It’s funny, isn’t it how we human beings, who are so full of failings, and so prone to make mistakes, often have in our heads a ‘driving voice’ that says “This has got to be perfect.” ? This can be true of a ‘one off’ special day like a wedding, a big celebratory party, or the holiday of a lifetime, but it can spill over into so many things in life, especially Christmas. Everything has got to be ‘just right’ if we are going to be happy and enjoy ourselves. We heard recently of a man who was making a round trip of around 40 miles in order to get a tree the right shape for his partner, because the one they had got was not ‘right’.
While we can blame the media (yet again) for our ‘driveness’ in these matters, it nevertheless becomes clear that the media is only tapping into an innate human weakness – that we all want certain things in life perfect, (and not just our church or our partner!) Sure, it will be different things for different people, but we all have our different ‘perfectionist’ drivers. For some it is the externals like the food and the various decorations which all need to be perfect for people to enjoy themselves. For others it is about the relationships, and who visits who and for how long. Or maybe it will be about how smooth all the conversations are and how all the interactions go.
The thing is it’s all about expectations and beliefs. My expectations of myself and of others, my beliefs about what makes a perfect Christmas, and my expectations and beliefs that, in order to be enjoyed, Christmas should be a ‘perfect’ time. [Perfect, that is, in all the respects that I hold dear.] The truth is it hardly ever is perfect, is it? I even remember, as a child, coming to terms with the fact that my presents might be disappointing, or not as many as I’d hoped, and that my sister and I, however hard we tried, would probably have a quarrel and fall out at some point during the day. I realised then that, in order not to be disappointed, I needed to hold my ideal day very lightly indeed.
So what about the first Christmas. What a mess!! The awful political situation which caused a fully pregnant woman a most uncomfortable journey of 80 miles, probably on a horse or a donkey, in order to fulfill a tyrants need for a census to be taken. The crowds! No air B&B! No Travelodge or even a Macdonald’s. Then when they finally find a shed in which to sleep the baby is born, (no midwife) and then the newborn ends up sleeping in an animal feeding trough. No pristine nursery here! How could God be so casual about the birth of His Son, the Saviour of the world? On the face of it, it all went so badly wrong, but there, in the midst of the muddle, chaos and imperfection, shone the Glory of God.
I just love it! I love the truth demonstrated here that the glory of God can shine in the midst of very messy situations, His glory can even shine in the midst of ‘my mess’. God is perfect, but He is not a perfectionist. In Psalm 18:30 we read ‘As for God His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him’ Then a couple of verses further on we read, ‘It is God who arms me with strength, and He makes my way perfect.’
It’s not the kind of perfection that we seek and long for in our material world, but it’s the miracle of His ability to work out His purposes for us in the midst of far from perfect situations. ‘He makes my way perfect’ because of His presence with me, and His interventions on my behalf. Messy becomes ‘perfect’ because of His hand in my life and circumstances, working all things for my good. It is truly wonderful when I catch a glimpse of His mercy, grace and favour over my life. I see Him using every circumstance to make me more like Jesus. He just never gives up!
Thanksgiving in our ‘messes’ helps us to see above and beyond what is happening in the here and now. Thanksgiving helps us to go higher and see our situations from God’s perspective, and His perspective is always glorious because He is glorious, and He loves us and is so committed to doing us good in completely unbelievable ways. Ways that the natural eye doesn’t always see. As I thank God for His presence with me, even in the humanly speaking ‘messy’ moments of life, then He lets me see what He is doing, and we share His joy over me together.
So this Christmas, whatever it holds, let us remember these words from Zephaniah 3:17.
‘The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior, He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy’……. and let us stay thankful.