What do you expect from Christmas?

It seems like that changes as we get older, right? When you are young, it’s material. One year I got rock ‘em sock ‘em robots. We rocked ‘em and socked ‘em for about five minutes before it was broken beyond repair.

Or think of Ralphie in the movie, “A Christmas Story.” All he wanted was a Red Ryder BB gun. He got it. First shot. Recoil. Collapse to the ground. Glasses broken. Dream shattered.

Maybe it’s better to want something more, expect something more than material from Christmas.

Many people at the time of Jesus wanted something, someone political from Christmas. The Jewish nation, from which Jesus came, was not politically independent. They were under the rule of the Romans. And actually Roman rule at the time involved more than politics and taxes. It became a religion.

The emperor Caesar Augustus made people swear allegiance by going to a temple and confessing, “Caesar is Lord.” Maybe political aspirations aren’t the best things to expect from Christmas.

Maybe as you get older, your expectations turn toward the physical. I really missed the physical presence of family last Christmas. Maybe that’s really fleeting anyway.

A few years back, we picked the date and time for our family Christmas get together and between travel and schedules and everything else, do you know the amount of time everyone was there, all together? Forty-five minutes!

When you’d ask my grandma what she would want for Christmas, she would say, “Health and happiness.” Good luck getting that! One year, someone got her a health club membership.

When we expect only the material, or political, or physical from Christmas, we will be sorely disappointed. That was true of expectations roughly 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born. It’s still true today.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get some good news at Christmas? It seems the world is so full of bad news. Last year, gas was cheap, but you had nowhere to go. This year, you can go somewhere, but gas is expensive!

Last Christmas people were out of work. This Christmas there aren’t enough workers. I have a pastor friend who said, “Don’t watch the news. It’s just bad news! You’ll end up sad, angry.” Think he’s onto something?

My family got some good news a few weeks before Christmas. Our first grandchild, Lydia, was born. Everyone is safe and healthy. Parents are tired, but what do you expect?

And I know there is better good news, about a better child being born: Jesus. Expect good news from Jesus and you will always get what you want.

I know that no one could buy my grandmother the happiness she asked for. But at Christmas we can expect something better: great joy. The news is so good, the joy is so great.

And here’s why: a Savior has been born, for you, for all. I know that many reading this celebrate different holidays and have different expectations and I respect that. I know that Christmas isn’t the only celebration in December. But as a follower of Jesus, I always look forward to hearing this good news: a Savior has been born.

I have great joy, because a Savior has been born for me. I believe this good news of great joy is for all people.

I once had the chance to go to the Holy Land with a group of pastors and visit Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born, and where Christians believe an angel appeared at night to announce the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds. Interesting that the word pastor means shepherd.

It was my privilege to read from the Bible at this special place and announce good news of great joy. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional, and so inadequate. Who am I to take the place of an angel? I’m no angel. Ask my mother.

But it was a great privilege to announce to spiritual shepherds: do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people: today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ, the Lord.

When you expect good news from Christmas, you won’t be disappointed. When you expect great joy, you will always get what you want. When you expect a Savior, it will always be delivered, right on time, every time.

Nathan Strutz serves as outreach pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Verona. He and his wife Elizabeth have two sons, Caleb and Elijah.

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