December 3: Let Go of Perfect

Let Go of Perfect

Luke 1: 26-38 (CEV)

December 3, 2023  

          What’s your picture of a perfect Christmas?

          As a child growing up, one of the things essential to a perfect Tupper Christmas was a spotlessly clean house. My mom cleaned the house twice a week regularly, but a perfect Christmas meant dusting everything and getting the cobwebs out of every nook and cranny of the house. If one of us kids drug any dirt or snow in the house, God have mercy. 

          Another part of the perfect Tupper Christmas was getting out the china, the silver and the crystal. Actually, these still come out for important meals at my parent’s house.

          Along with the china, silver and crystal comes great food. My mom is a wonderful cook. She loves to make big meals. At Christmas she had food traditions like steam pudding and Christmas salad in addition to the usual turkey and mashed potatoes.

          What’s your picture of a perfect Christmas?

          I’m sure it includes the whole family gathering together around a big table. Everybody’s there.  Everyone’s pleasant and in good spirits. No one’s complaining or criticizing. The love is just flowing around the room.

          I’m sure it includes the opening of presents in which everyone says, “That’s just what I always wanted. How did you know?”

          A perfect Christmas might also include being able to afford giving the best gifts to everyone we love without going into any debt. 

          I wonder what Mary’s picture was of a perfect Christmas?

          She probably dreamed of gathering with her mother and the rest of her birth family. Being at home in the house she grew up in. Everything clean, orderly and familiar.

          As Mary dreamed of starting a family, she probably dreamed of being married before she got pregnant. She dreamed of having her mother help her deliver her first child; having her baby while lying in a soft, clean bed.

          I wonder what else Mary dreamed about as she imagined that perfect first Christmas day.

          We all have dreams of that perfect Christmas.

          But then life comes…even for Mary on that first Christmas. Let’s listen to how Joseph might have described the events that happened.

          “I don’t know how my wife Mary handled it. It all started with that visit from the angel Gabriel. He told her she was pregnant. Can you imagine her shock? We were planning to get married, … someday… We hadn’t consummated our relationship yet.

          But now she was pregnant – somehow. How embarrassing! How shameful! How dishonorable!

          Her pregnancy was hard –for everyone. So she went to her cousin’s for part of the time. But eventually she returned back home. It was then I told Mary the awful news about our travel plans.

          Even though I knew she was close to her time, we had to take a trip to my family’s home. We’d have to go all the way across to the other side of the country, even beyond Jerusalem. We had to go to a little village called Bethlehem. All because of a crazy census.

We hadn’t done one of those trips in years. Why did it have to be now? I felt so bad for her.

It was a difficult trip. She was so uncomfortable the whole way.               

We finally get to Bethlehem and things go from bad to worse. We ended up in the back of this place, in an animal stable. There wasn’t room for us anyplace else. Back there with all the animals.

Of all the times and places for the baby to start coming… Can you believe it? It was all wrong. Everything about it was wrong.

My wife Mary should not have had our first child in such a place and at such a time. It was so dirty. And stink. Did it stink?! I could hardly stand it.

Nothing about this was right. It was all so wrong.”

“Nothing about this was right. It was all so wrong.” That’s what Joseph must have said over and over. It was not the perfect Christmas that Mary dreamed.

But isn’t that what we so often find in our own Christmas’? It’s not a perfect Christmas after all…

Instead of every one of our family members gathering with us around our table, some are missing. Some have passed on from this life. Some are celebrating far away – in other parts of the country. Some are not here because relationships are strained. It’s not a perfect Christmas because everyone’s not here.

It also might not be a perfect Christmas because of the stress we feel in this season of peace and joy.

Over the years, Lori and I have often entertained my parents for Christmas. Getting ready for their arrival is usually very tense. I want everything to be just right.

Do you remember what a cleanliness nut my mom was when I was a child? Well, I’ve got it in my head that our house has to be spotlessly clean or my mom will notice. So I get crazy about making sure every spot of dust is out of the house. I’ve even been known to bring out the white gloves. But it’s hard to get and keep a house that clean – so it causes some tension. It sometimes feels like we’re walking on eggshells.

So much for that perfect Christmas with its peace and joy and love flowing everywhere.

What now?

What if Christmas is not perfect?

How did Mary handle everything that first Christmas? How did she handle all the things that weren’t right? Remember Joseph saying, “It was all so wrong.”

How did Mary respond when she realized it was not going to be a perfect Christmas?

Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said,”

Or as a more familiar version of the Bible says, “Let it be.”

Mary let go of her expectations.

Mary let go of her wish for perfection.

Mary let go of her own desires.

Mary let go of trying to control the events around her.

Mary let go of getting her way.

Mary let it all go.

She said, “Let it be. Let it happen as you have said.”

How could she say that?

It’s because of that first sentence. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

She recognized that it wasn’t about her. It was about God. It was about doing what God wanted. It was about letting God have dominion over her life.

As we let go of our own desires and focus outward, we find the real meaning of Christmas.

It’s not about looking good or having the cleanest house. It’s not about what we get or having it just like we wanted.

It’s all about God and others.

And really, that’s what makes a good Christmas, even if it’s not perfect.

A good Christmas is about reaching out to others who will not be having a perfect Christmas this year – like those in a nursing home. Actually, some of my best Christmas memories of our own children growing up were the times we took them to a couple nursing homes on Christmas Eve.

I remember our daughter Sarah when she was seven years old singing at the nursing home for some members of our church the song: “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” She really did need those two front teeth. They were missing at the time. She was so cute!

Let’s have a different kind of Christmas this year. We’ll have to let go of our visions of a “perfect” Christmas.

Instead let’s reach out in ways that we never have before.

It’s not our birthday, is it?  

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