“Can we go back to talking about expectations?” I said.
John had pointed to the whole “meaning of Christmas” perspective, to the expectancy of the one bringing good news to the poor. But it didn’t solve a struggle that I kept having. I was still wrestling with the practical implications of doing stuff at Christmas.
“Go ahead,” John finally said. I realized that I had been so caught up in my thoughts that I forgot the people walking with me.
“Sorry,” I said, shaking my head to clear my thoughts.
“I think part of the reason that I don’t care for Christmas is that I’ve spent so many Christmas’s getting ready for events at church. Christmas programs. Advent series. Christmas eve services. It often feels like I can’t stop to think about Christmas, about Christ, until after the last event on Christmas Eve. And by then, it’s too late.”
Nancy nodded. “Even when he’s home, he’s thinking ahead to the next event, the next performance. Sometimes I think that the only way he’s really home for Christmas IS in his dreams.”
John thought for a bit. “I think that the word that’s got you trapped is the word ‘performance.’ Somewhere, you got caught up in performing for Christmas and it’s taken the place of celebrating Christmas. The deep, honest, participation in joy and grief and people.”
He laughed. “I think Jesus was talking about you one day. In that conversation where Jesus talked about the religious leaders ignoring the scriptures that pointed to him, Jesus said, ‘How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet you make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’”
“I thought I was thinking about God,” I said. “I mean, as a third grader with a fourth grade part in the Christmas program, was I really getting the kind of praise confused?”
John stopped and looked at me with his clear, piercing eyes. “All those years, how often were you thinking about participating with, and how often were you performing for?”
He and Nancy walked on. They had their own conversation.
I stood in the middle of the crowd for a very long time.