Christmas – Joy or Despair?

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I want a perfect Christmas – you know what I mean.  The Christmas where everyone comes home, the children and grandchildren are all here and everyone gets along perfectly with no aggravation from anyone.  The house is trimmed from one end to the other with trees, twinkling lights, and mistletoe.   Below the beautifully decorated mantle, a cozy fire is blazing in the fireplace. Christmas music fills the air.  Underneath the tree are presents, each perfect for the receiver and beautifully wrapped.   Filling the air is the fresh aroma of a perfectly cooked meal.  The turkey is moist, the casseroles delicious, and the merriment plentiful.  On the table is everyone’s favorite, many made from recipes that have been handed down for generations.    The children even eat their peas before asking for dessert. Laughter fills every room!  After consuming the huge meal, all the men insist on doing the dishes while the women sit and chat.   (After all we are told men fellowship better when involved in activity.)

In actuality many of us will have an imperfect Christmas.  There’s the person that won’t be at the table because of a family argument, a divorce,  a wayward child or an unexpected death.  Fewer gifts are under the tree because of unemployment.   It’s obvious in the faces of the recipients that the gift wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.  It’s an imperfect Christmas.

The first Christmas began when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born, and it was about as imperfect as they come.  In our heads we have a vision of a perfectly clean baby in a perfectly clean stable, with streams on light beaming down to soften the whole picture.   That is beautiful but that is not reality.

Joseph and Mary left Nazareth traveling eighty miles to Bethlehem to pay their taxes (that alone makes it a very imperfect Christmas!)    They couldn’t hop in their SUV, throwing everything in the back, and drive to Bethlehem.  It was a foot journey.  We see pictures of Mary on a donkey, but we don’t know for sure that she rode on a donkey for any, none or all of the trip.  The Bible doesn’t say how she got to Bethlehem.    One thing for sure, it was not an easy journey.  After His birth, the baby Jesus was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.  I’m sure Joseph cleaned it and did the best he could, but it certainly was not what they envisioned for the baby.    It was not a beautiful, sterile nursery laden with blue curtains and stuffed animals.  If the baby was indeed born in a stable, the animals smelled terrible as did the environment.   Of course we love the song, “… and little Lord Jesus no crying he make.”  Please!

It was a less than perfect Christmas for Mary, Joseph and Jesus, but for that I am thankful.  Jesus Christ, the King, was not born in a beautiful palace with all the perfection afforded to a king.  He was born in a lowly, imperfect environment.  It would be hard for me to identify with a king in a palace, but I can identify with One who understands the imperfections of life.

As the Bentons celebrate Christmas this year, we are so thankful for a victorious Savior who experienced imperfection.   We look forward to time with our children and grandchildren and their laughter, but the empty chair at the table stares at us.  Our son Bryan will be missing.   It is painful and it is, at times, so unbelievable.

We have a choice – joy or despair?  I choose joy this Christmas.  Christmas won’t be perfect in human terms of perfection, but Christ the Savior is born.  He meets us at places of imperfection and pain.  He is the reason for the season.  He is the joy to the world.  His presence and sacrifice make Christmas perfect in the midst of imperfection.   Silent night, Holy night … Christ the Savior is born.   Merry Christmas to all and please don’t allow the imperfections of this Christmas to ruin your day.  When that temptation comes, just sing it with me … “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.”    Christmas, joy or despair?  Choose joy.

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