Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

Maybe it was the year your parents surprised you with a gift you never thought they would give, the experience of anticipating time off from school for the holiday, or the memory of enjoying grandma’s cooking during the Christmas meal.  It might be that the first year you hosted Christmas as an adult stands out in your mind.

There may also be those Christmases that stand out to you for other reasons. Perhaps you asked for a gift you didn’t receive, loved ones were not able to make it home for Christmas, or you hosted and nothing turned out as you had hoped it would.

Although it’s wonderful to imagine each Christmas being like those on a Norman Rockwell card, reality doesn’t always match our expectations. So, what if we choose to change our expectations this Christmas?

Consider for a moment the expectations of the first Christmas? Although Mary was expecting a baby, the Bible tells us that she and Joseph were away from home, in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. They were in unfamiliar surroundings without the support of family and friends. Rather than experiencing the comforts of a nice hotel of their choice, they were given a place to stay where the animals were kept. Is it possible that these arrangements, birth among smelly, unclean animals, met Mary’s expectations for the arrival of the Savior of the world?

Sometimes God uses the most unusual circumstances to accomplish His will. God knew exactly what He was doing when He used a census to lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and away from everyone they knew. He could have made their journey easy and comfortable, but God saw greater purpose in their trip. Their journey accomplished God’s will through fulfilled prophesy.

What would happen if we chose to consider the potential purpose God has for our circumstances this Christmas season rather than focusing on personal expectations? Instead of  being discouraged by family who cannot attend Christmas, why not view this potential disappointment as an opportunity? Could it be that God would desire you to open your home to others who are without a place to celebrate His birth? Or, perhaps you are discouraged by a lack of material provision. God may be using your financial constraints to influence you to focus on His intangible, eternal gifts this Christmas season.

Regardless of the circumstance you find yourself in, God wants to use it to draw you closer to Himself. Amid the appearance of challenging circumstances, Scripture tells us that Mary recognized and celebrated God’s perspective in her Christmas journey. After Jesus was born, the shepherds visited and began proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Luke 2:19 records: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary held close to her heart all the amazing things God had accomplished, and chose to ponder God’s eternal purpose and reason for the season.

We too have the opportunity to anticipate, recognize, and celebrate God’s eternal purpose being accomplished in us this Christmas season and all year long.