Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Imperfect Christmas

On the Colbert women's retreat a couple weeks ago, one of the speakers confessed the tension caused when she wishes for a perfect Christmas. She wants the house to be perfectly clean, all the shopping done, cookies baked for each of her four children, and the list goes on. She deftly exposed the stark paradox of contemporary American Christmas. A holiday with the humblest of origins has become a rat race for who can have the biggest, the best, the most expensive, and the most together Christmas.
Perhaps this is why A Charlie Brown Christmas is so endearing to us. It presents imperfection candidly. This is also why I love the book The Best Christmas Pagent Ever by Barbara Robinson (please, please read it if you haven't!). What turns out in both movie and book to be nearly disastrous is actually the source of the most poignant Christmas truths. Who can forget Linus' recitation of the Christmas story? Who can overlook the tears of Imogene Herdman as she holds baby Jesus?
At Christmas, I love sorting through the boxes of ornaments my parents, sister, and I have collected over the years. Each one carries a memory of a beloved friend or family member. Over Thanksgiving, I picked out a four-foot tree from my grandpa's Christmas Tree Farm and drove it back to Spokane with a box full of my ornaments. One ornament in particular was destined for the prime spot on my small, Charlie-Brownish tree:    
As I was shopping at Target between Thanksgiving and now, I saw lots of gaudy Christmas-tree toppers, and I disliked them all. My grandpa, the Christmas tree farm owner, made me this rough, wood-hewn star and spray-painted it this bronzy-gold color. Its hook is fashioned from a piece of spare wire that came from my grandpa's shop. Besides the fact that my grandpa made this ornament for me, I love it because it's imperfect. It's just wood. It's not shiny or flashy. It reminds me of the manger and the scared parents and the cold night and the smelly animals. My star is perfect even with its imperfections.
It reminds me that Jesus' birth was perfect even with its imperfections, too. And with the reality of God Incarnate, who is free from sin, we're forced to embrace humility and imperfection while clinging to the fact that the only imperfection Jesus embraces is ours.   
On Sunday, I joined a group of adults and kids from Colbert on a Christmas caroling trip. We visited a number of homebound seniors from our church community. There were lots of imperfections about our caroling trip. We tracked in mud on a white carpet. The 10-year-old violin player was squeaky. We were several keys above our normal singing range. The bodies of the people we visited are failing.
But somehow our ragtag group still proclaimed the Christmas message. And perhaps proclaimed it better because we joined the legions of stories, experiences, hymns, and Gospel truths that tell of the real reason Christmas is best with a little imperfection. I believe Charles Wesley says it best: "Hark! The Herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn king! Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled."
May this Christmas be one in which you embrace the perfect love of a God who chooses to embrace our fumbling imperfections, bronzy gold paint, rough edges, squeaky voices, and all.

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