The nativity scene that sits on my hearth is a mess. Someone has moved all the people around. The stable is leaning against the fireplace. Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus are out in the field with the shepherds, and the only person in the stable is a wise man. It looks less like the scene of Jesus' birth and more like a crowd at a baseball game. It's definitely not the perfect nativity scene.
So much of what we do in this season leading up to Christmas is based on a quest for perfection. We want our kids to have the "perfect" Christmas, so we run around looking for the toys that they want. We bake yummy food. We place the perfect bows on carefully wrapped packages despite the fact that paper is going to last all of five seconds on Christmas morning.
And when something interrupts our quest for perfection, we get frustrated. Sometimes we act like a change in plans or a gift we couldn't find is going to be the end of the "perfect" Christmas. We can get so caught up in our pursuit of perfection that we lose sight of the fact that God already created the perfect Christmas.
God's perfect Christmas included a smelly stable, a pregnant teenage bride, burial spices for gifts, and a bunch of shepherds who came uninvited to the party. Think about that. All the trappings of Christmas -- the tree, the presents, the bows -- weren't at the first Christmas. Instead, we find a young bride giving birth in a stable, a bunch of angels singing in the field, and a group of shepherds who showed up to worship.
The trappings of Christmas are fun. Traditions are important. But if all that stuff is pulling us away from being able to focus on the perfection of that first Christmas, if the cookie baking, the shopping and the get-togethers are taking our focus away from the day that God sent His perfect son to earth, then we need to change our focus.
Because our kids don't need the perfect Christmas. They don't need the perfect gift, the perfect meal, the perfect tree. Our kids need a perfect God. They needed a perfect sacrifice on the cross. They need to know that more than 2,000 years ago, God gave us the perfect gift -- a baby born in a stable who would grow up to save the world.
We can't top the perfection of that night so many years ago, and we need to stop trying. Instead, we need to turn our focus to praising God and thanking Him for His perfect plan, His perfect gift. Because if that's not the focus of our Christmas, then we're missing the point.