Before I go too far into this story, I need to explain that for most of my life I lived in areas where everyone had an incinerator in their back yard, in which they burned their cardboard and paper trash. I often found myself before an incinerator following the opening of presents on Christmas Day, burning the boxes and wrapping paper that a short time before held the much-expected presents of the day.
During that chore, I would think of the unopened presents that sat under the Christmas tree the day before. Unopened packages that were a source of mystery and wonder and expectation. Now, the wrappings had come off and were being set on fire, turning into ashes before my eyes. There, I would wonder if the expectations that surrounded the unwrapped gifts, were fulfilled upon opening them.
As my children were growing up, there was usually some disappointment that set in before the sun set on Christmas Day. A toy or the game that was opened to squeals of joy, either broke or its batteries had run down and it now sat idle, dashing expectations that were sky high just a few hours ago.
Have you ever looked forward to a gift that, when finally, in your hands, did not measure up to the expectations that filled your heart when it was in a beautifully decorated box under the tree? How quickly the new wears off and for most of us, we could not tell you what we received for Christmas a year or two ago.
Someone has coined the phrase, “the gift that keeps on giving.” In the nearly 70 years of my lifetime, there has been only one gift that has never disappointed me, the gift of God’s only begotten Son, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day.
In 1988, Philip Yancey wrote a book titled Disappointment with God. The book explored the fact that, at one time or another, we have all been disappointed with God because, in one way or another, He did not meet our expectations.
As I have grown in Christ, I have come to realize that God has never let me down, not once! And, where I thought He had, where I was disappointed with His performance, I have discovered that, my disappointment was a result of my unrealistic expectations of Him. I now see that His dealings with me have been 100% consistent with His Word.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced my share of deep, dark valleys that seemed to insinuate that God had abandoned me. There have been places and times, where, like the Psalmist, I cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1). Only to later confess, “I will tell of Your name to my brothers; in the midst of Your people, I will praise You” (Psalm 22:22). And now, I can honestly say, I praise God for the valleys, for the valleys have revealed to me, more about God and about myself than the mountain tops ever have.
Therefore, I confess, I too have been disappointed by the gifts of Christmas Day, but, I have never been disappointed by the Child who was born on Christmas Day.