The first Christmas was not exactly picture perfect.
There was no room at the inn, no turkey in the oven, no relatives there to celebrate, no warm fireplace with s’mores and hot chocolate. There were no birthday presents for the child Jesus, no special cake. The location was not prepared or decorated — and yet it was the perfect Christmas because Christ was there and at the center of everything.
God already gave us the perfect gift of His son.
Looking back on my own Christmas experiences, I can’t tell you what meal my mom and dad typically prepared. I am not even going to try to remember if I was happy with the presents received, or if there was “packable” snow to make snowmen or build snow forts — or “skate-able” ice to play pond hockey with my buddies.
My mom spent more time preparing her heart for Christmas than our house, and although our tree was impressive and the wreathes and lights carefully placed, she brought the joy and meaning of the season with her mere presence. What mattered was spending Christmas Eve with all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins and enjoying this reality of “family” and seeing everyone get along.
What mattered was driving around our neighborhood to inspect all of the “luminaries” we had distributed earlier that day (small bags, filled with a little sand and a candle, symbolizing the light of Christ that had just arrived to a dark world).
What mattered was waking up early Christmas morning and yes, finding a stack of presents, but more importantly, a mom and dad who were there to watch with such joy and peace on their faces. What most mattered was going to Mass with my family on Christmas Day, and receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist.
There is no such thing as a “perfect Christmas.” Cookies will be burned, kids will be disappointed with at least one of their presents, the weather may not cooperate — and someone may get sick or be in a bad mood.
So … calm down, relax, and don’t expect everyone else to play their assigned Hallmark roles.
We need to remember that the perfect Christmas already happened 2,000 years ago — and God already gave us the perfect gift of His son.
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.