If you’re like me, 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, drinks, Christmas cake, or whatever it is that you love. Maybe the music would be playing when you open your presents, and they would be exactly what you’ve always wanted …
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 are 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 to recreate 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, and you’ve pretty much described what would be my worst day ever!
However, God worked a bit of His own special magic into that night, with angels appearing to shepherds and a new star appearing to lead the wise men to search out the newborn king. I bet Mary and Joseph always treasured that crazy night and often recounted the amazing story to Jesus when He was growing up. Life today can be pretty messy as well, but Jesus always shows up and adds His own special touch of wonderful.
When I’m discouraged with my Christmas, one thing that helps is finding a way to make someone else’s Christmas a little better. When I was a child, my family used to visit retirement homes during the Christmas season. It was so nice to see how much happiness we could bring. The simple act of showing up helped the residents know that they weren’t alone or forgotten, and that someone cared enough to sing for them or make them Christmas cards or whatever we decided to do each year.
There’s nothing wrong with spending time creating a beautiful Christmas and having traditions or expectations of things that make it special for you and your friends and family; just remember—you can 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 have made the same discovery of learning to be happy with their less-than-picture-perfect Christmas.
Professor Gordon Flett from York University in Canada made an interesting observation: “Christmas reflects huge cultural expectations that things have to 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. By the time the holidays arrive, they’re stressed.”1
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’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.”2
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 with 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.”3
This article was adapted from a podcast on Just1Thing, a Christian character-building website for young people.