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Letting Light In

Our 3-year-old Grandson wanted one thing under the Christmas tree this year – a big red fire truck. My wife searched and searched online, and finally found what she thought was the perfect one. It arrived last week and was promptly placed in our secret gift closet. Yesterday she decided to put in the batteries and do a trial run. When she pushed the truck’s horn, we heard a strange sound like a dog in great agony. When she turned the siren switch, a litany of agitated voices, in some Asian language, blasted from the tiny truck speakers. She was angry and disappointed, but she didn’t tarry. She jumped in her SUV, hit the stores full steam and found the perfect big red fire truck with proper siren and horn. She was better last night. This morning we cracked up with laughter.

Many of us hold a vision of the perfect Christmas … when everything is shiny, everybody’s on their jolliest behavior, ideal gifts are given and gotten, the food tastes as good as we remember grandma’s kitchen smelling – as bells ring in the distance. With the best of intentions, we can inadvertently put a lot of pressure on ourselves and on others near and dear to us during this most wonderful time of the year.

When I think about my most memorable holidays, the perfect times are hard to recall. It’s the times when things were imperfect, defective or deficient that stay with me. Do you recall one of those not-so-perfect times? A Christmas Eve when you stayed up all night to construct the 16-foot trampoline and one spring was missing, or a new bike was finally put together then you noticed three shiny bolts laying in the bottom of the box or a multi-story doll house with easy instructions which were anything but that? (Insert your flaw filled memories here). What about the time your dog ate the Christmas turkey and the family went out for Chinese food? No, that’s an old movie scene. Anyway, this might be a good time to remember some famous words.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

These four lines, from Leonard Cohen’s “ Anthem”, is a reminder of the transformational power of imperfection, as does the first Christmas. It was far from perfect as well. If things had gone as planned, Mary and Joseph would have been given a room in the inn that Holy night and would not have heard the heavenly chorus singing Glory to God. Most likely they would have missed the Star’s bright light shining through cracks in the stable walls so they could see the Christ Child sleeping away in a manger.

Journal Entry: For some people who lead an organization, a teams or a family, Christmas is not the only time of year they insist on their vision of perfection. It’s everyday. This fear of missing the mark and exposing their imperfect humanity is a burden to everyone around. On the other hand, the leader who leaves a lasting legacy knows the distinction between excellence and perfection. They do a few things well, fail more than they should, learn from those mistakes and laugh at themselves with ease. Somehow somewhere they grasped the importance of being themselves, cracks and all, because that’s how the light gets in, in Leadership and Life.

Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself. ~ Francis C. Farley, British scientist Fellow of the Institute of Physics and an honorary fellow of Trinity College Dublin

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ~ The Bible’s New Testament, the book of Luke Chapter 2 verses 11-14 – King James Version (KJV)

I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business. ~ Michael J. Fox, actor 

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