Giving Up on Perfect

Second in a sermon series, “A Different Kind of Christmas”

The fact that Martha Stewart maintains holiday checklists on her website for us to follow frightens me just a little.

According to the one that amounts to a Christmas checklist, I already am way behind. In late November, I did not plan a “Secret Santa” gift swap with my friends. I also do not have my gift lists and recipient addresses organized on my PDA.

In the first week of December, I failed to drop off a few festive outfits at the dry cleaners. And this week, I seriously doubt if I’ll get around to polishing the silver and hand-washing our stemware.

Come Dec. 25, it may not be a perfect Christmas, but that’s okay. The first Christmas tells me as much.

Take for instance the Christmas story as described in different ways in Matthew and Luke. Jesus entered the world through the womb of a poor Jewish girl living in one of the most ignoble places you could find. She was a virgin. We know her husband-to-be had a lot of problems with her claim of angelic intervention, until an angel convinced him otherwise. Undoubtedly, the people around her struggled even more with the idea of a Holy Spirit-inspired conception.

The story is messy.

Or look at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew that references tales of seduction, adultery, prostitution, faithlessness, and other scandals most of us would not emphasize in our own family histories. Jesus came into a broken world. Again, messy, the way our lives can be messy, particularly during the fall and winter holidays.

But here’s an idea to ponder, an idea that excites me: In the midst of an imperfect world, the perfect God appeared.

That notion alone should be enough to adjust our thinking as we approach Christmas. Despite the messy imperfections sin causes us to carry, the sinless God pursued us anyway, loving us so much that he would die on the cross to free us from sin. We even look forward to a day when all is set right, when evil and all its effects—pain, suffering and death—are cast away from us forever. Regardless of our situation, we have much to anticipate as we think about Christmas, the celebration of God’s big intervention in history.

This truth also should change our approach to all of life’s imperfections, be they found in ourselves or others at home, work, or church. Having been forgiven much, we are called to forgive just as much. It helps to remember that no one around us is perfect, but at the same time, God can shine through any one of us at any moment.

Look for those moments. When you notice them, it really won’t matter whether the silver is polished or the stemware is spotty.

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