“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations.” —Psalm 46:10

The word ‘selah’ throughout Scripture is used as an exclamation mark at the end of a verse to help us pause and reflect on its meaning. Today, in day 20 of our Christmas devotional series we are resting on Psalm 46:10. Selah.

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O Silent Night: Managing Expectations

by Sam Chan


If our expectations exceed reality, we will be sad. But if reality exceeds expectations, we will be happy.

Maybe that’s why Christmas Day—supposedly a highlight in our calendar—is usually the most stressful day. New Year’s Day is underwhelming. Birthdays are bittersweet. But Christmas is stressful.

I blame the carol “Silent Night”. It sets overly high expectations.

On that first Christmas, Jesus comes to us as a newborn baby. But the carol describes Him with words such as tender, mild, heavenly peace, radiant beams and … sleep!

In reality, on that first Christmas night, Jesus was in dirty nappies, hungry and screaming. Mary was sleep-deprived, exhausted and can’t get the feeding to work. Joseph was grumpy, overwhelmed and feeling helpless.

It’s the same with our Christmas. We have expectations of a perfect family dinner. Opening presents together around a tree. The Instagram-worthy family photo to upload, brag and share to overseas relatives.

But in reality, the dinner is burnt. One kid opened their presents before they were supposed to. Another child is having a meltdown. We don’t know how to set the table because there’s been a death, divorce or separation in the family. Someone turned up who wasn’t supposed to. Someone we hoped would come blew us off. And the perfect photo never happened. People refused to smile and perform for the camera.

And that’s if we’re fortunate. Christmas in 2020 also means restricted gatherings, fear, sickness and loss of family members due to the pandemic.

But what if this is what Christmas was always supposed to be in reality?

On that first Christmas, Jesus came into a world of uncertainty, hunger, disease and oppression.

The true meaning of Christmas isn’t trying to put on a brave face as if everything is OK. The true meaning of Christmas is that everything is not OK.

But that’s OK. Because Christ the Saviour is born. In His Kingdom He will wipe away every tear, and right all wrongs.

And that’s why we can all get some sleep … in heavenly peace.

Dear Jesus, We pause now to reflect on you and your presence today. May your peace surpass understanding and guard our heart and minds. Thank you for your perfect peace, which can be found in places of stillness. Amen

Sam Chan

Sam Chan is a public speaker for City Bible Forum, and the author of How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy).

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At the Table Conversation Starter

When was the last time you sat in silence and reflected? 

Let us shape our expectations and focus on acts of compassion this Christmas.

Advent Compassion Challenge

Light a candle with your family or flatmates and say a short prayer for persecuted Christians in the developing world.

A way that you can contribute today is to give a present to a child living in poverty with their very own special Christmas gift, showing them Jesus’ love and reminding them they are not alone. Click here to contribute today.

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