Last year during Wednesday night church activities, our little girl made an Advent calendar. The calendar had 24 vacant spaces to affix beautiful, yellow stars starting on December 1st through Christmas. 

Every day she looked forward to placing that yellow star just so on that calendar. A few days before Christmas, she came to me teary-eyed. “Look, Mama, there are four spaces left, and I only have three star stickers,” she said, choking back tears. I checked behind her in hopes that she had just missed one, but she was right. She was one star short.

I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed for her. This thing she’d worked on all month, the countdown she was anticipating for weeks, fell short of what it was meant to be.

I looked in the drawer where the stickers were kept hoping that it had fallen out of the bag, but it was not to be found. I told her that we would look for another star sticker to fill that spot, and we did. But still, it wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t perfect.  

I must admit. I looked at that Advent calendar differently after that.

Isn’t this just like life? It’s never quite right. What we work hard for and anticipate often falls short of what was meant to be or what we expected it to be. Think about it for a moment. It’s time to make the Christmas cookies, but you’re one egg short. The Christmas party is tonight, but you forgot to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, so the Christmas outfit is sopping wet. You get home from the grocery store to realize the two things you went for didn’t come home with you, but you have $100 worth of other stuff instead. 

No, nothing is quite right. Nothing is perfect. We’re seemingly always one star short.

And then that imperfect, missing star taunts us in much more serious ways as well. Like when you’re finally ready to enjoy retirement with your husband or wife, only to receive a terrible diagnosis. Or your employer says you’re not needed anymore after years of giving countless hours to the company. Or when the phone call comes that forever changes your life. Or when you wake up with life looking bright and hopeful, but in a moment everything changes and you go to bed that night to overwhelming darkness.

We live in a one-star short world. We live in a not-quite-right world. Let’s be honest; we live in a really messed up world.

And yet, a star shone over Bethlehem that winter’s night. A baby was born. And in that birth we have hope. When you think about it, Jesus’ world was one star short as well. His parents weren’t married. He was born in a barn, and his first visitors were the Shepherds. All of this is definitely not quite right. In fact, it was really messed up.

And yet, because of that birth, to those imperfect parents, in that imperfect barn, in that imperfect town, we have hope. And hope says God is not done. Joy says God is good. Peace says God is present.

Maybe your world feels one star short today. Maybe it feels like many stars are missing. This I know to be true. God can work in all of the pain, in all of the suffering, in all of the fear, to bring good. He can work in and through all of the imperfection to bring perfection. He proved this in the manger. He proved it on the cross. 

Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful until completion.” God is not done. He is good. He is present. And this is how we can have hope, joy, and peace in this one-star short world.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Ginger Hughes

Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother to Ella and Elam, and a part-time accountant.  She is a Georgia native, but presently calls the foothills of North Carolina home.  She loves coffee, nature, and reading, but with two children under six, she struggles to find time in the day for any of the above!   She is a Christ follower and a fellow struggler on life’s journey who seeks to find joy in the everyday. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace, and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children, that we are not alone in our brokenness, and that we are all deeply loved.  You can read more of her writings at nomamasperfect.com