I put out my Christmas decorations today. I love the way my home looks at Christmas; the lights, the colors, the candles. Some of my favorite decorations are the creches (nativity scenes) my husband and I have collected from our various trips around the world. The hand-carved olive wood creche from Bethlehem, of course, commands center place on our coffee table. One particular creche gives me pause every year. This year I pulled it from the storage box, held it in my hand and just stared at it. I wondered why I’ve kept it year to year. I am just going to throw it away. It just doesn’t fit the rest of the décor. In fact, it doesn’t fit at all.
But it was a gift. It was a gift from a gal in our church named Chloe who is highly intelligent, yet simple-minded. She lives alone in subsidized housing and relies on public transportation. She is legally blind and relationally awkward. Lacking mature social skills, she doesn’t always fit in. Although an artist in her own right, to the untrained eye her creations may seem chaotic and childish. Others might call them genius. I don’t know how long it took to make this creche, but the details would suggest it to be a labor of love and time.
I stood staring at the handmade treasure. Mary, smiling, is dressed in scraps of purple velour and stands at the feet of Jesus. Joseph has a painted-on beard, a gold-sequined yarmulke, and a blue and white prayer shawl around his and Mary’s shoulders. The manger is made out of clothespins and popsicle sticks. While there is a gift of gold, there are no wisemen. Baby Jesus has bushy black hair and is wrapped in a cloth that appears to have Hebrew writing in gold glitter paint on it. An angel hovers overhead, hands raised, clothed in a white ribbon cleverly fashioned into a dress, with sparkly silver wings. Oh, and it is a wind-up music box (that doesn’t work).
I stood and stared at this gawky gift in my hand. What was I to do with it? Then I realized…it’s perfect. It was a perfect display of our lives; pieced together, repurposed, a bit chaotic, unfinished, ill-shaped, wonderfully imperfect, and lovingly created. I placed it prominently in the living room. It stood in striking contrast to my matching themed tree, strategically-coordinated colors and textures, and the groups-of-three candles dictated by Pottery Barn. I think that is what I loved about it most.
I think Chloe was very comfortable with her creche not looking perfect. I don’t think perfect was her point. Chloe certainly understood an imperfect life. She wasn’t trying to create something matchless but something real. Chloe understood that imperfections are part of our reality…and our beauty.