I have something of a reputation as a Christmas curmudgeon, one not entirely unwarranted, as Christmas seems to bring out the worst in me. I never intend for the holidays to culminate in me sobbing into the wrapping paper out of sheer exhaustion and frustration but, well, sometimes, many times, it happens.
I really love Christmas. Really. I do. Of course I love the baby Jesus and the miracle of the Incarnation. I also love giving gifts and spending time with family. I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. I love decorating our tree with treasured ornaments from my girlhood as well as ones made by the boys through the years. I love that I cook the same thing each Christmas Eve and I love that we eat it in the dining room with candlelight. I love when my husband reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 and I love the early morning excitement on Christmas Day.
But all is not always merry and bright, is it? Giving gifts isn’t just the giving of the gifts; it’s finding out exactly what the recipient wants and then purchasing that exact, perfect, completely un-surprising gift. Decorating the tree isn’t just decorating the tree; it’s seeing pictures of everyone else’s beautifully ornamented tree on Facebook and wondering if yours isn’t just little Charlie Brown-ish. And what about Christmas cards? You kind of like that picture of your family your sister snapped in your parents’ backyard, that is until you get the gorgeous card with the gorgeous family picture clearly made by a professional (and clearly touched up). Even cooking a meal becomes a competitive endeavor after just a quick perusal of Pinterest.
It’s not just me, is it? Surely you too feel the weight of the expectation of the perfect Christmas and your utter inability to go there. What will set us free from the endless cycle of frustration and failure that mars our Christmas celebration?
You know as well as I do: it’s the gospel. It’s the Christmas story itself. When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, why? To save His people from their sins. We could not, we cannot, save ourselves. To paraphrase Tim Keller, He had to come get us. Your Christmas failures, mine too, echo this truth: we need saving. You’re not enough and I’m not either and not only that but our pursuit of the perfect Christmas is really the worst form of idolatry. We think we’re making it all about Jesus when it’s really all about us. But, glory to God, Jesus saves the weak, the desperate, the not-enough, the failures, the idolaters, and the curmudgeons, yes and amen.
So stop trying to achieve Christmas perfection. You can’t anyway. Look instead to the baby in the manger and remember God’s sovereign rescue mission. He came to get you! Rest in this grace. Serve others out of this joy. Give good gifts because of this indescribable Gift of gifts. Worship Him and not the perfection of your Christmas. He alone is worthy!