As far as I know there is only one way to have a perfect Christmas. Every expectation has to be jammed together into a space so small that it cannot sustain human life, drowned, and encased in glass. We call these places snowglobes. They are pretty, quaint, and while sometimes expensive they hold no real value other than to demonstrate to guests your distain for dusting.
In a snowglobe you can have a church service on Christmas Eve, go carolling, live in a warm cottage, and drink apple cider beside a perfectly decorated tree that guards an unholy amount of colourfully wrapped presents. Sometimes there is enough room for a well behaved family sitting down for a lovely turkey dinner.
What there isn’t room for is imperfection.
Nobody in a snowglobe is too busy. I’ve never seen one that contains a mall stuffed with anxious, bewildered husbands or screaming toddlers. Its styrofoam snowflakes never settle gently upon the collars of the homeless and estranged.
How nice, for those who live in a tempered glass bubble.
Somebody give me a hammer.
You can also purchase snowglobes that contain little baby Jesus. They are sublime. They don’t smell like manure, contain despots who murder infants, or have poor blue-collar families becoming refugees. Sometimes you can wind them up and they’ll sing a lullaby to a porcelain child who doesn’t breathe or cry. Look inside and you’ll find that the Virgin Mary found childbirth to be an inspirational event and Joseph – tasked with providing for his family – wasn’t at all embarrassed to tuck the newborn into a feeding trough.
On the other hand, for me the actual Christmas Story is filled with wonder precisely because it stinks. It fills me with hope that God might look down from heaven trying to find some way to connect with his children, see nothing but a manger filled with poverty and desperation, and say,”Perfect. I’m on my way.”
One of Jesus’ nicknames was Emmanuel, which means “God With Us.” No fragile glass barrier separating the holy from the common, or the sacred from the profane. Just a God who will go to lengths we can’t begin to comprehend in order to save us from ourselves.
My prayer is that Jesus will show himself to you this Christmas even if (especially if?) you have very little room for him, and what isn’t cluttered has a peculiar, barn-like odour.
And should you prefer the snowglobe version, I’ll try to be there for you when life gets clumsy.