Holiday Perfection and the Necessity of Christmas

christmas tree_warpedThe corner of my apartment where the Christmas tree goes does not allow for one of those full, perfect looking Christmas trees. In the past, I’ve tried to get that perfect tree but found that the hassle was not worth it and it would be better to get a narrow tree. Besides, I don’t like managing a big tree so transport is important also. Well, in my quest to obtain a low-cost, narrow Christmas tree, I ended up with something a bit more marred than I was comfortable with. When I first saw that big gaping hole at the bottom, I figured that against the corner you wouldn’t be able to tell. Of course I was wrong and the imperfection was very visible.

christmas tree_fig plantIt reminds me of a couple of years ago when I tried to cut corners by decorating our silk plant (fig tree as my son teenage son calls it) as a Christmas tree. Honestly, I laughed so hard at the results at this upside down Christmas tree and of course my son made fun of it. It was far from the picture of Christmas tree perfection that we want to display to the world.

Ah perfection…

I don’t know what it is about holidays that bring out our need to have this picture perfect model of the holidays

Perfect family photos

Perfect holiday decorations

Perfect gift giving

Perfect family gatherings

Perfect church festivities

Perfect, perfect, perfect

And while I’m sure there are holidays that come pretty close to this picture, for the majority of people, the flaws are as glaring as my Christmas tree fiascos. It is no wonder that the Christmas season is not the most wonderful time of the year for many, especially where the gap between blissful holiday perfection and life’s realities exist.   For some, Christmas time is downright painful because those holes are so big and exacerbated by all the perfection on display.

Tullian Tchividjian wrote a fine piece Christmas for the Weary and Heavy Laden, in which talks about those discrepancies for so many and eloquently explains why  “Christmas has a painful way of revealing why the first Christmas was so necessary.” All the contrasts, fears and flaws point to a greater reality;

Christmas exposes our desperation but it also announces our Deliverer—the one who promises rest to the weary and heavy laden; the one who promises never to leave us or forsake us. For those who feel lonely and lost, anxious and abandoned, tired and tense—for those who are guilt-ridden and grieving—Christmas is for you. Especially for you!

The Incarnation of Jesus serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our capacity to mess things up. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to confront our misery with his mercy, our confusion with his comfort, our guilt with his grace.

Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness. It is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. Christmas is a war fought by a Peaceful Prince whose battle plan is to defeat death by dying, fear by forgiveness and slavery by salvation.

Christmas sets in motion the Divine pattern of God drawing near to us–not because we’ve done it right–but because we keep doing it wrong. Jesus came down to us because we are weak, not because we are strong.

Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same it shows us Jesus, who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves (and others!), find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.

In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation. From the cries of a baby lying in a manger, God shouts, “I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here.”…

It is this crying baby that wipes away our tears as our Wonderful Counselor. It is this powerless child that conquers despair and dejection as our Mighty God. It is this needy newborn that is the source of everything we need and long for as our Everlasting Father. It is this helpless infant that restores okayness to our lives as our Prince of Peace.

Indeed! When I look at my flawed trees and other discrepancies that have made my holidays not so perfect, I’m reminded that this is the perfection we really need and the only perfection that is possible.

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