It's the most wonderful time of the year ... well, maybe, but one thing for certain is that this is the most busy time of the year!  And for us gals, it can be pull-your-hair-out stressful! 

I have often wondered how in the world we came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to bake, make gifts, wrap gifts, make little costumes for the Christmas play at church, decorate our homes, have lots of people over and somehow keep the house clean enough for all those activities.  I mean wouldn't one of those extravaganzas be enough? 

If it isn't the financial strain of gifts and entertaining, it is the time shortage to get "it all" done -- and many of us feel stretched way too thin across both arenas. We heap Herculean expectations on ourselves and wonder why we are so tired! If there is ever a season when the perfectionism bug eats away at women, it is during Christmastime!

Most of us out there might not verbally admit it, but don't we all want a "perfect" Christmas?  A brief season of joy and celebration with family and friends (who are all getting along and liking each other for the moment).  A time of fun with no worries for safety or financial hardship. A moment of order -- you know, "the stockings were hung by the chimney with care" kind of thing -- everything in its place, gleaming and bright. A spell of rest by a blazing fire when life feels like hot snicker doodles and cocoa with whip cream (calorie-free -- of course!). 

Yes, we want a patch of "perfection" in the midst of our crazy lives -- and is that too much to dream for?

I imagine that Mary had those same thoughts that first "Christmas".  She was about to become a mommy! And a mommy in a most mysterious fashion.  She would mother the King of Kings, the long awaited Savior! Of course she wanted His birth to be "perfect" -- every new mother does.  Yet, it wasn't "perfect" by any standards I would have dreamed. 

We can surmise that the birth of Jesus was a stressful family ordeal. Even Mary's fiancé Joseph had at one point considered divorcing her and "putting her away."  An angel met him in a dream and explained the situation -- but you can imagine the tension between Mary and her family. Perhaps her friends took issue with her pregnancy. We really don't know, but we can speculate at the responses of those around her. Yes, there might have been some relationship drama in Mary's life that first Christmas.

There was also difficulty in the world around Mary and Joseph that first Christmas. The government required that everyone pack up and travel to the city of their birth. It must have been "good times" being big and pregnant, road-tripping it on the back of a donkey! The world around them created less than "perfect" circumstances for that first Christmas.

Once Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem there was no room anywhere for them to sleep -- and Mary was in the throes of labor.  With nowhere else to go, they stayed the night in a stable, surrounded with the stench of animals.  No, this was not the way either one of them had imagined the birth of the long-awaited Savior.

Then there were the visitors! Angels brought the birth announcement to shepherds that night.  The shepherds went quickly to see the wonder of God wrapped in humanity.  I am pretty sure Mary hadn't expected strangers to pop by for a visit -- but there they were. 

That first Christmas was full of surprises, many of them taking Mary and Joseph in directions they wouldn't have planned.  And yet, to God it was all in His perfect plan!

Maybe, like Mary and Joseph, you have some family drama mixed in with your peppermint mochas. Perhaps in the midst of shopping and wrapping life is sending you on a journey you didn't expect. Or you feel the strain of our changing world and it threatens the ease of your financial and travel plans this Christmas. Perhaps you feel like there is no room for you at the inn and feel left out of the joys of the season to labor alone. Maybe you have unexpected people bursting into the moments you wanted to be private family time. Maybe, just maybe, it is all part of God's perfect plan!