It’s 11:something pm. I’m sitting in the corner of the living room where there normally isn’t a chair. The Christmas tree now occupies the corner of the room where this chair usually resides. So here I sit in the seasonal sitting corner giving the tree a hard stare from about 10 ft away. It’s one of the finer trees we’ve had as a family. Meredith selected this one. I wasn’t sure at first. It seemed to have a slight hook to the trunk when we spied it among the rows of pre-cut trees. She was right though. It’s a real beaut. We joke that it’s the perfect tree. Even though it’s not perfect. Like most evergreens that find their way into your home for about 4 weeks, this tree has a good side. Or should I say, a best side. Which is the side we have facing out toward the living room. From pretty much every angle, this tree is a real looker. But if you sit where I’m sitting you’ll see that this tree has some secrets. One side isn’t shaped quite as cleanly as the other. So we tucked this side around the back, facing the corner. Because who wants to see that side?
It’s like the Christmas tree on display near our office downtown. There’s this cascading window in the vacant 3rd and 4th floors of the building next door, kind of like a waterfall. Each year they place an artificial tree in the window and light it up. From the street it’s pretty convincing. The buildings on our block are all one unit now, old structures that were seamed together in an effort to redevelop what were decaying remnants of history. So we can investigate by taking a short walk through the hallways that lead next door. Which Kaylyn, an employee at my agency, did. She loves Christmastime the most out of any of us, I think. So she was shocked to find that this tree, like all Christmas trees, kept its own secret. It’s not really a full tree. There’s barely a backside. Just a full front filled with lights. Upon encountering this bombshell Kaylyn exclaimed, “Christmas is ruined!”
Christmas isn’t ruined, Kaylyn. (Which she already knows. She has a good sense of humor.)
Like most things, it’s all about what you expect. And many of us are expecting perfection. There’s something about Christmas that pulls it out of us. Perhaps it’s the sentiment of the season, the memories of Christmas’ passed. There’s a certain perfection they achieve in our minds, like everything was right in the world if for only a few days. Which is very Christmas if you think about it. A world in darkness, interrupted by light in the strangest and unlikely of ways. Not really what anyone was expecting, except for a few, and it seems they didn’t fully understand what it meant. Hardly perfect. But somehow it changes the way we see things.
Could it be true, that there’s hope for us yet? That perfection could be found in the least perfect setting? That you don’t have to face the world with your “good side” and push what’s left of you, which is most everything, into the corner in hopes no one will notice?
It doesn’t matter who you are and whether you believe in Christmas according to its origin story. It’s apparent that despite our best intentions we still struggle to be okay with who we are and why we’re here. We deal with heaviness and trials. We take it out on each other. We take it out on ourselves. We often carry it alone. Because that’s what we think we’re supposed to do. Because we’re not sure others want to see the whole thing. Because we’re afraid of what they would do if they did.
Christmas is a reminder that things aren’t always as they seem. The perfect can be exposed as flawed. Humility can be the beginning of something new. Which can mean beautiful things are already underway. They just might not look like you expected them to.
And that’s perfectly okay.