On behalf of The Harvard Ichthus, Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Today, on this annual celebratory day symbolizing the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the celebrations I’ve witnessed of the birth of humanity’s salvation and promise to eternal life have ironically been anxious and frenzied—swept up in a tidal wave of restless perfectionism driving towards despondent cliffs.
Since the holiday season began, the people in my immediate sphere of existence have redoubled their efforts to top one another in creating bliss in each other’s lives, to the point of suffocating real peace and joy in the pursuit of holiday perfection at the most microscopic detail.
I saw it in myself, when I told my little sisters that the comedic Christmas play we were putting on for our parents had to be perfect. We must be as professional as possible and not let out as much as a giggle at our own jokes. I demanded so much precision from the three of us that we ended up nervous and scared about performing and messing up in front of our own parents. I also spent the days leading up to Christmas making a small blanket for my toddler sister. The tedious process by hand—tracing out squares, cutting up fabric, threading the needle, tying the knot, sewing a straight line, and repeat—sent me straight into a grumpy mood after the second day, when the excitement wore off. I even told my family that no, I couldn’t go out with them because I was too busy making the perfect Christmas gift. The frenzy of having everything done exactly right took over my head, hands, and feet until I realized that I was declining a warm, laid-back Christmas with my family for a seasonal addiction to frantic perfectionism.
I wonder if many of us are so busy preparing for the holiday that we let the holiday slip by us.
I had been taking the preparations too seriously. I was acting like the figure Martha represents in the story of Luke 10:38-41, and could only see the preparations that had to be made for the purpose of satisfying every wish on the Christmas list. I had the must-get-that-perfect-gift-or-else-I-will-fail-my-sister mentality towards Christmas cheer. I realized that I had been “anxious and troubled about many things” and that I had missed the “one thing which is needed,” which is far better than all the checked-off Christmas lists in the world combined.
Christ is that one thing which is needed and which is better. Our infant Redeemer was laid in a stall for fodder on Christmas day two thousand years ago, the very event we are supposed to be commemorating today. So, if our focus should be on Him at His lowly birth, perhaps we ought not to be overburdened with worries over how perfect the decorations are or how manifold the presents.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t plan for Christmas, and I’m definitely not saying that anyone who spends time thoughtfully picking out the right presents should feel like a terrible, guilt-stricken person who has totally missed the point. But sometimes we go too far. And by the time we approach Christ, we are utterly exhausted and petered out. It is then—in the midst of the blur of preparations and the desire for the perfect Christmas—that we may hear Christ’s gentle reprimand when he says, “Martha, Martha…only one thing is needed,” and realize that we need to constantly evaluate what we are cherishing and what we are giving up.
Finally, when we are done preparing for the celebration, let us not forget to celebrate, and worship the Reason for which Christmas exists at all.