In the movie Love the Coopers, Charlotte Cooper declares, “This is the only time of the year when we are all together. I want the perfect Christmas!” I would hope that most of us have enough emotional maturity and life experience to know that there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas. There was nothing perfect about the first Christmas. A very pregnant Mary had to ride a donkey with Joseph walking by her side from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register so they could be taxed by the Roman Government. Once in Bethlehem, there was nothing but No Vacancy signs at all the inns. The last space available was in a stable which was nothing more than a dark, damp cave amongst the animals.
The world dreamed of a perfect Messiah for an imperfect world but a perfect Messiah in their eyes was one with prestige, influence, power, and military might. What they and we got was a humble servant that ultimately would die a criminal’s death.
As you read about Jesus’ birth as told by the different evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you quickly learn that Jesus birth and life are not about perfection. Jesus birth is about Incarnation. Incarnation means that God steps into the messy, mundane, miserable, and miraculous parts of our lives.
As Leonard Sweet says,
The story of Advent and Christmas is the story of “im-perfection,” not perfection. The birth of Jesus is not one perfect story. It is one im-perfect story. In fact, God’s perfect plan for human salvation and redemption is an imperfect plan. And what made the perfect imperfect was an “i.m.”—which made “im-perfection” perfect.
The “i.m.” is God’s greatest gift. That “i.m.” is the incarnated (“i”) messiah (“m”). The deliberateness of God to plunge headfirst into the incarnated existence of this sinful world is the greatest gift, the grandest miracle, of Christmas. The im-perfection of everything in the Christmas story is what makes it the perfect Christmas—the perfect expression of God’s redemptive messing around in this messed up world.
As you move through this Advent season, gather with family and friends, and push through the holiday crowds, my prayer is that you have an Imperfect Christmas. Have a Christmas that celebrates the imperfections of your church, friends, family, community, hopes, and dreams. In the midst of it all may you welcome an imperfect Savior who was God’s perfect gift to the world.