The store aisles are filling up with pine garlands and embroidered stockings, while glossy magazines invite me to dream of cookies too pretty to eat and ornaments too fragile for children. I linger over photos of elaborate place settings and tutorials for hand-painted gift wrap.
The longer I look, the more deeply I feel the perfectionist’s urge to apply cookie sprinkles with surgical precision in a perfectly polished kitchen — with seasonal candles glowing and “The Sussex Carol” playing softly in the background.
And by “Ha,” I don’t mean that any of the above is necessarily silly. I say “Ha” because I have five school-age boys sprinting around the house and a heap of dishes spilling out of the sink. I have no business folding origami gift tags when I have not yet managed to fold the Himalayan Laundry Range rising from the tectonically shifting couch cushions.
I say “Ha” because, when I think of the unpredictable variety of activities that God has called me to embrace, I know that my inner perfectionist must die.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan to forgo the brightly decorated tree or skip the icing-and-sprinkle art I love so much. I am not rejecting our plans for a colorful and joyous celebration. But in the thick of the holiday planning, I must remind myself that Christ does not call us to be perfectionists; he calls us to be perfect.
Perfection, however, may not look like we think it should. Children may stick their fingers in the frosting. Perfect. Let them taste that the Lord is good. Enemies may rise against us. Perfect. Love them, for God has prepared a table for us in their presence. The valley of the shadow of death may surround us. Perfect. He is with us, filling our cup until it sloshes over the rim and drips from our fingers.
Our perfect heavenly Father surely knows how to plan a celebration, but not as anyone would expect. Remember that momentous night when our Savior was born? The first Christmas was a perfectionist’s nightmare: the venue, the décor, the guest list, the smells — all wrong. Pinterest fail. Instead of rich pastries, the Bread of Life. Instead of pressed linens, strips of cloth. Instead of fine china, a food trough. Instead of local dignitaries, dirty field hands — nobodies, like us — invited to behold God in human flesh.
So, may the tree sparkle — and drop pine needles on the rug. May the wine warm our conversation — and stain the tablecloth. May our stories bring smiles — and snorts of laughter. May our love and joy overflow. May our Christmas be perfect.