me to do something I don’t need to do, to buy something I don’t need to buy, or to be someone I am not.
However, last week, I sat through several commercials. It was a mistake. I saw perfect Christmas ideas on display at every flash of the next advertiser. Perfectly decorated homes. Perfectly dressed hostesses, husbands and children. Perfect table settings with perfectly garnished food presentations. Perfect families all gathered for the perfect holiday.
And suddenly I am overwhelmed. My opportunity for a perfect holiday season is flying away like the last few leaves on the trees. Time’s a’wasting and I am not ready. My relaxed anticipation of Thanksgiving around the table is stolen by someone else’s expectations.
And I know that expectations can be deadly.
I’ve glimpsed into the arena of what it takes to pull off a movie or commercial. My one and only son has worked on both. We talked about the process and how people work and plan to make something look different from what it really is. Make something new look old and worn. Make something small look large. Make something fake look real. It’s all a facade to help the viewer see something that is not. It’s an illusion.
Christmas can be an illusion. We try to make it all just right, the house, the food, each other, to present the facade that we are happy and put together. If we are not exactly perfect then at least we are OK, with a happy smile and a big red bow.
Yet Christmas came because we are not OK. None of us are OK.
God sent a tiny helpless infant to a man and woman who struggled to cope. They were surrounded with criticism and unbelief. They traveled a long hard distance and not in a one horse open sleigh with bells ringing happily. Their only shelter was a foul-smelling place, and dirty shepherds would be their surprise night visitors.
This is not a Hallmark card.
So how do I round the corner after Thanksgiving and enter the Christmas season with joy instead of dread, with patience instead of frustration, with grace and peace and joy instead of high expectations of perfection?
I’m not sure I have all the answers to that difficult question. I do know I need to turn to the original story and remember what this holiday season is about.
I think Linus, a favorite little Peanuts character, had it right all along.