Rather than thinking of sugar plums at Christmas, I often conjur visions of perfection in my head: the perfect card, sent to all our friends right after Thanksgiving, the perfect tree, perfect caroling and perfectly behaved children.
Then I wake up.
It’s Christmas week, school is out, relatives are in town and my shopping is not done. My cards are not out, my house is not clean, and I am feeling undone.
Our 7- year-old son Robert’s three different new Star Wars Lego sets, purchased by his grandparents last night, contain a total of 2,735 pieces. This adds to my feeling of being overwhelmed. Less than six hours after the purchase, Mace WinduTM’s purple lightsaber was lost. There was much sorrow and gnashing of teeth. I then gave up and went to bed. Robert convinced that everything turns up eventually, recovered.
Christmas, the time of Jesus’ birth, of celebration and thanks, is also a time of overextending, both physically and financially. You want to go to all the parties and events, get everyone the right presents and make your sweet next door neighbor homemade cookies, at least I do.
A reflection on the first Christmas provides me with a bit of perspective.
Mary, Joseph’s wife, had become pregnant while they were betrothed, before they were married. And not by Joseph. Hmmm. This meant the marriage might be off. But after seeing an angel in a dream, Joseph decided to go ahead and marry Mary.
Afterward, while Mary was very pregnant, they traveled to Bethlehem to comply with the king’s decree. Joseph walked and Mary rode on a donkey – no first-class upgrade for them.
So that first Christmas included a newly married couple, under the stress and strain of pregnancy, and travel. To make it worse, once they arrived in Bethlehem, they tried to find room in an inn – but there was no room. So Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable and laid him in a manger. For those of us who have labored through giving birth in modern days, this normally means in a hospital with an epidural, a far cry from a stable with sheep.
This first Christmas was far from perfection. Mary and Joseph did the best they could, with what they had. Not silk sheets or satin covers, but straw and hay.