Rector's Blog: Your Perfect Christmas
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My wife has this custom of hanging all the Christmas cards we get by clothespins on a line that is draped across the wall of our dining room. Throughout this season we eat our meals surrounded by our friends and family. I love it.
This year I have two favorite cards – they are pictures of wedding parties inside our church. I officiated both these weddings, and both were absolute highlights of my career.
The first wedding had too many people. The wedding couple kept telling us not everyone was going to show up, that they wouldn’t be overcrowded. It’s possible they actually believed this. It’s also possible they said what they needed to say to get away with having too many people at their wedding. We will never know. We had too many people and too many moving parts and new wedding coordinators and I was splitting duties with a Roman Catholic priest who told me he was allowed to be there don’t worry about it. It was pouring that day, and everyone was late. Somehow the wedding started on time.
There were several toddlers who toddled around the sanctuary throughout the service. During my homily, one of them just got up and walked up to me, then, walked over to the groom and plopped down on his lap. Because there were so many people, the back wall was lined with standing guests. Someone leaned on the light switch and the whole room went dark – also during my homily. At first, we thought there was an outage because it was raining so hard and the houses around the church had already lost power. But nope, it was a wedding guest. They did this twice.
Nothing should have worked out. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I can remember. Perfect.
The day of the second wedding, someone hung the bride’s dress on the fire sprinkler in the hotel room where she was getting ready for pictures. Yes. You can guess what I’m about to tell you. Hanging the dress triggered the sprinkler system, and water sprayed everywhere. The first water that bursts out of these sprinklers is dark and dirty. The room was flooded. The fire alarm in the whole hotel was set off. Erstwhile groomsmen rushed in, found the wedding rings, and rescued the bride’s dress while it was still merely soaked and soiled, but somehow not ruined. They sent it out for same-day cleaning and postponed most of the photos.
The wedding party showed up late, as you might expect. I took a deep breath and boarded the party bus to make eye contact with the bride. Sidenote: Everyone gets party buses now. They did not have these when I got married. They are cool and I am jealous. So anyway, I got on the bus, and there sat the bride in her stunning dress, without a stain or blemish. I sat down across from her, and we just looked at each other and breathed. “You made it,” I said. “I made it,” she said. What a wonderful, strong, amazing human. We started that one on time too. God is good, and our wedding liaisons are amazing.
When the bride walked down the aisle, I still could not believe it. One of the most beautiful weddings I can remember. Perfect.
After each of these services, while the guests were heading off to the reception, the families gathered around the newlyweds at the front of the church to pose for the pictures that would eventually become Christmas cards and hang on the line in my Dining Room, surrounding my family with love.
Everyone in the pictures looks euphoric. Nothing in their faces betrays the stories I just shared with you. They just…seem like happy people – which they are. Because the wedding happened. They got married. It didn’t matter what could have or should have or might have happened. It didn’t matter what went wrong. Two people stood up in front of God and all their loved ones and said Yes to one another. Forever Yes, unconditional Yes, I’m all in Yes. This was the power of the day.
Neither day was flawless. Both of them were perfect. Perfect.
As you are reading this, Christmas is about to happen. And you are probably anxious about at least one thing, probably several. Some of your anxiety is obvious and conscious and articulable: You still have shopping to do, your house is a mess, people are coming over, what will you wear, how will you cook everything and wrap everything? Some of what you’re feeling is inexpressible but just as palpable: Sheer anxiety shooting through your subconscious, silently running the numbers on all the ways things could go wrong.
I wish you could see the cards hanging in my Dining Room. I wish you could hold in your heart just how beautiful things can be on the day that things go wrong, when they are chaotic beyond imagination.
I am giving you permission to screw up this Christmas. I am giving you permission to overcook something. Or undercook it. Or both. Break a plate. Stain something irreparably. Bring up politics even though everyone knows you should NOT BRING UP POLITICS. You can be too cranky or get the wrong gift. You can disappoint yourself, and you can even disappoint someone else. I know you don’t want any of these things. I know this. It’s not like you’re trying to screw up. You want to get it right and I want you to get it right. And also, even if you do all the wrong things, God is showing up.
I want to invite you to make love the center of your Christmas. Not flawlessness: Love. Not met expectations: Love. Not simplicity: Love. Not idealism: Love.
You are going to screw something up this weekend. Screw it up with a heart full of love.
Because Christmas is not about what you get right, and it’s not about what you get wrong. Christmas is God’s Yes to you. Forever Yes, unconditional Yes, all in Yes. This is the power of the day. It is not your job to make the day flawless. It is your job to take a breath see the Love, and say, “I made it.” You are so loved. Perfection is yours. Merry Christmas.
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