Thursday, December 23, 2010

Perfect Christmas

Last Sunday the sermon was about the imperfections of the Nativity. Joseph's worry about marrying a woman who was already pregnant, the vexing tax situation, and having to travel a long distance with a pregnant wife, the lodging inadequacy, a baby being born in a barn surrounded by animals, these are not small concerns either for Joseph or Mary. But somehow God helped them to cope with each imperfection as it came up, and in the process over the long haul, brought perfection out of imperfection.
Translating this lesson into everyday living, even at Christmas, is not a task for the fainthearted. Like Paul, we struggle on toward perfection, but it always remains slightly (or more) out of reach. The perfect tree turns out to be completely asymmetrical once it is standing in the living room, and beside that has a gaping hole on one side. The lights are a tangled mess (why did I toss them so carelessly in a box last year like this was not going to happen?), and many of the favorite ornaments become shabbier by the year. The closer the Big Day gets, the more insecure the feelings about whether it is the right present, and at the final moment, it turns out to be the exact wrong thing. Loved ones seem to walk blithely along spreading a wet cold blanket behind and before as they go. The food, despite hours of preparation is not quite up to par, and some favorite and unspoken food desire is not prepared. Those you have waited all year to visit with are in an uncommunicative mood, in pain, or just in a snit. If anything else is broken, nobody wants to hear about it.
What can be done with this long list of calamities? I admit, they do seem trite compared with the list Joseph faced. And yet, from an impossible and improbable situation sprang the hope, forgiveness, and love that makes it possible for each of us to move on and away from painful things, real or imagined.
As I alternately creep and dash toward Christmas Day, I try to keep my eye on the prize. The bowling pen, the ball, or the basket cannot be hit unless all attention is focused on it. All wrongs, annoyances, slights, and dark thoughts must be shed in the dust. I am sitting on a train headed for a New Year where the sun is shining and there are plenty of shells on the beach. I am leaving the boarded up houses, sagging porches, rusty cars, dead Christmas trees, and broken toys. I know there is good life past Christmas.
How did we ever become so confused?

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