When I was a teenager, my family was invited last-minute to a party on Christmas Eve. We had planned to exchange gifts that evening (and maybe sample the desserts we’d been baking all day), but the Galvans were a fun family with kids my sister and I liked, so we decided to go to their party instead.

What we walked into was NOT, however, a Christmas party. Oh no. It was a no-holds-barred birthday bash. Streamers hanging from the ceiling! Munchies and games for the kiddos! Party music! And an enormous “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” banner hanging from the mantle. We were, understandably, confused. Mrs. Galvan saw our puzzled faces and explained that Carly, their youngest daughter, came home from day school two days earlier and said, “Mama, Christmas is because it’s Baby Jesus’ birthday.” Mrs. Galvan had told her she was right. But Carly had more to say. “We need to have a birthday party for Baby Jesus.” Mrs. Galvan tried to reason with her three-year-old that they did NOT need to throw a party for Jesus, because Christmas was in three days, but Carly replied, “Mama, if we don’t have a birthday party, Baby Jesus will be sad.” And there was simply no arguing with that. So the Galvan family threw a birthday party for Jesus in 48 hours on the whim of their preschooler. At the end of the evening we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus without an ounce of irony. It was whimsical and unexpected and to this day the best Christmas party I’ve ever attended.

We all have our expectations for Christmas, don’t we? Like my family eating homemade candy on Christmas Eve and going to bed early. Sometimes our expectations are met. Sometimes not. But God is in the business of offering us something better, like a big ol’ birthday party for Jesus…we just have to accept the invitation. This year let’s hold onto our expectations loosely. Maybe you’re looking forward to giving perfect gifts…God might have an alternative way of giving he’d love to show you. Maybe you’ll have the day off and get to sip your coffee at a leisurely pace for a change…God might have a few ideas on how you can spend that time. Maybe you’ll want to see your family on Christmas day (or maybe you won’t, for whatever reason)…but God might have a new kind of family he can’t wait to introduce you to. As we lean into Christmas, let’s do our best to make a little wiggle room in our lives for God to exceed our expectations.