Having A Charlie Brown Christmas? – You’re Close to Getting It Right

I’ve spent this blizzard week-end watching holiday movies. Each flick had a crazy cast of characters aiming for a perfect Christmas but facing mounting conflict in that pursuit. Through a series of zany escapades and a healthy dose of miracles provided by the nebulous “spirit of Christmas” they all wound up with the perfect Christmas moment where everything falls into place, all family faults were forgiven as endearing quirks and life appeared to bear at least the promise of a happily ever after.

That’s Hollywood’s version of Christmas, better known as Xmas, which has gotten all confused with a celebration of the birth of Christ. Fed on a steady diet of these films with a side salad of department store music, TV commercials and Christmas newsletters, many of us are built up through December for a great crescendo of disappointment when we greet the bracing reality of our Christmas day. As with any glorified concoction of tinsel town, it’s wise to go to the original source for a proper understanding of the actual events being celebrated this coming week.

The first Christmas had little to do with human perfection.

For instance, you may or may not have noticed a preponderance of women named Mary in the four gospels. Mary means “bitter” and the Jewish people were living under the oppressive iron rule of the Romans. Naming their daughters Mary was a way of crying out to God for deliverance. These were imperfect times for God’s chosen people.

We have a window into the sort of mayhem this oppression brought into the lives of the Jews as we see Joseph and Mary forced to travel, her great with child, to an overcrowded Bethlehem, everyone so busy with the to-do that no one could be troubled to make room for a young couple welcoming their first child.

The Romans taxed the people without mercy utilizing Jewish tax collectors who often exacted more than what was required to line their own pockets. Joseph was a carpenter and probably worked hard but when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice for him, they presented a pair of doves (or two young pigeons). A glance at Leviticus 12:8 shows us that if a mother cannot afford a lamb, she may bring two doves or two young pigeons as a sacrifice for her new son. God chose to send His only son to an oppressed, embittered people into a home that couldn’t afford a lamb for the sacrifice on his behalf.

Human life was of so little value at that time that King Herod, threatened by the news that a new king had been born, ordered all the babies in Bethlehem, two years and younger, to be slaughtered. So for years to come, I imagine the anniversary of Jesus’ birth was a time of weeping and grief for those whose infants were torn from their arms and put to the sword at the whim of a ruler fearing for his throne.

Not so perfect, the actual history of what we say we are remembering this week.

The movies I watched said “Christmas is about family” but the first family was separated from theirs. The movies said “Christmas is for children” but the smallest ones suffered at the first anniversaries of Jesus’ birth. The movies said “Christmas is for romance” but there’s not much romance to be had in a cold stable. The movies I watched said “Christmas is about sharing and having enough” but there was no sharing of warmth and shelter for the baby Jesus and there were many who did not have enough.

But in 2009, we drive ourselves to distraction to set the perfect table beside the perfect tree to be shared for the perfect time with a perfect family to honor the birth of One whose coming was made necessary by our inability to achieve perfection on our own.

Get it?

We do long for perfection but it’s a longing God placed in our hearts to drive us to Himself. The birth of Jesus is His way of saying – you’re not ever going to become perfect through your own efforts – I know that and I love you anyway.

The story of Jesus’ birth is messy – there’s nothing perfect about mangers, stables, innkeepers, soldiers, shepherds, angry kings, slaughtered babies, and furtive escapes to Egypt. There’s nothing perfect about oppression, taxes, bitter cries for deliverance, Pharisees, moneychangers and fisherman. It’s a big imperfect mess except for the One who entered the scene one night in Bethlehem.

Hebrews says that Jesus is “the author and perfecter of our faith.” He is the perfecter – not us – Him.

When things around you are imperfect this Christmas, smile and nod and say “Yes!” I get it. I agree. We need you. I am so glad You love us anyway. I am imperfect. Those I love are imperfect. I’ve tried, but I cannot make things perfect. You are the One who makes things perfect. I am so glad You came.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” Isaiah 61: 1-2a

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    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    So right on again, Lori.
    Thought provoking, informative, and written with your usual easy prose.
    I will re-share.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So the more imperfect my Christmas, the more I’m celebrating the original Christmas…I like this thought. Like, it’s almost an insult to have a “perfect” Christmas. This is cheering somehow!MB

  3. That’s what I’m telling myself, MaryBeth! 🙂

    Thank you, Jlo! LOVE your blog, BTW.

  4. Cheri says:

    You said: “The first Christmas had little to do with human perfection.”

    You are so right! I just got an email Christmas message that talked about how not only is Jesus the reason for the season, but we are the reason for the season. In other words, if humans were not sinful and imperfect by their very nature, there would have been no need for Christ to come at all.

    Very comforting post, Lori! Whether we get every gift bought or each decoration in its proper place, if we spend time with Him and with those He has given us to love… it doesn’t get any more “perfect” than that. I mean “perfect” as in “complete and fulfilling,” as opposed to a mistake-free. (Because lets face it, if we are spending lots of time with lots of folks, mistakes are inevitable, because none of us are perfect!)

    Have a Merry Christmas,

  5. We’ll have to have coffee someday, Cheri. How fun that God let us meet on-line!

    Thank you for stopping in. I hope your Christmas time with your family is full of Christ.

  6. Cheri says:

    I pray the same for you, Lori!

    God bless,

    PS – Coffee sounds wonderful! If we can’t do it this side of heaven, it’s a date the day after we get “home”! =)

  7. Living Water says:

    Your writing is always a blessing! Thank you for this thought inspiring message. God bless you, and have a blessed Christmas.

  8. Thank you, Ed! God bless your Christmas.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this Lori! We finished shopping & wrapping a few days ago (nice new thing I’m hoping becomes a habit!!) but it’s left me a little directionless in terms of Christmas. Thanks for slowing me down and showing me the way! May I look to the imperfect as great reminders of Who I need to be perfect for me, and that I would be better at slowing down for Him.