Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Finding Christmas: When Life is Less than Perfect

The photo I used yesterday was from last year. In that photo, there are three purple candles to represent prophecy/hope, Bethlehem/preparation, and angels/love. There's a pink candle to represent shepherds/joy, and a central white candle to represent Christ.

I bought a supply of advent candles several years ago. It seemed never-ending. It wasn't. Yesterday, I scurried around, trying to find advent candles, but there were none to find. It was raining far too hard to make a trip to town for three candles, so I decided to make do with what I had on hand.

It's the meaning behind the candles that's important, not their color, right?

After scouring the house, my search yielded two green candles, one slightly crooked maroon one, an overly tall pink candle, and a shorter white candle. It was a motley assortment, and a little jarring. 

Those three wrong-colored candles were not part of my plan. I wanted a perfect advent wreath with perfect advent candles. Perfectly-colored candles. There was no room for green or maroon in my advent wreath.

No room for imperfection in my Christmas plan.

Therein lies a significant problem. The quest for perfection. We want to create the perfect holiday. Be the perfect man or woman. The perfect hostess. The perfect gift-giver. The perfect... you fill in the blank.

There is only One who is perfect, and He is God, Himself.

The rest of us are to strive for perfection, but guess what? We are not going to make it. Not until we reach our heavenly home.

This side of heaven, we accept imperfection in ourselves and the world around us because The God who loves us accepts imperfection in us first. He takes our imperfection, covers it with the blood of Jesus, and makes us perfect in His sight.

That blood-of-Jesus perfection is the only perfection we're going to have, so we might as well stop this foolishness and thank God for the grace and mercy He's given us. 

For years, I was obsessed with Matthew 5:48: "Therefore, you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." I read "perfect" and thought flawless. Do you know how hard it is to be flawless? It's impossible. It leaves you constantly discouraged, constantly feeling like a failure, no matter the success you find. 

The word translated as "perfect" is teleios and it means "complete, mature", not flawless. I have a note in my Bible by this verse that says, "Grow up, Leanna, and act like Jesus." It's not a very churchy interpretation, but there's truth in those words.

When we mature in Christ, we strive to emulate Him in everything we do. We cherish what matters and let go of what doesn't. 

Does God care about the color of the candles in my advent wreath? Certainly not. He cares about the hope, love, and joy in my heart those candles represent. He cares about the preparation to receive all of Christ He longs for me to have. He cares about Christ in me, my hope of eternity. 

As you've already guessed, I laid aside my need for "perfection" and embraced my need for maturity, instead. I used the mismatched candles. It looked ridiculous to me, but I lit the first green candle last night and thanked God for the hope Christ bought on the cross. I read an advent devotional and the words were exactly what I needed. I had church at my table, and the green candle didn't hamper that at all.

This year, let's embrace maturity, rather than a perfection we will never achieve. 

Forget the world's definition of a perfect holiday and remember that God sent an angelic choir to announce His grand holiday to dirty, smelly shepherds in a pasture. He demonstrated the first perfect Christmas celebration in a barn with a baby wrapped in rags, lying in a stone manger filled with hay. The only Christmas light was one bright, shining star.

This year, let's grow up and celebrate like Jesus, who gathered sinners around Him and loved them all the way to the cross. Sinners just like us.
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Grateful Heart: Blessing of PositionGrateful Heart: Wonder PickleGrateful Heart: FamilyBeginning the Advent JourneyFinding Christmas: The Best Advent of AllFinding Christmas: Something Better than Stuff, and Finding Christmas: Setting a Goal.

The most read post of the last week: Grateful Heart: Family.

If you're looking for an Advent devotional, you can find The Road to Bethlehem on Amazon here.
#Advent #Iamnotperfect #perfectholiday #mature #maturity #actlikeJesus #disciple #JesusChrist