We all have a picture in our minds of what the perfect Christmas would be like, don't we? Mine involves lots of family, plenty of food, everyone pitching in to clean up, having energy to play with each grandchild and spending extra time with each older family member, all the while praising God and exuding joy and beneficence over all with whom I come in contact. I don't know where I got this ideal from, but it certainly hasn't been my experience (especially the last part, I'm sorry to say.) I was reminded of my expectations this morning when I woke up at 4:30 with a stuffy head and sore throat. Not today, not when Joel and his family are coming from Georgia tonight! As the day has progressed, other needs, burdens, and little glitches have presented themselves. It's tempting to get frustrated by all this real life that is interfering with my ideal.
Right now, I'm catching my breath and pondering that first Christmas.... one unexpected thing after another, and none of them easy! Mary and Joseph had to leave home when it was least convenient in order to answer a government summons, no comfortable accommodations were available for her as she went into labor, no one pampered her through childbirth and postpartum, and they didn't even get to go home right away! Someone was out to find and kill the child, so she and Joseph had to flee with their child to a foreign place.
In spite of how this all looked, though, everything was under the eye and hand of a loving heavenly Father. In so far as it happened according to His will, it was a perfect Christmas! The promise of the Messiah was fulfilled, and real people enduring real hardship were very much a part of those promises coming to pass. As life moved on for Mary, she would endure much more suffering and heartache, but she always knew that she had committed herself to God's care that day the angel first appeared and she said, "Be it done to me according to your word." As hard as things got, the glorious day of the resurrection made everything clear. He did everything He had promised.
As I try to finish up the prep for the week-end and pray for friends and family who are having a difficult time, I'm thankful for the reality of the gospel. My idea of "perfect" is so shallow and selfish; God's kind of perfect is life-giving! These momentary sufferings and hardships are under the care of One who came to live a most inconvenient human life, to die so we could live! I pray that your Christmas will be perfect this year -- that you will truly know "Emmanuel", God with us, and that you will know joy and peace in believing.