I am always filled with a deep sense of nostalgia during the holiday season. I am nostalgic for the holidays of my childhood and for the special people who filled those celebrations and are no longer living. At the same time, I am often a little sad during the Christmas season because I cannot recreate those special days from my youth. I treasure them but they always seem just beyond my reach. The reason’s obvious. Life was so much simpler and clearer then—not because the world was a better place, but because I was a more naïve person. In the innocence of my youth, it was easy to see the joy and wonder of family all gathered around sharing a special meal, opening presents, laughing and talking far into the night. From my point of view as a young boy they were perfect occasions full of light and life.

As I prepare to once again celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, my longing for Christmases past is overshadowed by my awe at the gift we have been given. There is no naivety in the Incarnation. Jesus had no illusions about the world he inhabited. He wasn’t born to simply lift up all that is good and pure. He walked among us in order to embrace our darkness as well. Sent from perfection he came to embrace our imperfection. As the only sinless human who ever lived, he did not hesitate to love this sinful world, even to the point of death.

The real wonder of Christmas is not the memory of the perfect family enjoying the perfect holiday. That is nothing but sweet illusion. The real wonder of Christmas is that for some inexplicable reason the perfect God loves his imperfect creation so much that he became a part of it. He became a part of it to embrace our darkness and our light, to love us as we are, not as we pretend to be. That is a miracle worth celebrating.