I wrote this following Christmas of 2013. Some of you may have read it already. But I’m posting here at the beginning of the season, partly as a reminder to myself, partly in case anyone else needs it as we move into Advent 2015. I hope you have a joyful and blessed Advent and a very merry Christmas!
Each year, I go into the Christmas season thinking this will be the year. This will be the year of the perfect holiday experience. I’ll procure thoughtful yet inexpensive gifts for everyone on my list. We’ll bake cookies and make ornaments and actually finish our Advent study. Also, my children will not fight with each other, will not be selfish and greedy, will not be consumed with the stuff they’re getting rather than the joy of giving and serving. It will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men–a holy season of worship and wonder.
Somehow it never happens.
I plan it every year. I download the Advent studies. I make the to-do lists and the shopping lists and the budget outline. And it still falls apart.
We made a few ornaments this year but no cookies. My Christmas shopping all took place the weekend before the day itself and was rather uninspired. We spent all of Advent being behind on our study, and we never did finish the whole thing. My daughters longed for nearly every item they saw advertised–and a few other things to boot. I lost my temper a few times, and we never quite achieved holiness or peace or even a whole lot of goodwill.
I am a failure at the whole perfect Christmas thing.
However, I’m coming to see that failure as the most perfect Christmas celebration of all.
For Christians, this holiday is the remembrance of God himself taking on human flesh and coming to this world as a baby. Did he come to perfect people or perfect circumstances? No. His native country was under foreign control. His parents were in a strange town and had no place to stay. A manger subbed as his baby bed.
And why did he come in the first place? Was it because we were all such decent folk? Such a joy to be around? No. He came to save us from our sins. He came to keep the law we could not keep and to be the perfection we could never attain.
Each time I flop and fail and scramble, I am reminded I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. But there is One who is perfect on my behalf. He bestows on me his righteousness (now there’s a perfect Christmas gift). And he meets me in all of my shortcomings because this is the very reason he came.
So take heart if your own Christmas was less than perfect. Let it remind you that it doesn’t have to be–and even more importantly, you don’t have to be. Even today, the Christ Child comes to dirty feeding troughs and cluttered homes and harried people. When we don’t quite get it all right, we can rejoice because he did.
And in that, I find peace. Maybe not peace on earth, but peace within my own weary heart.
And a heart filled with peace can give goodwill toward men in the year to come.