We set up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.
Within 24 hours, Anna’s “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament was in two pieces, and I had a heartbroken three-year-old to console.
Usually, that would bother me. When something special breaks, or is ruined, when Beauty is marred and my perfectly-perfect vision for an event or a meal or a holiday season goes awry, a wrenching feeling twists through me, all the way up to the muscles in my neck, ending up somewhere in my mind, taking up residence as dark thoughts and crushed hopes, casting a shadow on Celebration.
But not this time. And not just because superglue exists.
Something strange and wonderful happened to me this Advent season, slowly yet surely. I decided that moment, holding the pieces, kissing away the little-girl tears, that this year I would have a Perfectly Imperfect Christmas. I determined not to cringe when the ornaments on the bottom third of the tree are rearranged. Not to worry about not getting to All The Things.
Cookies that didn’t get baked. Crafts that didn’t get made. Presents that were shoved into gift bags instead of fashionably wrapped. Pinned yet unrealized ideas like the trendy-cool Advent wreath, or that delightful Advent calendar that the kids would have so very much enjoyed. The devotional that didn’t get printed off. A few of the traditional stories not read aloud by the fireside. Just as counting gifts can fill our hearts with joy and gratitude, counting unmet expectations can steal our peace.
My big gift to my sweet children this Christmas was to redecorate their bedrooms. I had such grand plans for The Project, and I spent hours on Pinterest pulling together bedding and paint colors and ideas for wall decor. Most of it became a reality, and their rooms have been transformed into cozy, updated, colorful havens. But I didn’t get all the white trim painted. And I didn’t install the curtain rods or finish framing all the pictures. Several pieces of furniture are still begging for a fresh coat of paint and polish. The overhead light fixtures, both fun and functional, were never installed. You would think that such a failure to meet a deadline would have me reeling with disappointment and regret. But I’m okay with it.
It’s Christmas Day, and not every corner of my house is tidy and clean. I still have a homemade gift to finish off for my mother-in-law. I’m hoping to crank out a batch of cookies to put on pretty plates to be delivered to the neighbors. But the stress and pressure that would usually be suffocating me is gone. Because it’s okay.
If we are honest with ourselves, it happens every year. Some things fall through the cracks. We don’t cross off every item on our list. We go to sleep each night with something left undone.
But there was one Christmas where every objective was realized. That first Christmas, every aspect of a Perfect Plan was carried out to completion. There was a Perfectly Perfect Christmas…and because Christ was born of a Virgin, lived a sinless life, died as a payment for sin, satisfied the wrath of a holy God, was buried and raised to life again, and ascended to heaven…because of that Reality, because of the Gospel, I don’t have to worry anymore about failure and imperfection, brokenness and disappointment, fear and regret and stress and worry.“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6