My first hint of danger? I found the idea on Pinterest.
I’m rarely a get-crafty-with-the-kids momma. But sometimes I see something that looks easy—simple—and I think, Well, why not?
With that innocent thought, I found myself late Saturday afternoon standing over my stove cooking dough to be molded and cut into ornaments with cookie cutters. (Note to self: Read directions before promising children super, fun Christmas crafts.)
For the sake of brevity, let’s just it’s Monday and finishing touches still need to be added to these easy ornaments. The experience did not meet my expectations.
Are the ornaments cute? Absolutely.
Did the kids have fun? Yes.
Am I glad I did it? I think so?
I had ideas of a blissful few hours creating gorgeous Christmas ornaments with my children and one of their sweet friends. But true to my normal life experience, I felt frazzled and tired as messy chaos ensued.
My expectations met reality. This is a trend.
I’ll be honest. I’m facing the Christmas season tired, overwhelmed with work, and cranky. Having to put so much effort into finding the “Christmas spirit” has left my heart tender and aching.
I want to sit in a quiet house, stare into the soft twinkle of tree lights, listen to “O Holy Night” in the background, watch snowflakes gently fall outside my window, and sip hot chocolate from my special mug. I want all of these things. I want every moment of the season to be packed with those perfect images. I want Christmas to be perfect.
Or at least like the perfect image set up by Christmas movies, social media, and our culture.
I feel like a spoiled brat because I want. I want. I want. And I live in Florida, ruling out snow on Christmas for all time. I’m now having a tantrum.
Sunday morning our small group watched a video portraying how the first Christmas probably played out.
As I watched a laboring Mary and a scared Joseph , all I could think was how nothing about the night of the Christ-child’s birth met their expectations.
To begin, Mary was having a baby and Joseph wasn’t the daddy. (Just imagine for a moment having that conversation with your teenage daughter as she protests again and again she’s a pregnant virgin.) Scandalized and poor, this is the beginning of their marriage.
Then at nine months pregnant, Joseph drags his wife across the desert so they can complete what the government requires for a census. Not sure about you, but I can’t imagine being all smiley and cheerful about that detail. I mean, they couldn’t even enjoy the Christmas lights along the way while drinking their peppermint mochas. (See. Spoiled brat. What do I know about hardships?)
And when they get there? Not a single, solitary room to rest their weary heads. Oh, but there’s this barn out back. I think I would have looked at Prince Charming in that moment and gone ballistic. Like, I don’t care what you have to steal, who you have to kill, how much you have to pay—get. me. a. room!
We don’t know Mary and Joseph’s conversations. But I can imagine the fear, confusion, and sadness that comes with unmet expectations.
No midwife. No hospital. No bed.
Just a dirty barn with manure, filthy animals, and a feeding trough.
An imperfect beginning to what we now celebrate as Christmas.
Friends, I am reminded that Christmas has never been perfect. And no matter what I do, I can’t ever make it so.
I feel like much of this season is an illusion, a deterrent. We hustle and bustle around in an attempt to find the ideal Christmas spirit, but we’re not looking in the right direction. We look to the lights, the carols, the decorations, even the traditions. While those things are beautiful and good and joyous, they won’t meet our expectations.
But the one place I will find the Christmas spirit, lose my bah-humbug, and sink into the comfort and joy of this season? The one place?
When I quietly peek over the edge of the feeding trough and lift the swaddling clothes, I find the perfection of Christmas I’ve been looking for.
God with us.
Christ. The perfection of Christmas.
When I am looking at Him, the tiny miracle baby, my Christmas expectations shift. Nothing I do will make Christmas perfect or holy. The joy I experience this season cannot hinge on my striving and straining to create the ideal.
To find my Christmas spirit, my eyes, my expectations need to be on the manger.
Only then will I discover the comfort and joy and peace the season brings. I will find the rest I crave during this chaotic time of year.
The babe in the manger.
Only He is perfect.
He is Christmas.