Many of us have put up our Christmas tree by this point in the Advent season. We’ve wrestled it from the woods or our basements, matched color-coded branches or poured water in the stand, strung up the lights, and added a touch of festive to the mediocre green and brown.
I have walked past my own Christmas tree multiple times a day for over a week now. Every day I stop for a moment by the tree and consider “fixing” it. The Root of Jesse sign is knocked slightly to the left without a supporting branch in sight. In several locations, there are three ornaments on a single branch. There is one section of the lights that is clumped together weirdly, so as to cause momentary blindness if you look directly at them, and you would be hard pressed to find a single ornament on the top third of the tree. Every day I walk away without “fixing” a single thing.
My eight-year-old decorated that tree with her whole heart, and in doing so she taught me a lesson:
Christ came to dwell with us in the imperfection.
This is the message of grace at Christmastime.
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:5).
The world is imperfect. I look around at my tree ornaments and I see other reminders of this imperfect place I live—a pink ornament I made to remember my friend Melissa, who lost her battle with breast cancer last year; a ceramic Joseph and his colorful coat in which Joseph is missing a foot; a church with a crooked cross on its roof; another ornament that declares me a fantastic pastor's wife, with a very noticeable hairline crack down the middle. That seems about right.
And yet, my tree, with its bare spots and clustered clumps of beauty, is perfectly perfect. It was decorated in love and joy. From my eight-year-old’s perspective, there is not a single thing out of place.
God looks at us in Christ and He sees perfect in our imperfect world. He sees a place where He is present and doing His work. Because we live in an imperfect world, there is room for Christ’s grace. Because we live in an imperfect home, there is room for Christ’s mercy. Because we have an imperfect family, there is room for forgiveness and restoration.
Christ came as an infant on a dark night in a dark cave to save us from darkness. He treasured the imperfect places, the imperfect people enough to come among us, to dwell with us, to know us and be known by us, to cry with us, and to laugh with us. He showers His grace in the most unlikely of moments, and what we see as imperfect, He makes perfectly beautiful in His time.
As much as I’d like to have the department store tree with matching globes and ribbons dangling, that is not my reality (in more ways than one).
This year, I invite you to embrace the imperfect in some small way, so that you can see the grace of Christ in that imperfection. Leave a hole in the tree decorations, take one bulb out of the lights on the house, use that tablecloth with a small stain, let the children rough up the advent wreath. Use these seemingly silly imperfections to reflect on what Christ is doing in the imperfections of life. Share with your children and your spouse that Christ came into this imperfect world for them, and while days and people and families are imperfect, He gives us His very perfect redemption. We are given the opportunity to live life in the fullness of all He is and all He has done for us! While our reality is that we exist in the now and the not yet—the perfectly imperfect—this time between Christ’s coming in the manger and His coming on the clouds to gather us to Him is priceless in its imperfection.
This Christmas, when we see the imperfect, because of Christ, we can also see His grace.