Maybe it’s an echo of Eden or a yearning for things to come, this drive I have for perfection.
I long for things to be just so, for everything to fit in neat and tidy boxes, for the day to go as planned and all our stuff (aka clutter) to stay neatly organized.
Christmastime is no exception.
Actually, my drive for perfection may be even more intense this time of year. I want the tree trimmed symmetrically (I have been known to readjust ornaments after the kids go to bed), the shopping to be done ahead of time, and the menu to be memory-worthy. I long for quiet evenings by the tree with a cup of tea and a good book. And I want it all to progress slowly enough for everyone to enjoy the season.
But sometimes, most of the time, real life doesn’t fit in my ideal little boxes.
Right now, I’m sitting in front of the Christmas tree and a whole section of lights is out, despite the time my husband spent restringing all the lights (several times, but we won’t mention that frustrating fact.)
And it’s crazy early in the morning right now, but the jet lag from my mission trip 12 time zones away has my sleeping patterns all out of whack.
And the Christmas cards arrived from the printer on time, but they looked so awful I had to have them redone. Guess they’ll be late this year.
I realized, however, that these little details really are minor frustrations. For many people, Christmas is a time of deep sadness. Tears well up in my eyes as I remember friends who’ve suffered great loss recently. My dear mentor told me not a Christmas goes by without her thinking of loved ones not present at their holiday gatherings.
Real life is messy and full of heart-breaking disappointments. Christmas has a way of accentuating that pain.
Nothing in real life is truly Pinterest perfect.
But that’s why Emmanuel came.
Everything was perfect in His heavenly home. Perfectly sinless. Perfectly painless. Perfectly perfect in every way. Jesus was honored and served and adored there.
But you see, He loved these humans He’d created. The ones who’d traded in their perfect relationship with Him for a shot at doing life on their own – and we’ve been living with the fallout from that bad decision ever since (all the while adding our own sinful messes to the mix).
Yet no matter how broken humankind was, God wouldn’t stop loving them. He’d appear in their imperfect world, live among them, and make a way for their relationship with Him to be restored.
He wouldn’t do it our way, though. No royal palace, no sterile birthplace – Jesus stepped down right into the middle of our brokenness.
He entered a virgin’s womb, and everyone doubted his mother’s integrity. He showed up in a jam-packed town and only the animals made room for Him. Smelly shepherds were His greeting committee and foreign dignitaries paid Him homage, while most of His own failed to notice His arrival.
His hometown was despised. His people oppressed. For most of His life, He was simply “The Carpenter’s Son.” Thirty of His 33 years were spent in obscurity.
When His ministry officially began, He defied everyone’s idealized notions of how this Messiah thing should be done. Instead of conquering Rome’s oppressive regime, He said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17, NIV). While others clamored for first place, Jesus took off His robe, knelt before His bickering followers, and washed their filthy feet (John 13).
He loved the unlovely. He forgave the unworthy. He turned the world upside down.
This is the Baby we celebrate at Christmastime. So why on earth do we bustle so frantically to make sure everything is just right?
That first Christmas was a stunning display of God’s ability –affinity even — to create beauty, not in our perfection, but from our brokenness.
He’s present in the process, not just the finished product.
This is our Emmanuel – the God who’s right here with us, with all our struggles and heartaches, our warts and bruises and scars.
God’s idea of the perfect Christmas is vastly different than ours, which is really comforting to me. It reminds me that there’s beauty in this very moment, untidy as it is, if I’ll just be still and embrace it.
His presence is the heart of the Christmas spirit, so life doesn’t have to be perfect to celebrate the season.
As we count down the last few days until December 25th, let’s look for Jesus in each moment, bringing Him our heartaches, our disappointments, our frustrations.
Let’s choose present over perfect, memory-making over striving, and surrender to His plan over clinging to our own.
Let’s celebrate God’s work right now, even as we long for the perfection that will one day be our reality.
How about you? How are you finding rest in the middle of the Christmas crazy? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment below!