I always have visions of a “perfect” Christmas season.
This would entail mysterious packages wrapped in brown paper tied with colored cotton string, and hand-stamped with red sleigh-bells and white snowflakes that I myself had skillfully carved from a raw potato. There would be a colossal, crooked, fragrant fir tree bedecked with white lights, candy canes, homemade frosted gingerbread men and hand-strung cranberries and popcorn.
Sprigs of fresh holly, boughs of pine, pine-cones and white beeswax candles would adorn every room. All plastic items, contraptions powered by batteries, and ribbons of synthetic-flocked-velvet would be thrust into outer darkness. Also, there would be no junk mail, no school papers, no homeless items anywhere. A place for everything and everything in its place.
We would do daily advent devotions by candlelight whilst wearing coordinating clothing of natural fabrics crafted in a style best described as “contemporary Victorian.”
The house would smell of pumpkin pie, spiced cider and nut breads. The sounds of instrumental Christmas carols would play endlessly in the background: oboe, violin, harp and wooden flute tootling softly through the hymnal.
Everyone would be happy, and full of secrets. There would be whispering and laughter and hustled tidying each time someone entered a room. One evening, we would pack up large cookie trays and song books, don long woolen coats, and go door to door through the neighborhood, singing of Christmas in four parts and delivering delicious baked goods up and down the street.
There would always be a fire in the fireplace and cardinals would flutter festively outside our windows, nibbling at homemade bird-feeders we would have hung from the beautiful bare trees.
At the end of each day
I would take a clove-scented bath
in a tub surrounded by candles
while listening to “Ave Maria.”
That is the vision.
Reality is busy schedules, cheap pizza, hectic shopping trips to overcrowded malls... or worse (and even more likely): Wal-Mart. Reality is chintzy wrapping paper, hastily taped over boxes at 1 a.m. Christmas Eve (if we can find boxes; sometimes the wrapping paper is taped directly to the gift). Reality is messy life, lack of time, and fallible humans who sometimes rub each other the wrong way despite the best of intentions. Reality is snacking on wheat crackers and spreadable cheese from Aldi when there wasn’t time to make supper.
But hey. Aldi has delicious wheat crackers and very decent spreadable cheese. And if we are together at the table, perhaps with one of our favorite family games, and the gas fireplace is humming away while the lights glisten on a kitchy but lovable Christmas tree, it is still a good Christmas.
When Jesus takes us to heaven, we will experience perfection. For now, we can just enjoy what we have, all the imperfections and short-cuts and even the sour notes. Because this is life, and the asymmetry of it leads us to Jesus, and that is something to celebrate.