And that is when we noticed the problem with our new tree. When we plugged it in, the top section didn’t light up. I plugged it in separately and then it would light, but when properly assembled, the top was dark. I called the number on the packaging and talked with a very friendly and helpful person who told us that it was under warranty and that they would be happy to send us a new top to our tree. I said, “Perfect!” And then he said, “It might take several weeks, however. Since the tree is made in China, we have to contact the manufacturer there and they will have to make a new top.”
So that year we had two cords lighting the tree as we waited for the new top. And we waited.... and waited........... and waited. Finally about 9 months later, a large box arrived from China! The new top had arrived! Once again we stashed the new top up in the attic awaiting the time in November when we would assemble the now fully functioning Christmas tree. When November arrived I unpacked it and was ready to plop the new top on the tree and.......... it didn’t fit. It was the wrong top. So it was back to the dual cords of last year... and this year as well. I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of calling someone once again and waiting for another top. So we have a tree and it’s not perfect but it works well enough for us.
Actually that sounds like a description of what Christmas ends up being for many people today. We have expectations of a wonderful season of the year filled with family time, gifts and celebrations. And to some extent that does happen, but it’s not perfect. There is that gnawing issue with a family member or there is tension in the family that makes a family gathering not quite as festive and joyous as we would like it to be. There is the health problem that still persists even though it’s Christmas. There are still money struggles or job issues that weigh us down and make the first of the year when we go back to the “grind” all that more difficult. The perfect Christmas is much like our perfect Christmas tree. It looks like it is, but in reality there are flaws and problems.
However, that is like the real story of Christmas. Jesus wasn’t born in a warm and cheery Bethlehem hospital or even a warm home. He was born in a cold and damp cave used as a place to keep the animals. He wasn’t laid in a new bassinet but in a feeding trough. The smell around him was not that of freshly cut pine boughs and candles but of manure and sweat. Jesus was born in our real world that is often messy and hard. And that is precisely the point.
Jesus came into our world that was filled with violence, warfare, strife and disease. Jesus was born in this world of sin so that he could take on sin firsthand and defeat it. Jesus was born as a human being so that as a human being, he could rescue us and ultimately redeem us from this sin-stained world.
That is the real story or Christmas. It’s not being able to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” It isn’t having the perfect world of joy and peace. Jesus came to redeem us from the reality around us that often is dark, dank and smelly. But thanks be to God! He did it and we can look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, complete with whole and resurrected bodies. That is the perfection we long for and will someday have because of what Jesus did on that very first Christmas.