Christmas is crunch-time. And I'm not talking about snow.
It's time to hike it all up a notch; time to want less and give more; time to be the wisest shopper and the most generous heart and the most pious Christian. It's time to entertain and be entertained; to party and throw parties; to overextend, overeat, overdo, over-achieve.
All to honor the Baby in the manger.
Because that, of course, is what happened the night He was born. Joseph and Mary invited the Shepherds and the Kings and any other neighbors over and threw a big bash - even though dreadfully tired from travel and improvisation at lodging and probably a few hours of labor.
Then the Kings were, maybe, a couple of years late and almost missed the party heading down to Egypt for a really big time. Their stellar navigation thing evidently had gone out while they were in transit and they had to go ask Herod for directions.
To make up for it, they probably went a bit overboard on the shower gifts, but hey, it's the holidays - and you only get one chance to fete a baby, right?
Even a Baby who has come to give the gift of reduced expectations.
I believe that.
I believe He came so that we wouldn't have to worry about eternal damnation. Or about having too much stuff. About toiling and spinning and spending and having and storing-in-barns and moths and rust and thieves. He came to tell us to ask, and we would receive; to seek, and we would find; to knock, and the door would be opened to us.
Even if it was the door to a stable. Or a prison. Or an arena full of hungry wild animals ringed by horrific wild pagans.
He came to encourage us to give that last mite in the temple treasury; to give without expecting to receive in return; to give of ourselves lavishly and extravagantly to people we barely know, or don't know at all. He came to ask us to sell our possessions and give to the poor, with no expectation that we could ever redistribute so evenly that there would never again be the poor.
He came to give us the expectation that we would be reviled and persecuted and accused falsely.
He came to tell us to expect a cross - and when crunch-time came, He let Himself be nailed to it - all so we could share a crown with Him. Because He would never ask us to do anything He wasn't willing to do Himself.
And He gave us something far more precious than wealth or power or worldly blessings or high expectations.
He gave us hope.