From the Rector…
There is a moment in the season of Advent when I stop enjoying it and start praying to simply make it through the 10am service on Christmas Day. In part, the reason has to do with the unreasonable expectations I’ve placed on myself for the church, my home, and my family. Those expectations have little to do with Jesus and a whole lot to do with having the “perfect” Christmas. If I am being truly honest, that sense of perfection is distracting me from what Christmas really is rather than enhancing it.
I wonder about my need for a “perfect” Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a perfect Christmas and I’ve also never had a bad Christmas. Christmas has always been a joyous celebration but never perfect. Of course, some Christmases have been better than others. As a child we often went to Kansas to celebrate Christmas with my mother’s family. Those were always white Christmases filled with snow angels and fireplaces and so many presents you couldn’t even walk into the family room on Christmas morning. And then there was Christmas two years ago when my father was suffering from a stroke and slowly starving himself to death because he refused to live as an invalid. My heart still breaks for him and for us in his loss. He chose his death, and I give thanks for that, but I can’t get through this time of the year without remembering him weak and bed bound. That was hardly a perfect Christmas, but he was home for Christmas and died soon after in his home—which is a comfort to me. His loss was hard, but it was not bad.
The thing is that there has never been a “perfect” Christmas—not even in Bethlehem. Joseph and May arrive in the cold and dark and there is no place for them—no inn, no one’s home, no one’s heart. An inn keeper gives them space in a barn yard and the Christ child is born amongst the smells of manure and the sounds of animals. It is warm and more comfortable than the side of the road—but it is not how we might expect the perfect scenario for anyone to give birth—much less the Son of God. And that is the true lesson of perfection—it is not all the decorations or presents or holiday goodies or even Christmas dinner that needs attention to every detail to have a holly jolly Christmas. It is the attention to family and friends, neighbors, and strangers—it is in the attending to God and God’s people where we find the perfection of Christmas.
What made the very first Christmas imperfect was the resistance that Mary and Joseph discovered as door after door was shut to them that cold night in Bethlehem. But what perfects that first Christmas is the thing that God is doing—creating and inviting us into relationship with God through a child born to a virgin. Whatever we are focused on and desperately trying to create with our packages tied up in bows and the parties we are throwing will always be less than perfect unless we are focused on one another—building each other up and sharing in the life that Christ came to earth to remind us of. That life is the one that holds God as its anchor and mainstay. It is the one that values others even when they reject and disappoint us. It is the one that accepts the imperfections of others and the experience of life and is still able to bring forth the good—especially when our expectations are not met.
Instead of trying to make the season bright, maybe we simply find the bright spots in the season. In so doing, we may find ourselves a little less rushed, a little more peaceful, and even a little joyous. I wish you a holy, jolly season this Christmas—one in which the perfection of God shines through in every face you see.
Light and Life,