It’s no secret that Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

And the tension is that by this point, Christmas Eve, all the ‘how to avoid stress’ tips from the I’ve-got-everything-together-why-don’t-you people seem too little too late:

  • Start your shopping early. (Some of you are reading this on your phone at the mall. There are three more shopping hours till Christmas, right?)
  • Eat in moderation. (But you’ve already been to six Christmas parties, and Christmas has barely begun.)
  • Spend less. (You tried. Really tried.)
  • Don’t say ‘yes’ to every family gathering. (But how could you say ‘no’? And now your holiday is anything but a vacation.)

I could go on, but it wouldn’t be helpful. The truth is that no matter how much we plan ahead, there is stress associated with the holidays. Which is incredibly good news. Especially given that it’s Christmas. The stress you’re feeling this Christmas (or the grief, or the emptiness) is exactly why Christmas arrived in the first place.

Jesus arrived on the planet not because we had it all together, but because we didn’t.
Jesus wasn’t born into a world where everyone got along perfectly.
Jesus didn’t come for us because we were exceptionally well organized and on budget.
Jesus didn’t come into a world where families were perfectly behaved.
Jesus didn’t arrive on earth because spouses got along beautifully and never argued.
Jesus didn’t move into a world where people worshipped without ever doubting.

He came into a world that desperately needed GRACE. What if your imperfect Christmas is actually a front row seat to grace?

Grace is a much misunderstood concept. It’s never earned. It’s not deserved. Because if it were, it wouldn’t be grace. Grace is simply undeserved love. Love that came to you not because you’ve got it oh-so-together, but because you don’t. That’s Christmas. That’s the Gospel.

And if you look hard enough, it’s actually in the tension this Christmas where you might see grace the most clearly:

At dinner with that terribly awkward relative. Grace never discriminates. Grace is favor that is unmerited, and your favor can be too.

When the kids expect too much. In the same way that you get frustrated with the expectations of your kids, God must at times get frustrated with the expectations we bring to him. Yet his love remains.

When you see the homeless. Jesus was born in a feeding trough, and the announcement of his birth went to common shepherds. God has a heart for His people.

In your exhaustion. Grace comes when we need it most . . . and it never runs out.

Sure, it would be nice if we did a little better next year. But that should never kill the joy, the power or the message of Christmas. In fact, it underscores it.

The surprise of Christmas is this: it speaks to us in our weakness even more than it speaks to us in our strength. And because of your imperfect Christmas, you might have a front row seat to see what Christmas is actually all about.

So, Merry Christmas!