“Merry and bright.” It’s one of the many happy and joyful images of Christmas. Irving Berlin gave us these words in the song “White Christmas.” The lyrics read:
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write,
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.
And for many that’s the ideal of Christmas: snow and merry and bright. We want joy and happiness as part of our Christmas celebration. In other words, we want perfection to be a part of Christmas.
Yet, as much as we want perfection, as much as we want merry and bright, joy and happiness to fill our holidays, much of the time that’s not what we experience. In fact there are some who will struggle to just make it through the holidays. Instead of joy, grief, sorrow or depression chase away experiences of lasting joy. Instead of satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment, disappointment takes over. Instead of perfection, we experience the reality of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree (feel free to replace “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” with burnt dinner, or a house that’s far from clean, or relatives who argue, or ….). A truly merry and bright Christmas is even more elusive than a white Christmas.
This year’s children’s Christmas program centers around what happens when things aren’t perfect. SPOILER ALERT: Mrs. Strickland is putting on the traditional Christmas pageant with hopes of perfection and maybe even taking things on to Broadway, but hopes and dreams seem ruined when the wrong costumes show up. The cast discovers that you can still tell the Christmas story with pirates, cowboys, and cheerleaders. Things aren’t perfect but the message still comes through.
Speaking of things not being perfect… things aren’t exactly perfect at church either. In general church is not perfect because it’s made up of imperfect people, but this year we’re also contending with construction. The parking lot isn’t perfect, getting into the building isn’t perfect, and there isn’t room for overflow seating. And yet, the good news of Jesus Christ still shines through.
That first Christmas wasn’t perfect either. For many, shepherds (stinky, smelly shepherds) and wise men (outsiders from a far away land) were not the ideal cast to welcome God’s son. And certainly giving birth in a stable is not the ideal for anyone.
When we encounter imperfection, God still finds a way to come to us. That’s one of the great messages of Christmas. We don’t have to be perfect and this world doesn’t have to be perfect for God to show up and bless us. Our perfect and all loving God gives us the perfect gift of His Son, because we need a Savior who loves us enough to be with us and to be in this world even when everything isn’t “merry and bright.”
Whatever imperfections you experience this Christmas, may the perfect love of God in Jesus Christ shine through.