Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
This year I let my daughter, Molly, help set up our Christmas Village at home. Needless to say, she thought it was awesome. About an hour into our creative masterpiece, after several comments from me on how things are supposed to go, Molly had an epiphany…
“I get it, Daddy!” she shouted. “You want it to be perfect!”
“Yes,” I shouted back with a beaming smile and a tear in the corner of my eye, “You get it! It has to be perfect!”
We continued setting things up for hours. (By the end I think Molly was most excited about staying up hours later than her sister.) As we stepped back from the scene, I hugged her and she hugged me.
Then, she said, “Daddy, It’s perfect.”
And I said, “It sure is.” (I wasn’t talking about the village.)
Well, in our house perfect moments are just that: moments. The next morning Delaney came downstairs and bee lined it for the village. She was careful and gentle, but staunchly refused to accept that she couldn’t touch the miniature people – especially Santa. Before our pot of coffee was finished brewing, our perfect village was in disarray. The poulterer was in front of the church and the pastor was in front of the tavern (hold your jokes). The kids were playing in the streets, trees were toppled over, and people once meticulously placed were now crowded together without any rhyme or reason. The village was no longer perfect. It was sort of messy, chaotic and cluttered.
Which I only share in order to say, we are going to spend a lot of time in the next few weeks trying to make things perfect. We will seek the perfect present for that person we love. We will attempt to make the perfect meal. We will hope to decorate our houses elegantly and expertly. We will spend hours, if not days, worrying about whether or not travel plans will work out the way they’re supposed to or if our other plans will develop the way we want them to.
And in the end, while there may be moments of near perfection, on the whole, life is more likely to be somewhat messy, chaotic and cluttered. Things will be out of place and we may feel knocked over. We will lament how life just isn’t turning out the way it’s supposed to. This, however, is not cause for concern. This is just the way things go. Our place in history is post-Garden of Eden (when life was perfect) and pre-New Jerusalem (when life will be perfect again). Caught in this “meantime” our hope is not for a perfect world, but rather, for God’s presence in spite of the cluttered mess all around us. And that – that is the joy of Christmas:
Love entering a world that said it had “no room.”
Peace entering hearts that trembled with fear.
Hope grasping the lives of the desperate and destitute.
Imagine for a moment being in that stable all those years ago. I’m sure it was not quite how Mary and Joseph thought life was supposed to go. And yet, I firmly believe that they stood there in that mess, looked at the Christ-child right there in the midst of it and exclaimed:
May you find moments of perfection in the places you least expect and at times when it seems impossible. May you see the gracious hand of God at work in this broken world. And may you encounter Christ each and every day as Mary and Joseph encountered him in the stable – right in the midst of our mess. And may we come to redefine perfect as no longer merely neat and orderly, but rather as times of love, peace, and hope.
Blessed Advent, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
Your Friend and Pastor
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.