I love Christmas. I do. It’s my favorite time of the year – the food, the lights, decorations, gifts, celebrations, cookies, pies, nativity scenes, music, dinners, and excited children. Did I mention food?
But there’s so much pressure during this season – even if it’s self-induced – to do more, be more, buy more. My perfectionistic tendencies go on overload, because I “need” the perfect Advent plan, the perfect Christmas tree, gorgeous sparkly decorations through out the house, all the perfect events that will make my daughter the happiest child on earth, and of course, the perfect gift. For everyone.
And I forget. It’s not about me, not about how good I am (or not) at getting things perfect. It’s not actually about the lights and pretties, the cookies and food, or the gifts – or even about celebrations with friends and family. It’s all about Him. About His love for a dying, completely undeserving world. All the bustle and busy rush to get it all right – it’s backwards. We’re supposed to be quiet, listening to hear His voice in our parched souls. Waiting for His presence in our every day, normal, totally imperfect world.
He didn’t come to help us get it right. He came with love and peace, to a world full of hate and anger. He wasn’t looking for or asking for the perfect scene, and His nativity certainly wasn’t ideal. It was real life, though. His life – God’s only Son – wrapped in a tiny human bundle of blood, flesh, and bones. If you and I had been there, we wouldn’t have found it perfect. Mary and Joseph were poor, the stable was over crowded with stinky animals and filth. He truly was born in a barn, born into a normal, hard working, poverty stricken family who did not know Christmas is supposed to be full of twinkling lights, pretty trees, presents, and celebrations. They couldn’t have provided it anyway.
He came to us on our terms, in our reality. Called the son of a carpenter, conceived out of wedlock, born at a moment in time when the world was dark with sin and misery. There is only one reason He would come like this, only one motivation for this Advent. It was love – pure love – shining through our darkness, selfishness and sin. He loved us because He is Love itself. His very nature is love, and He didn’t care how imperfect we are. He didn’t care that we can’t get it right, can’t manage all the expectations we put on ourselves, let alone what the whole world seems to expect of us. He loved us in our weakness, reached out to us in our place of need instead of requiring us to come to Him. He came. He loved. He gave Himself as a sacrifice, a substitute for our messy impossibility.
“God so loved this entire ugly, pain filled world, that He gave His only beautiful, perfect Son over to evil men and a horrible death, that an undeserving world – whoever chooses to believe and accept His love – might not perish in justly deserved darkness, but might have eternal life in the light of His love.” (John 3:16, my own amplified version)
And today? Just like the original Christmas season, we have it backwards and upside down. The lights, music, food, and celebration? They’re all reminders of Him: symbols of His love, His purity, His choice to meet us on our turf, knowing how incapable we are of rising to Him. Symbols are good and right and useful, but they are only tools. The truth is in the stories and meaning behind our busy anxiety, and pausing to remember the truth will bring beauty and depth to this season.
I still want the pretties. The lights, Advent candles, trees, gifts, and especially the cookies. But I truly want them to point to Him instead of distracting me from His greatest, most perfect gift of Himself. In this season of overwhelm and perfection, let a few things go. Stay home some evenings and seek quiet. Give yourself room to breathe, to worship and adore.
It’s not about me or you. It’s about Him. I want Him to be welcome in my imperfect home and life this year.