We’re all familiar with these lines from “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”:

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.

Anticipation is probably the best part of Christmas for children (of all ages).  They may have no idea what “sugar plums” are, but they somehow identify with the phrase “visions of sugar plums” because they have sweet things dancing around in their heads as well.  Whether they’re hoping for an iPhone, a new bike or their two front teeth, kids believe that Christmas is a time when wishes come true. Modern author Carew Papritz (The Legacy Letters) puts it this way:  “With your Christmas-Day-will-never-arrive-soon-enough salivations, you anticipate the moment when, like voracious cub lions, you’ll rip open the wrapping paper and feast off your every delicious present.”

Over-anticipation is one reason that the days after Christmas are, for many people, a time when they fall into some kind of depression.  The let-down may result from not getting the gifts they wished for, but even more damaging may be the fact that the wonderful family time they believed they would enjoy on Christmas day was marred by petty disagreements or the reopening of old relationship wounds.  The special holiday we look forward to can become a downer when things don’t go right

Christmas and anticipation is an old story.  The world was troubled; suffering and poverty were everywhere; tyrants ruled by cruelty.  Nineteenth-century poet George McDonald describes the building anticipation and, then, what happened that first Christmas morning:

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

— Pastor George Van Alstine