“Hope you’re ready to bake cookies and wrap presents for the rest of the week!”
Waiting to board my plane home to Denver for Christmas, I called my mom to run through the fast approaching yuletide preparations. The list included gift shopping, present wrapping, finding recipes, grocery store runs, and meal prep. This didn’t even include the usual daily to-dos of watching my five-month-old nephew, cooking nightly meals, and (hopefully) making it to the gym a few times before indulging in candy cane cookies and mulled wine.
My guess is that your own list of holiday happenings is equally as long as mine, if not longer. Let’s face it: Christmas time often equals chaos.
While we may sing, “Peace, peace, peace on earth,” we can easily get caught up in the hullabaloo of making the season our personal definition of flawless, thus invoking havoc, stress, and disappointment when the inevitable flaws reveal themselves.
Maybe that unattainable flawlessness is in part why it’s become a cultural norm to joke about the impending interrogation from our relatives:
“Are you seeing anyone? Oh, you just broke up with someone. I can introduce you to a wonderful young man who works in my office.”
“Your mom mentioned that you need to retake one of your college courses. Won’t you graduate late?”
“Are you still shopping for a house? Maybe you could afford to live by us!”
Sure, joking about our families’ invasive questions helps lessen the blows from conversations that often feel judgmental. We know that our relatives often are just curious and wanting the best for us, yet their remarks can feel belittling and hurtful.
Naturally, how do we respond? We play it cool:
“Oh, that’s sweet of you, but I’m really loving being single. I have so much more free time for myself!”
“Yes, I will need to retake it and graduate a semester late, but all of my other classes have been going really well. I’m sure I’ll do much better in it this Spring.”
“No, we had to put the house hunt on hold while we save, but we just love our apartment. It’s so cozy.”
It’s human nature. We struggle to admit our flaws and struggles. We become so concerned with how we are perceived that we stress over appearances and stretch our words to make our lives seem peachy. In the midst of the disorganized holidays as well our everyday routines, we desire to exude perfection.
The season of advent is a celebration of Jesus coming, an anticipation of the babe that would complete God’s covenant with his people, the promised Messiah. The Pharisees sought to be godly as they waited for God’s promised salvation. However, they became so wrapped up in their strict regulations and personal appearances that, not only did they place unnecessary and sinful pressures on their shoulders, they also did not realize that the covenant was being completed before their very eyes.
Do we also miss what’s happening in front of our own eyes as we become engulfed in the holiday bustle, preparation, and our overall appearances?
Maybe the dog will pitter patter his dirty, snowy paws onto your freshly mopped wood floor before guests arrive. Maybe the meal will finish cooking two hours after you said it would. Maybe the bows on your presents for others will be flat. Maybe inner woes - things you thought you could keep bottled up and away from others’ watchful eyes - will come out as the Christmas celebration winds down. Maybe all of the time and energy you poured into making the Christmas celebration flawless will be for naught.
Or, maybe your Christmas celebration will go off without a hitch. Maybe all will go according to plan as your guests are left in awe at your well-prepared and executed gathering. Maybe you’ll climb into bed as the clock rolls from Christmas Day into December 26th perfectly content and accomplished.
The thing is, I don’t know how your Christmas celebration will turn out. I don’t know how you will appear to family and friends during this hectic but also joyful time of year. I don’t know if your personal flaws will eat at you or remained buried beneath the bustle. But I do know that regardless of your appearance on December 25th, you and I are truly flawless in Christ every single day.
Our “perfect” earthly lives - or the illusion of them - will never compare to the undeniable flawlessness we have through God’s merciful forgiveness revealed on Christmas morning.