An Imperfect Christmas

I don’t do well with disappointment. The path to discovering this hasn’t been pretty. It’s something I continually work on but the realization of it has helped me cope. This Christmas I intend on setting the bar low. It may not be the most picturesque way of thinking of the holidays but I’m going to prepare my heart for a perfect King to come in to my imperfect life.

The pressure to put on the perfect Christmas has reached epic levels of craziness. Displays go up after Halloween comes down so you can start planning your décor. Families pick out their holiday outfits for the annual Christmas card while I’m still in flip flops. People put up gorgeous, themed, intricate trees in every room in their house. Pinterest found projects occupy weekend time. Those projects are shared on social media giftwrapand the ‘their Christmas looks better than our Christmas’ sneaks in to our hearts. That elf on the shelf appears wreaking havoc and the anxiousness of it all can send you breathing in to a paper bag. We see people who serve the homeless meals AND make their own custom gift tags and think how do they find the time for both. No really, homemade gift tags. The comparison seeps in before we even realize it is here stealing our joy.

We pick out the perfect Christmas menu starting with tree shaped appetizers and prepare the special punch with an ice sculpture of Burgermeister Meisterburger floating in the center. We feel the pressure of what our children wish for and if what we can afford will measure up to their friend’s Christmas loot that will be posted on Instagram by 10 am Christmas morning. We play the silent movie in our mind where our children laugh with one another, listening to carols and a family toast with eggnog as the lights go on the tree without incident. We picture Christmas break playing board games cookietogether and frolicking in the snow. We bake cookies that come out of the oven perfectly golden. In this imagined movie, we ice and decorate those cookies and not a single sugar crystal falls to the floor. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and precise measurement so they are evenly spaced. No one is lonely or hurting.

In this film, not a single child has a meltdown because we are off their schedule, staying up late and missing naps. In the movie, no one has to clean up the mess of baking cookies. There are no budget constraints in our silent movie, no insufficient funds. Mom doesn’t forget to pick up Grandma’s gift and Dad doesn’t argue that the game is on when it’s time to put up the outside lights. In our imagined utopia, every single light on the strand lights up; every single time. Your child is never the one in the front row of the Christmas performance raising their dress up over their head and picking their nose. No one says they are bored. There’s no weird Uncle at the family get together drinking too much and talking too loud and PEACE AND JOY REIGN IN OUR HEARTS FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.

We set ourselves up for disappointment. We add to our anxiety. We let the pressure steal our joy, the celebration from Christ’s birth. The only thing we can expect is Christ’s perfect love. He came. For us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. That is what we celebrate. That in the craziness of our earthly choices, our sin, our failures….He came to love us. He came to show us grace. He came with no expectations.

The truth is, Christmas isn’t about any of those perfect things. Christmas itself didn’t happen perfectly. There was no room in the inn. They didn’t have a first class boarding pass. They had a donkey. The King of Kings, Christ Incarnate was born in a stable amongst animal excrement and itchy straw.  Jesus came to the imperfect world in an imperfect way. He came for us and our imperfect lives. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. He is perfect. His love is perfect. His love washed over all of our imperfectness is what makes this season that much greater. He wasn’t a King that demanded the best. He wasn’t a Ruler that expected our perfection. He is a Savior that came for our faults, our sin. He humbled himself and became man. He came despite our very imperfect selves. He came and joined us in the imperfection of our lives. He came and said I love you, you imperfect mess, I love you. I want to know you. The beauty of Christmas resides in its’ imperfections. Let’s embrace that.

Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us,  came in the midst of our chaos. Your children will argue over Christmas break. Expect it. Breathe it in and breathe it out. Perfection doesn’t live here. That weird Uncle is just anxious to be around you all and groups aren’t his comfort zone. Give him grace and love him anyway. You will get a gift that you will save for next year’s white elephant exchange at the office party. You just will. Your cookies will not ever look like Martha’s. Perfection isn’t necessary. A random strand of lights in the middle of your tree will go out for no reason. Your neighbor will get more than you. Let it happen. Christmas isn’t a competition. We all win. He is the gift. God with us.

manger-cross

Every little imperfect thing that happens this year, every glass spilled, eye roll your child gives, every cringing political statement Crazy Aunt Rita states, let them be completely imperfect. Don’t let the imperfect moments steal your joy over the coming of Jesus. The wonder of Christmas lies in its’ imperfections. It is why He came. It is why we need Him. He doesn’t need our fairytale movie. He sees our truth. He intimately knows our messy story and loves us in the midst of it. Let’s show our truths this year. Let’s share our need for the Savior that came in the manger. Let’s rejoice in our imperfections and give thanks that His love is big enough to use them for His glory. The Savior of the World came for us, ya’ll. You, me, the weird Uncle and Crazy Aunt Rita. He came because we need Him. Christmas is all about imperfections. Let’s prepare our hearts for that!

 

~Jen Harris

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