I caught myself whispering an unrealistic secret to my heart, “Maybe this will be the year everything goes as planned, and we’ll have the perfect Christmas.” Perfect is what I’d always wanted for Christmas, but in all my years of living, I’ve never been able to pull it off.
Perfect looks like peace on earth and in my home for twenty-four hours. A Christmas where everyone is happy and peaceful, loving and kind. No disappointments. No arguments. No debates. Everybody is all about Jesus and loving each other — for a whole day. Sounds like heaven on earth, doesn’t it?
Maybe you’ve longed for the perfect Christmas, too. Maybe you’ve shopped for perfect gifts. Planned the perfect menu with everyone’s favorites. And worn yourself out creating the perfect space where your people will gather and you’ll hold your breath hoping nothing goes wrong.
Or maybe you’re not a recovering perfectionist and wonder if I need counseling. I do, and prayer — may I come to your house for Christmas?
Honestly, some years I’ve gotten so focused on wanting everything to go just so that I missed the good stuff that was right in front of me, and I’ve forgotten just how beautiful imperfect can be.
But then one day it dawned on me: Jesus was the most perfect Gift ever given, yet He was given to us under the most imperfect conditions, just like God planned.
Last Christmas, I canceled my request for perfect, and this year, I’m doing it again.
I’m actually anticipating a messy, slightly chaotic and perfectly imperfect Christmas just like the one in Bethlehem. Perfect is not what my family or friends need from me. What they need is for me to be present in each moment.
What if we traded in our efforts to make an impression and looked for ways to make memories instead? Here are three ways we can, by giving three gifts we don’t even have to shop for:
Let’s slow down to look them in the eyes, play with the toys or gadgets they just opened, sit together and watch that movie, football or video game we have no interest in, and listen to the stories we’ve already heard. There is no better way to let someone know they’re important to us than by giving our time to them.
Things may go absolutely wrong this Christmas, but those imperfect moments can make the best memories! Our family still talks about the Christmas I set my napkin on fire while trying to light a candle and a few minutes later, I knocked over my glass of water and flooded the town of Bethlehem! (So much for my idea to have a nativity as our centerpiece on the dining room table that year.)
My kids held their breath to see if I was going to cry or scream. Instead, I died laughing and they did too. When I asked one of my boys what he liked most about that Christmas, he said, “Hearing you laugh so much. Mom, I love the sound of your laughter.” I had no idea.
Christmas is the perfect time to let someone know they are noticed and appreciated. And words of encouragement are a great place to start. Words are treasured gifts that only take a few minutes to give — in person or on a simple note. When we give written or spoken words of encouragement, they become a gift that is treasured for years to come.
I’m praying for you and for me today, that in the midst of our beautifully imperfect and possibly stressful holidays, we will embrace our imperfect realities and relationships, give ourselves lots of grace, and look for ways to give just a little of our time, laughter, and encouragement to the ones we love. And who knows, that might be what makes it the perfect Christmas after all.
For more Christmas encouragement be sure to take a
look at Renee’s beautiful Christmas Prayer.