During this Christmas season, we're talking about the "Real Questions of Christmas"—because we all enter into every Christmas season with visions fit for a Norman Rockwell painting, but we end up living something akin to a National Lampoon Christmas.
As we live in that gap between Christmas expectations and Christmas reality, we end up raising really profound questions about Christmas: questions that were, in fact, raised and wrestled with in the very first Christmas. So we're trying to go back to the first Christmas to answer a handful of these questions we raise.
To get us thinking about what we do with our heartache at Christmas, I'd like you to consider something that's called the "Marshmallow Test."
Basically, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a Stanford professor of psychology initiated a study about delayed gratification that affectionately became known as the Marshmallow Test. What they did was take four-year-olds and put them in a room—one at a time—to meet with a psychologist, who would sit down at a table with them. Then they'd pull out a bag of marshmallows, take one out, and put it right in front of that four-year-old.
They'd tell them, "Now, I've got to run an errand, so I'm going to leave this marshmallow here on the table in front of you. You can have this marshmallow at any time. But if you don't eat it, then when I get back, I'll give you two! But if you eat this one, it's the only one you're going to eat. Do you understand?" Then the four-year old would nod their head and repeat back the instructions, just to make sure that everything registered in their four-year old brain.
Then the researcher would leave the room with the child all alone—sitting on that chair and ...
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