I love Christmas Vacation. It is in my blood. On any given day, you can find the Dear family referencing "the blessing," "let's go," and "lotta sap." It's just never going to get old. You think you've seen it enough, and then you notice how many martinis the red-headed grandmother has and how.....unique Clark's office culture is. If you haven't seen it, you need to watch it, probably tonight. I hear it pairs well with a Christmas Eve service.
One of the (many) timeless scenes in this movie takes place on Christmas Eve, when Clark receives what he thinks is his Christmas bonus, but is instead a Jelly of the Month Club membership. Cousin Eddie responds, "Clark, that's the gift that keeps on giving the whoooole year."
For the Griswolds and for the rest of us, Christmas Eve tends to hold a lot of pressure. We all want Christmas Eve to be perfect: with the perfect outfit, the perfect meal, the perfect family gathering, the perfect gifts, and for Clark, the perfect bonus. But what the Bible and also Christmas Vacation remind us is that even Christmas Eve will fall short this side of heaven.
We'll regret some of our gift choices. We'll also regret what others chose for our gifts (respectfully). We'll be jealous of how good that girl from high school's hair looks at the Christmas Eve service. At the same service, we'll get annoyed at whoever is smacking their gum next to us. We'll burn desserts. We'll miss those who aren't with us. We'll long for things we don't have. But in our desire to produce a perfect celebration and ignore our yuletide longings, what we often forget is that the first Christmas Eve and Christmas day were far from perfect.
"And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:1–7
That initial Christmas Eve was likely spent traveling to Bethlehem, knocking on doors and receiving a lot of nos, laboring through the night with no epidural, and sitting around in some hay festered with animal droppings. There were no linen napkins at the Christmas Eve dinner, no velvet dresses at the service, no ribbons tied around thoughtful gifts. And out of this rather imperfect setting, the perfect gift was given.
It's the gift that keeps on giving, too. The gift of Christ is not just a gift for Advent, for December, or for Christmas Eve. It's not just something to celebrate when carols are sung and halls are decked. It's a gift for for today, for tomorrow, and for every day after.
There is nothing you can do to perfect Christmas Eve or the Christmas season. While that may sound harsh or sad, it's also a release from the pressure. You can't bake, create, plan, or orchestrate a gift as good as the One we have already been given. But you can rest in knowing that you can receive it.
Light has come. Hope has come. The greatest gift has come. And there's nothing that can fill us this Christmas Eve like "the gift that keeps on giving the whooole year." Praise the Lord that no matter how joyous or how contentious this day may be, Advent promises us that the best is yet to come.