Christmas for those who try to be perfect.
Whether it's the uber-cool of the perfectly chic festive feast of the TV chef
or the promise of near collapse in the increasingly desperate search for the perfect present
...it can feel like the pressure is on.
And did THEY feel the pressure too? That first Christmas?
The child was on his way, surely everything should be made just perfect for his arrival...only...by the time they got there the town was full and options were few.
Did she ever say to herself...’this is not how I imagined it would be before the angel came...when I daydreamed about my life, not in my wildest dreams did it look like this’? Not this unexpected pregnancy; not this labour far from home; not this straw-strewn sanctuary and the warm lullaby breath of animals; not this tiny baby entrusted to trembling hands.
And him, he was, we are told, someone who worked with his hands.
A craftsman, a carpenter. Would his skilled eye and creative imagination have conceived a far finer cradle for her son than this rough cattle trough? One carved and smoothed through loving attention and made perfect through growing anticipation seems more fitting. But in the end, this one would have to do.
It was enough...
'Enough' when I want 'perfect' requires a re-calibration, a seeing with new eyes and an understanding of how damaging a default standpoint of ‘insufficiency’ can be.
In a book called ‘The Soul of Money’ Lynne Twist writes about how the mantra of ‘not enough’ has become a kind of default setting for our thinking about much of life; from the cash in our pocket, to the people we love and even how we view our own worth.
This is what she says about what she calls the ‘myth of scarcity’:
“For many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep’.
The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time’. Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of our lives hearing, complaining or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…we don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power.
We don’t have enough weekends. We are not thin enough, we are not smart enough, we’re not successful enough.
Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor we are already inadequate, already behind, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get or didn’t get done that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack.”
Maybe this Advent we can dare to shake off the burden of ‘lack’. To let go of whatever it is which would say that this, or that, or we ourselves are not perfect – for in God we have and are ‘enough’.
Maybe this Christmas the fused tree lights; the kindly meant but disastrous present; the burnt food offerings; the families which don't quite equate to those in the ads; the expectations that others put on us, which we can never, would never wish, to match; the expectations we take on for ourselves or use to burden others and those precious parts of ourselves we deem 'less than perfect', can find sanctuary in the stable.
The stable - where imperfection offered freely was enough. More than that, because He was there, because it had been his plan, it was perfect. In the midst of imperfection...joy!
‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come!’