It was written all over his face. Disappointment. All December (and November) long, little Eliot had waited for Christmas with a childlike wonder so intense it could have put A Christmas Story's star toddler, Ralphie, to shame. Now the day had finally come and, by the look of dismay on the little boy's face, the holiday wasn't living up to the hype.
But Eliot's forlorn response to Christmas morning is not all that unusual, at least not for six year olds. In the mind's eye of a six year old Christmas should be magical. Sugar Plums should come to life. Frosty should dance and frolic. Snow should fall in cloud-like blankets and soften the ringing bells of Santa's sleight as it dashes through the sky.
For the month leading up to the blessed Christmas morning Eliot had spent his days playing with wooden nutcrackers and hiding a stuffed Elf on nearly every shelf in the house. Eliot lived in a Polar Express inspired dream world all December long.
And then the morning came. The whole night had passed and he hadn't heard a single reindeer paw or ringing bell. The lawn outside his window wasn't snowy white. Frosty was no where to be found and not a sugar plum in sight.
Downstairs, beneath the tree, there was a bounty of presents but they weren't all for him. To Eliot's tragic dismay, it turned out the biggest boxed surprise didn't even have his name on it.
The rest of the day visitors came and went. Grandpa and Grandma, Aunts and Uncles. They all brought gifts and goodies. But it was too late to save Eliot's Christmas. He had already decided it wasn't magical. By dinnertime there wasn't a gift nor cookie on earth that could change Eliot's mind. He was depressed by a Christmas reality that didn't match his storybook fantasies.
I trust that someday Eliot will outgrow his childhood magical, fairy tale Christmas expectations and anticipations. In time he'll have to learn the truth about reindeer and Santa. Soon a day will come when he won't look for sugar plums and the Elf on the Shelf will be just a sweet memory.
But that doesn't mean Eliot won't be disappointed.
Each of us experience Eliot moments in life. We open a gift, go on an adventure or embark on a new thrill only to be let down. The present isn't what we asked for. The adventure is anything but smooth sailing. The thrill only lasts a measly three seconds and then the fun is over. Setting expectations by a standard of fantasy is a no-fail recipe for disappointment. When reality doesn't match the dream the dreamer goes sour on reality.
Eliot was sour on Christmas when the presents, the very day itself, didn't live up to his imagination. As a result of his disappointment Eliot missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. He missed the fun wrapped beneath the tree, tied with ribbons and bows. When his cousins all played with their remote controlled cars Eliot didn't even take his out of the box. While the rest of the family indulged in the array of sweet treats infiltrating the kitchen counter, Eliot passed on every cookie and didn't experience even a moment of sugar high.
Grown ups and kids alike are prone to disappointments because we are all prone letting stubbornness take over our imaginations. But there is an alternative.
We can turn our expectations into exultation. We can turn our pout into a praise. We can set anticipations aside and life up adulation instead.
There is no excuse for a bummer of a life because God doesn't give sub-par gifts. The plans God has for our days are never mundane. God doesn't incorporate ordinary into any of His designs.
The cause of dismay and dissatisfaction with God's will and ways is not due to any inferior plans or gifts from Him. It is in our inability to release expectations and embrace what God has placed underneath our tree. We only miss the goodness of His gifts when we choose to lament our lot and fail to look and see the joy in living fully in the life God has given.
We can all learn from Eliot's Christmas day expectation exasperation. Don't live in a land of expectations and miss the beauty in the land of reality. Instead, turn your expectation into exultation and thank God for His presence.