There are many things I love about this time of year. One of them is getting Christmas cards from friends both near and far. It’s a way of connecting with people we don’t often get to see face to face. And sometimes those cards and their messages provide inspiration! My favourite verse on a card this Christmas, probably because it sounds so much like my own home, says this:
From our messy, jolly chaotic
Shopping half done, halls half decked
Perfectly imperfect, unorganized
Maybe next year we’ll start earlier
Warm happy house to yours.
Sound familiar? The line that stands out the most for me is “perfectly imperfect” Doesn’t that sum up the Christmas story and really all of us really. Perfectly imperfect. After all the first Christmas was many of those things. Messy, chaotic, jolly – maybe behind schedule. The Magi don’t arrive for weeks after Jesus is born. The first Christmas was not like any of the Christmas cards we see today.
There is nothing peaceful about child birth. There is nothing joyful about sleeping in a stable – except that its better than being outdoors. The peace comes after the chaos and the birthing pains. The peace comes when the baby is laid in your arms for the first time and nothing else matters. It is perfectly imperfect.
The mess starts before arriving at the stables. Mary and Joseph are betrothed – and those days that was a good as being married. Mary and Joseph were both young. Early on, Matthews gospel tells us that Joseph hears the news about Mary having a baby and plans to get dismiss her. But then God steps in – right into Joseph’s dreams. Hang on Joseph. Don’t move too fast. God says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is form the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people form their sins.” …When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; het took her as his wife.” (Matthew 1:20 – 22, 24) Perfectly imperfect.
Mary’s story is told in Luke. The angel appears. “Don’t be afraid! God chooses you.” “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. And even though she was filled with fear, Mary says yes. Perfectly imperfect.
The journey is not easy. Mary and Joseph must make their way to Bethlehem along so many others to be registered. When they get there they try to find a place to stay. Door after door closes until one innkeeper offers them the stable. I’ve often wondered what inspired that innkeeper to give them a safe place for a child to be born. The city was filled with people. There were probably lots of other people who needed a place to stay but he offered it to Mary and Joseph. I know we often think of the stable as lowly but in a time with no central heating or insulation, the stable was probably one of the warmest places to be. Perfectly imperfect.
The shepherds just outside of town were doing what they always did. Trying to keep from drifting off to sleep. Someone had to keep the sheep safe from wolves and other predators. When the sky fills with light and angels. Their knees were shacking. Nothing like this had every happened before. First one then dozens on angels sing “Don’t be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. …Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” (Luke 2:10 – 12, 14) When the angels left and their hearts stopped pounding and their knees stopped shaking, they go to Bethlehem to see the baby and they find it just as they angels said. Perfectly imperfect.
The miracle of Christmas is not just that Jesus was born but that God uses perfectly imperfect people like you and like me to make it happen. God comes to us in the most fragile and miraculous was – as a baby who relies totally on others to survive. And somehow on that first Christmas Eve, everything worked out. Joseph stayed. Mary said yes. The innkeeper offered the stable. The shepherds came. All this so God could show us a love like no other. The miracle lives on today. It is found in all of us perfectly imperfect people leading our ordinary lives trying our best to share that love with others so that those Christmas miracles can happen all year round. Perfectly Imperfect. Amen.