I’m an idealist. I always have a picture in my head of how every detail of every day is supposed to look. Magnify that multiple times and you have Christmas.
Needless to say, I struggle with expectations and the endless string of unmet ones. But that year was different. That year, it seemed Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincaid visited my house and painted the perfect Christmas scene.
My white farmhouse was glowing with lights, a fire crackled in the woodstove, and soft carols were playing on the radio. The perfect live Christmas tree stood in front of the window, garland was draped beautifully down banners and wrapped around light poles, and Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus were lit up as the focal point in my yard.
I’d never had a yard nativity scene. I wanted one, because after all, I wanted to show my kids what Christmas was all about. Only I wanted a really nice one, and the price was a bit extravagant for our budget. But that year was different. That year, I’d found an incredible sale and it cinched the “perfect Christmas” for me.
And then, it happened. The kids and I were playing in the snow, careful not to go near the sacred nativity, when a strong wind blew Joseph’s head right off. I stood staring in disbelief as it plopped down by Jesus. Convinced Satan himself was trying to ruin my perfect Christmas, I heard from behind me something like, “Uhh, it was an accident.”
The words didn’t compute. Surely my children knew how long I’d waited to showcase this scene in my yard. Surely, they were not responsible for Joseph’s beheading. But they were. Or at least my son was, and his sister protected his secret.
Kieran was 12 that year and was perfecting his Chuck Norris kicks on everything in sight. Joseph was yet another casualty of a roundhouse kick. In an attempt to save his own head, he had set Joseph’s head back on his body and hoped for grace.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to call off Christmas. I wanted to scold my son for being so careless and insensitive and both of them for not fessing up. But as I turned on them and they stood utterly still and quiet, I heard that quiet voice whisper, “It’s not about Joseph or a manger scene in the yard,” and instantly the ridiculousness of it all hit me. My disappointment and anger dissolved into laughter.
How ironic it seemed. My picturesque Christmas was not so picturesque after all. But then, neither was that first Christmas when Jesus came onto the scene. The heavens may have been filled with singing, but the stable or cave or whatever He was born into was filled with manure. There may have been “the thrill of hope,” but there was also uncertainty and want.
Sounds a bit like Christmas today.
Since then, I’ve realized that the perfect Christmas is a phantom, and chasing it is the surest way to ruin it.
This year, instead of seeking the perfect Christmas, won’t you join me in seeking the One who is perfect? In doing so, we may not fill our Pinterest boards with ideas, but we will fill our homes with peace and our families will declare the glory of God.