This year my husband, Lee, and I will celebrate our third Christmas together as a married couple. While it is our third Christmas, it is the first year that we have been in a place in which we could have our own Christmas tree. As you might imagine, we had to start from scratch. We did not have one item necessary for tree decorating, including the tree! So off to Target and Wal-Mart we went. After deciding between a real tree or fake tree, traditional or modern decorations, colored lights or white, a star or an angel for the top, we made our purchases and headed home with all the necessary items to “deck the halls.”
Once home we finished some laundry, had some dinner, vacuumed the spot the tree would be placed, found a good Christmas movie to inspire us, and began the Christmas tree assembly. As we decorated, the movie “The Family Man” played in the background. The movie is a modern twist on the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It tells the story of a man named Jack Campbell, a rich bachelor who works on Wall Street and who seems to be living the perfect life. As the movie unfolds, Jack is pondering about his life–whether he should have pursued his career or instead married his college girlfriend, Kate. In a twist of fate, he gets a chance to see a glimpse of what his life would have been like had he chosen differently. He wakes up and finds himself married to Kate, raising two children, and working as a tire salesman in New Jersey.
At first, Jack is frustrated by his new life and wishes to have his perfect former life back. He finds, however, that for a few weeks he is destined to live out this “glimpse” of an alternate life. He longs for his old life. He desperately looks for something that would give him a taste of the lavish lifestyle from which he was plucked. After several frustrating days and weeks, Jack begins to experience the love of Kate and the kids, but just as he is learning to give and receive the love of his family, Jack is swept back into his former lavish life. Upon his return, he realizes how lonely he is in his “perfect” life.
As the movie concluded, so did our tree decorating. I’ll admit the tree did not turn out as I had imagined. It was not perfect. It leans slightly to the right, we only had enough ribbon to wrap half way down the tree, and the star we bought for the top is too heavy for the fake tree branch to hold it. It is not the Martha Stewart tree that I had hoped for. But I love it! This is the tree that Lee and I decorated together. It was created out of love and with a few more years of experience (and another trip to Wal-Mart for more ribbon) it will get better.
This year as we celebrate Advent and anticipate the coming of Christ, remember that perfection is not what is promised with Christ. Love is birthed in a manger . . . the coming of the Christ child. Love is what fills the gaps of life’s imperfections and makes us whole. While the story of Jack Campbell is not necessarily a new one, the message never gets old: A life without love is empty. This holiday season don’t get caught up in perfection. Rather get caught up in the love of those who love you in spite of your imperfections.
Jessica Prophitt serves as a chaplain in the United States Air Force Reserves at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.