Authored by Tina Kapp
If you’re like me, when Christmas comes around, you have an idea of what the perfect Christmas should be like. Maybe you have a mental picture of the perfect tree and decorations, somewhere ideal to go on holiday, the perfect Christmas dinner surrounded by family and friends, eggnog, Christmas cake, or whatever it is that you love. Maybe your perfect Christmas would be movie-ideal, where the music is playing when you open your presents, and your presents are exactly what you’ve always wanted …
I don’t know about you, but my Christmases have rarely turned out that “picturesque” or perfect. Yes, they have been both beautiful and fun, and I have created great memories, but phrases that describe my last few Christmases range from “a quiet Christmas” to “embrace the chaos.” And none of them were anything remotely like my picture-perfect ideal Christmas; however, all of them have come to be very special memories that I treasure.
Only recently have I truly decided that Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to bowl me over with magic as long as there’s love, happiness, and time taken to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
After all, the first Christmas was pretty messy. If we were trying to re-create it perfectly, we’d need to be homeless, tired, and traveling for the sole purpose of registering for taxes. That doesn’t sound fun or perfect on any level! Add to that having a baby and settling for the night with cows and sheep in an old barn, and you’ve pretty much described what for me would sound like the worst day ever!
However, I know that God worked a bit of His own special magic into that night, what with angels appearing to shepherds and a new star appearing which would later lead the three wise men to search out the king who had been born. I bet Mary and Joseph always treasured that crazy night, and would often recount the amazing story to Jesus when growing up. Life today can be pretty messy as well, but Jesus always shows up and adds His own special touch of wonderful.
If you ever feel sad that your Christmas isn’t turning out to be all you’d hoped it would be, one thing that really helps is finding a way to make someone else’s Christmas a little better. As a kid, I used to visit people at retirement homes with my family during the Christmas season. It was so nice to see how happy it made them. The simple act of showing up helped them know that they weren’t alone or forgotten, and that someone would come and sing for them or make them Christmas cards or whatever we decided to do each year.
Visiting orphanages and retirement homes during the holiday season reminded me of how much I had to be thankful for, and made those little grumbles about not having my “perfect” Christmas seem less important.
There’s nothing wrong with spending time trying to create a beautiful Christmas and having traditions or expectations of things that make it special for you and your friends and family; just don’t get discouraged if everything isn’t perfect. Maybe your parents don’t have the budget for the kind of presents your friends get at Christmas, or you don’t get to see all your family due to them living far away, or any number of things that make it less than ideal for you.
If anything less than perfect turns up at Christmas, you can make it a personal challenge to find beauty in the chaos. God often likes to show up in imperfect circumstances much like He did in that stable long ago, and He can help you focus on what it is that makes Christmas truly wonderful.
When writing this article, I googled “imperfect Christmas” and discovered I wasn’t alone; so many people of all ages and backgrounds made the same discovery of learning to be happy with their less-than-picture-perfect Christmas.
Here are some of my favorite comments I found from various blogs:
A lawyer named George said, “Every Christmas won’t be perfect. Every year, perhaps every week, will have its challenges and disappointments. But all of us should remember that we are here to help each other weather the tough times and find a path to happier times. That’s what being a good friend is all about. Our lives and our Christmases don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be willing to share our struggles and our joy with each other.”1
Professor Gordon Flett from York University in Canada made an interesting observation: “Christmas reflects huge cultural expectations that things have to look (be just) right. We have a consumer-based society that says if you have the perfect look or the perfect achievement, the perfect life will follow. People expend so much effort achieving this ideal so by the time the holidays arrive, they’re stressed.”2
The media bombards us with images of things we supposedly need, to have a better life. This can leave you feeling like you’re lacking when your life doesn’t look as fashionable or comfortable as it does in ads or movies, for instance.
A blogger named Sarah wrote, “Sometimes it’s easy to be lured into the Pinterest Christmas, the myth of the perfect, designer, foodie, cool Christmas. The idea behind it seems to be that, if we decorate it beautifully, it will be beautiful, and somehow our surroundings are the best indicator for our inner peace and joy, our best defense against the reality of our own imperfections at Christmas. This year… I’m celebrating my imperfect Christmas. Maybe no one wants to Pin it or sponsor it, but I’ll be one of the few and the proud. I’m sitting here now, in the glow of a thousand colored mini-lights, and I love my imperfect Christmas and my imperfect family so much. All is, somehow, mysteriously, calm and bright.”3
At Christmas we celebrate Jesus coming to earth in a pretty imperfect environment, but the love that His birth means to us makes the day unforgettable. The best Christmas memories are not necessarily of things turning out perfectly but often of the slightly crazy times surrounded by the love of family and friends. When we stop and think how much we have to be thankful for, we can truly enjoy a wonderfully imperfect Christmas.
I’ll leave you to reflect on this last and beautiful thought by another blogger:
“Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.”4
1 George Lewis, “An Imperfect Christmas,” Tennessee Bar Association, November 26, 2008
2 Quoted from Julie Beun-Chown, “How to Have an Imperfect Christmas,” Canadian Living
3 Sarah Bessey, “In Which I Celebrate the Imperfect Christmas,” November 24, 2012
4 Tsh, “Embrace Imperfection,” Simple Mom, December 24, 2012
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International