One of my favorite movies is “A Christmas Story.” I love it because the message in it is as simple as the time in which it is set.
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder bb gun. And he gets his wish, after a lot of positioning on his part and repeated warnings from the women in his life that “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
In between the wish and the gift, a lot of imperfect happens. A furnace on the fritz. A whiny brother. Run-ins with the town bully. A blown tire. Bad language and its soapy consequence. Questionable window decor that leads to family arguments. Learning that free isn’t necessarily free. A pack of baying hounds next door that hound dad. A pair of pink, fuzzy bunny pajamas from a clueless aunt.
And then comes the gift, lovingly given by a usually grumpy father, who fills his son’s great yearning. And the most perfect Christmas of all seems in the works. Ralphie’s eyes light up when he opens the gift, and his dad’s face positively glows as he eyes the Christmas turkey just out of the oven. Ralphie goes outside to test his gun while his father carves the family feast.
Then, the awful thing. Just as his mother predicted, Ralphie shoots his eye out. Or rather, would have if it weren’t for his glasses, which are destroyed. A lie to cover the accident, distraction for the family, and then another awful thing. The Bumpus’ hounds eat the family’s Christmas turkey.
In the last scene, the little family is seated around the table at a Chinese restaurant eating Peking duck while the waiters encircle them with this holiday song: “Fa rah rah rah rah. Rah rah rah rah.” Laughter ensues and it isn’t until that very minute we realize the message behind all this zaniness.
Christmas perfection is not how we act, or what we give, or what we get. It’s not achieved with the perfect Christmas meal, fulfilled dreams, a perfect gift. Instead Christmas perfection often comes in the imperfect. Lopsided, but homebaked, cookies. Fading paper Christmas ornaments made by the kids 25 years ago. The white elephant gift that shows up uninvited every year but is always greeted with laughter, like the favorite uncle who started the tradition. Christmas caroling with voices young and old, good and… um… not so good.
And a baby born in a manger on that silent night, who came to us imperfect people, to bring us New Life that only He could obtain for us through his death and resurrection. A most imperfect, improbable route to perfection. What a gift!
I wish you a(n) (imperfectly) Merry Christmas! Fa rah rah rah rah!