If you had asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be doing this Christmas, I wouldn’t have guessed that going to the cemetery would be one of them. Or picking out a Merry Christmas balloon for my son’s grave. But there I was this morning, in hand, with the balloon. At the cemetery. On Christmas morning. Alone.
Every year at Christmas time, I look back to the year before and marvel at how far God had brought us. I would look forward with expectation to the next Christmas to see where God would take us. And hope that the brokenness of years past would somehow be redeemed.
It wasn’t so long ago that Christmas was filled with church services, children excited for Santa to come, and the busyness of being a family of four. Then 2012 came and left us reeling. It wasn’t at all what we expected. Christmas changed. Children were now shared. Holidays were split. New memories and traditions had to be formed. But we survived.
And now 2016…a year of unbelievable and most certainly unexpected loss. Loss that leaves me gasping for air some days. Loss that doesn’t want to look back to last year, because there was joy in waking up with my kids on Christmas morning. Loss that doesn’t want to look ahead, because maybe next year will be worse. This is not how life was supposed to be.
And therein, lies the crux of so many of my problems. Expectations vs. Reality. Or perhaps….God’s plans vs. My plans.
The Christmas story is full of UNexpectation, isn’t it? Angel sightings, a 14-year-old virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit, lowly shepherds being the first to hear the news, a crude barn for the King of Kings. Yet, people had been expecting Jesus for literally thousands of years! Perhaps He just didn’t come the way people expected He would. But it was God’s plan. All of it, down to the last detail.
Reality better than expectation.
God’s plan was better than any we could have thought up on our own. Because that plan was to send a perfect baby, His son, into this sinful world. His plan was to have Jesus grow up, fulfill all the Scriptures and become the sacrifice on our behalf. To save us. To ensure that we would never be separated from Him for eternity. To give hope to those who grieve. To those whose life didn’t turn out the way they thought. And even to those who bring a balloon to their son’s grave on Christmas morning.
So now we, like the people of Israel did long ago, wait with great expectation that Jesus will come again as He promised. That longing is so deep in my heart on a day like today. I don’t know what I can expect for next year or the year after or really any day I live on this earth. But I do expect God’s plan will be better than my own. And that His promises of peace, comfort, rest, hope, and salvation are mine forever. I can’t think of better gifts to receive this year.
Come, thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope to all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of ev’ry nation
Joy of ev’ry longing heart!
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine own sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.