The Perfect Christmas

On my hearth, there is a mis-matched nativity scene. It includes four wise men of various sizes, two shepherds, two Marys, one baby Jesus, a Renaissance girl carrying a turkey and a basket of grapes (where did she come from?), a horse, a cow, and a sheep. There is no Joseph. I’ve decided he must be at the store getting diapers.


Behind the little group rests several porcelain snow-capped houses with chimneys and a tiny snow-capped church, with a sign that reads, “Christmas Service, 12:00 a.m.” At the moment, the angel Gabriel is resting on top of one of the chimneys. Perhaps he’s waiting for Santa.

As I watch my son maneuver this little crew, I can’t help but chuckle at his imagination. “Look, Mom. They’re having a party!” or “Mom, they make a village!”

Indeed, they do.

For years, I’ve collected nativity scenes. Each Christmas, I pull out these replicas of the first Christmas and display them around my house. I have big ones, medium-sized ones, and microscopic ones. I have nativity scenes from Mexico, Europe, India, Equador, Africa, and more than I can count which were made in Hong Kong. Some are humorous, such as the snowman nativity scene displayed in my entryway. Some are colorful, some plain. Some have elaborate detail, others are simple.

I’ve lost count of how many of these scenes I have. Last time I counted, it was in the fifties. But it never fails. Every year, somebody breaks or gets lost. And every year, when it’s time to put away the holiday decorations, new figures are added to the large zip-lock bag that holds the hodge-podge scenes.

Each of the other scenes has one thing in common: they’re perfect, complete replicas of the perfect, complete first Christmas. Although, one could argue that any time a newborn rests in the hay alongside farm animals, the scene is far from perfect. But that’s another story altogether.

The scenes remind me of pictures I see displayed on Christmas cards. You know the ones –  the entire family gathered round the tree, fire blazing in the background. Everyone is smiling and laughing. Children are behaving. The dog sleeps cozily by the fireplace.

The perfect Christmas.

Over the years, as guests have commented on my collection, I’ve been asked, “Which is your favorite?”

I’ve never been able to choose. Each is unique and beautiful. Each adds a variety to the collection that I wouldn’t want to do without. But this year, I’ve finally decided on one which, in my mind, reflects the true spirit of Christmas.

It’s that little mismatched scene on my hearth. The only imperfect one in the bunch. The one that best represents reality.

Yeah, sure, we’d all like to have a perfect Christmas. We’d all like to have each of our loved ones together with us, healthy and strong and happy. We’d like to sit around a cozy fire with everyone who matters to us, drinking egg-nog and singing carols. That would be pretty close to perfect.

Family Christmas

But that rarely happens. Families get separated by jobs and life circumstances. Loved ones move far away. Sometimes they’re too sick to travel. Sometimes, they’ve passed on before we were ready to say goodbye. And then, our hopes for a perfect Christmas are dashed.

We can either sit at home, sad and lonely, wishing things were different, or we can do what the little figures on my hearth have done. We can gather together, creating a family from whoever wants to join. We can love the people we’re with. We can laugh and sing and celebrate, knowing that even though things aren’t perfect, one thing will never, ever change: God’s love for us.

Christmas isn’t about having everything perfect. It’s about the One who is perfect. It’s about a holy, sinless God, loving us in spite of our flaws, in spite of our missing parts and broken pieces. It’s about Him knowing that we could never travel to Him, so He came to us.

It’s not about perfect circumstances. It’s about perfect love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.

14 Responses to The Perfect Christmas

  1. December 24, 2009 #

    Bravo! Once again, you wrote truth so much better than I could have. I give up. This year I pledge to pry my clenched fingers off my yearly struggle to create the “perfect” Christmas. Jesus already did that over two thousand years ago. The “perfect” Christmas is the Christ-centered one. The one that remembers whose birthday we celebrate and what His gift to us really means. After all, how could we flawed human creatures create perfection anyway?

    Where can I get a mismatched nativity scene?

    Catherine Leggitt
    Author, Editor
    ~~Exploring God’s Mysteries Through Fiction~~
    Visit me at:

  2. December 24, 2009 #

    Thanks, Catherine! I’ve had a lot of fun watching that little nativity scene move around on my hearth. If I add any more “people” to it this year, perhaps I’ll send them to you! 😉

    Hugs, and Merry Christmas!


  3. December 24, 2009 #


    What a beautiful post and a timely reminder.

    May the Lord richly bless you and your family at Christmastime and throughout the coming year.

  4. December 24, 2009 #

    Thank you, Lillie! I pray the same for you. I hope 2010 brings overwhelming blessings to you and your family.



  5. December 24, 2009 #


    This brought tears to my eyes!

    I have to confess that this has been the year when the tree only has lights… no decorations at all! We only have that much done because Billy took the time to put it up one night when I gone to one of the many rehearsals I had for the shows I played this season. The Christmas program at our own church was not near as “sparkly” as last year’s… mostly because we’ve had to deal with a staff member moving on to another church (our worship pastor, who announced this to us in late November… when we were in the heat and heart of rehearsals for the Christmas program, no less!) And then there was Billy’s health to consider… The surprise of having to place a stent in his main artery was not on my Christmas list. Let’s not even mention the fact that my computer crashed, while in the middle of what was going to be a ten week series with my blog. And then my(new) phone died because I was having to rely on it without the computer.

    And yet, God still moved. He made new creations in spite of our failings… and allowed folks to see Him and find Him in the midst of all that could go wrong…and did. There were eight professions of faith at the Christmas program. There have been two decisions made (that I am aware of) from the blog series… And my cat has stayed out of the tree! 🙂

    Needless to say, your post was exactly the kind of Christmas the Lord has been reminding me about this year… It’s not about all of the perfection that we create… but the perfection HE created! The Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us…

    Blessings to you, Mark, and the kiddos!

    Love you!

  6. December 24, 2009 #

    Thank you, Bitsy. I’m praying you and Billy have a blessed Christmas, and more blessings than you can hold in the new year!

    Hugs from your roomie . . .


  7. December 25, 2009 #

    Ah Renae,

    You and yours are on my mind and in my heart this Christmas. Love you all there is and hope to see you soon when i get back to texas.

  8. December 26, 2009 #

    You too, Eilyn. Call me when you get back into town. I miss you.


  9. December 28, 2009 #

    Beautiful, Renae. Perfect love — Him coming to us when He knew we couldn’t come to him… Love that…

    Also loved hearing about your mismatched nativity 🙂 Four wise men? Wonder if there’s a new carol in there somewhere? 🙂

    Blessings to you in the New Year!

  10. December 29, 2009 #

    Thanks, Cheryl! The two Marys always makes me chuckle. I guess I should name one of them Martha.

    Praying you have a blessed New Year, too!


  11. December 31, 2009 #


    Your post reminds me of a great line in the movie, Steel Magnolias. Annelle said, “They had mismatched manger scenes at incredibly low prices.”

    Have a great new year and keep up the great work!


  12. January 1, 2010 #

    Oh, how funny! I had forgotten about that line. Hope you had a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year, Emily!

  13. December 16, 2016 #

    Thanks for reposting this. No tree for us to decorate this year. Just a 2 foot lighted tree that stays up year-round. The nativity is on display all year as well. Going on a cruise with the kids so will not take the time and energy to decorate the house. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy Christmas without the presents and drama!

    Just relax and enjoy my little family. It’s good to just have fun and make memories.

    Merry Christmas!


  1. Merry Christmas! | Renae Brumbaugh - December 24, 2009

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