Ever feel like Christmas is broken? IMPERFECT?
Like this year. Usually my Christmas speaking engagement wraps up around my mid- December wedding anniversary and I quickly shift into a whirlwind of decorating, carol singing, an upbeat social schedule, and fun family outings. However, more often than not, things spiral into imperfection.
Imperfect people. Imperfect attitudes. Imperfect challenges to our “perfect plan.”
This year the contrast between the planned perfection and the imperfect was sent in the form of a “crash”, “bang” and “boom” as they only Christmas decor I had up, my collectible nativity, was accidently bumped resulting into a broken Mary and a headless wise man. The shelf falling to the ground could be seen as an “accident”, God sent it “on purpose”, to remind me of the glory and gain of imperfection.
It is so easy to fall into the “Life must feel perfect” at Christmas syndrome. And if things don’t feel perfect, or if relationships are not working perfectly, or if circumstances refuse to fall into our perfectly planned expectations—then we can topple into the crevasse of depression. Statistically, those in the people helping professions report a significant rise in depression and suicidal behaviors during the holidays. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season .
Pregnant Mary had to ride MILES on the back of a donkey. She was likely uncomfortable and apprehensive. This young woman (a teen, really) was carrying the Christ-child amidst the rollercoaster of emotions of an Angel appearing to her sharing the news that God, the Creator of her and all things, was going to overshadow her with the power of the Holy Spirit and she would conceive miraculously then deliver the Savior of the World. In human terms, there had to be some raised eyebrows and behind the back whispers going on. And the whole donkey ride trip was all because some leader wanted an accurate count of the population. It was politics, the ego of the governmental leaders, inconveniencing the everyday lives of those they were put in place to care for. With everyone on the road for the census, lodging was in very short supply creating the “no room in the inn” problem.
Accompanying Mary was her betrothed husband to be, Joseph, who should have been home enjoying the praise and accolades of a community leader. However, he was more likely feeling his own fears, anxieties and questions. An angel had also appeared to him, but the angel did not appear to his entire community at his point so there was likely a shadow of social scorning based upon the humanly incomprehensible miracle of a virgin birth. To Joseph’s credit, he took the brave, high road and protected the life of the young woman he loved and cared for her when others might have called for her death. In addition, he took on the responsibility of traveling with her, and overseeing her care, and the care of a child that was not really “his”.
The shepherds were in a cold field, alone, with sheep. They might have been bored . . . lonely . . . isolated– until they were completely overwhelmed, overjoyed, over stimulated by the amazing light show and music heaven created! God addressed their primary emotion: FEAR: “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”
The Inn keeper was excited over the increased income stream—but if he had half a heart, he was also concerned about a very pregnant young woman sleeping in a stable full of animals in the cool night air. An imperfect setting.
The wisemen were not at home in their opulent “castle”. No, they traveled long and far across a vast desert on the back of camels following a star—hoping to prove their trip was not in vain. And they sacrificed financially bringing with them gifts of gold , frankincense and myrrh for a child they knew very little about, but longed greatly to find.
Even Jesus could have complained.
I have had many an “imperfect” Christmas. As a child, the joy of a morning full of unwrapping gifts under the tree would quickly escalate into a family fleeing to the corners to escape the wrath of an unhappy, depressed and drunk dad. Today they call what I experienced “domestic violence”. But Jesus was with me. Immanuel. An Eternal Father.
As a young mom, with very little money, I was working hard one Christmas to hold back melancholy tears and fears. I prayed, “God we have no money for gifts for the kids and extended family!” God whispered to my heart, “Don’t focus on what you DON”T have, focus on what you DO have. You have ME. What is there, in you, the woman I created you to be that you can offer to me? I can work with anything you offer up. “I have a little writing skill.” So God gave me a children’s story, I wrote it on paper angels, and God gave a creative way to give personalized blessings from the entire family to each child, recorded on those angels—and on their hearts. The lasting impact has been POWERFUL. Because Jesus was there- Immanuel. Mighty God.
Then a few years later, I was in turmoil because I knew God was asking me to extend that blessing to my very volatile, imperfect, unpredictable, alcoholic dad. In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I share how God knew for me to live free, for my family to live free, I had to free my dad from his shame, guilt, and mountain of regret. If he was ever to gain a shot at experiencing God’s love, God was asking me to first model that love. God gave each word of the blessing I wrote. My dad wept tears of hope as I read it to him that Christmas day. Christ was there! Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor.
And in 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I open up about the mid-life Christmas eve, a decade ago, when bad news from a doctor rocked our world and pushed over the first of many difficult dominos of crisis and change I held tight to my Immanuel, my Prince of Peace—and peace came—not because circumstances changed but the God of change came into those circumstances!
And THIS Christmas, it feels as imperfect as any in my history. This year, as others buy goods and gifts, I am packing away, sorting away, giving away, and throwing away material goods and gain. It is a season of downsizing. My mind and heart are a rollercoaster of emotions of angst and apprehension mixed with adventure and excitement.
The year ahead appears to be a blanket of untouched, untrampled, and unplowed snow. Our life feels like the “white out” blizzards of my youth. Those storms felt confusing because everything is white: the sky, the snow, your attire — so it is easy to feel lost and become lost on the icy tundra. And when you do finally get brave enough to take a step, into the snow, you must step carefully so as to not set off a life-quenching avalanche. However, in any ice storm, blizzard, or flurry, all you need is one solid marker: a fence to follow, a sound to move toward, a light to progress nearer to then you can begin to make progress toward safety, toward home, toward hope. In our snow-blind of change, Christ is that light, that life-line, that song of hope:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. ( John 1:4)
He is our light… one step at a time . . .like a candle shinning in the darkness, my Lord is leading. So I am leaning, as I always have, as I always will, on my Immanuel. My Prince of Peace.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)
He is Lord, the SINLESS one. The ONLY PERFECT one who could heal our brokenness by growing up to extend His arms of love laying them down on the cross—for your imperfects and mine.
He is Lord, a PERFECT Creator God, who is not afraid of our messiness because he has the creativity and power to recreate, renew, redeem, revive and rejuvenate anything, anyone, anytime we turn to Him.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.“
He is Lord, GOD WITH US! A God, who as my 11 year old son once described as,:
This God, this Christ of Christmas, is PERFECTLY ABLE to be with us, moment by moment each day, every day—and on Christmas Day.
And that perfect God, he can do what I saw that “superglue” do to fix my nativity figurines. The place of brokenness when glues was applied was scarred — but stronger. The imperfection is visible enough to make one ask about “the story of brokenness” and “healed” so it can carry its role beautifully reflecting the power of the healing agent.
I am imperfect, my Christmas is imperfect, the circumstances of the birth of the Christ child—imperfect too—and God planned in the imperfect– so we could recognize and reach out to the PERFECT ONE, wrapped in the manger, now wrapped in our hearts, and who now wraps us up in His PERFECT LOVE.