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Embrace imperfection

Christmas is tomorrow. Did you get everything checked off your holiday to-do list? And in the midst of it all, are you actually enjoying the season?

No need to panic. I haven’t done it all, either. And I have fleeting thoughts that wish the holiday would hurry up already so we can go back to normal life.

But I’ve decided to just let it go and enjoy Christmas how it is now, for what it is. I didn’t decorate all like I wanted. We didn’t make fudge as I hoped. There were evenings when we were out late, so we doubled up on our Jesse Tree devotionals.

It’s okay. Christmas is not about perfection.

Think back to your childhood holidays. Do you remember all the things you didn’t do? Are you still grieving over that one Christmas when you were 8, and you didn’t get to make four types of cookies while drinking hot cocoa near a fire with the perfect holiday music playing in the background?

I didn’t think so. Your kids won’t care, either.

Embrace imperfection.

Enjoy the blessings of cooler weather, the nearness of family, the handmade crafts plastered to the fridge, ornaments on the bottom third of the tree arranged in the most bizarre way possible, and the squeals of excitement about the upcoming day.

Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

What didn’t you doing to celebrate Christmas this year?

This post was first published on December 24, 2011.

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  1. Sandra

    I actually got to go to one more party than I had expected, and I got to get out and shop today (instead of online shopping). My early December was interrupted by surgery, but I’m feeling good again and thankful for that. I am blessed to have all my children home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year, and that’s all that really matters to me. We’ll cook all our traditional foods because that’s the way they like it to be. My wish is that we all enjoy a healthy holiday.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Monique

    We just put up our small Christmas tree, it still isn’t decorated and I am not stressing. I was last week because I didn’t do all the crafts and activities I planned for me and my son, but then my husband reminded me of exactly what you posted and I was just thankful for the time with my family.

  3. Joy

    Not ready on any account, and that is okay! All will be well when we celebrate the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas!!

  4. Alisa

    Tsh, this post made my day! It is uncanny how you not only described my to-do list to a TEE, but also the perspective I am striving for. It just feels so good to know I’m not alone. Thanks!

  5. Courtney

    Oh, thank you for this perfectly timed post! You have reminded me to take a deep breath this morning, which I needed.
    Also, we had a party a few days ago, and I made mason jar candles (with epsom salt) to put out during the party . . . completely forgot and just found them in my cabinet yesterday. Oh well. I decided to let “just” the four of us enjoy them last night, in front of the fire place. It was lovely.

  6. Laura

    Love this! Thanks and Merry Christmas, Tsh!

  7. Two Chicks and a Hen

    Ha–I was just discussing this with my friends yesterday. This is the first year that I too decided to just relax about it all. If something doesn’t happen, oh well. We do an activity-based advent calendar and missed a couple of days (pushed them forward, actually), and I had to be very conscious of not feeling guilty or stressed. You’re very right–our kids will never remember those details.

  8. Valerie R.

    “Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.”

    Great line. Love, love, love it. Thanks.

    • Vanessa P

      This was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, too. Thank you!

      • Trudy G.

        I third this! Just what I needed to see and will be sharing with others. I truly appreciate this thought!

  9. Anitra

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m 38 weeks pregnant and am also trying to keep up with a two-year-old, so sometimes it feels like NOTHING gets done here. My Christmas stress is also increasing my nesting stress.

    At this point, I just need to sit back and look at what is DONE instead of what has gone undone. Like, we actually have a Christmas tree! It might sit here undecorated until Christmas Eve, but that’s OK – as long as I remember to water it πŸ˜‰

  10. Katie @ Imperfect People

    Wow great minds think alike! Did you read my post on Christmas Simplified?
    You’re right no need in getting everything perfect!

  11. Heather N

    Wow. “It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect” is going to be my new motto. Thanks!!!

  12. Rita

    Yep, had to let go early December, first year away from family, so no parties. Budget very tight so few treats. Moving accross country the first of the year so no tree. But, this is only one Christmas, and we are focusing on Jesus, Getting a good feeling of what maybe it was like to quick pack up and move not long after you have a baby.

  13. Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama}

    There are plenty of things I didn’t do that I would have loved to, but I agree with you, it’s okay to let it go and focus on Jesus. He sure doesn’t care if I didn’t do the candy cane craft I wanted to! πŸ™‚

  14. Sarah Park

    Thank you for this, Tsh. Things have felt pretty steady and peaceful this month until THIS WEEK. I needed this post! Came to the realization this weekend that a bunch of crafty presents I’d planned to make just aren’t going to happen… and that’s okay.

    You’re right β€” the bizarre arrangement of Christmas tree decorations on the low branches, and the joy-filled squeals of our girls in their excitement β€” these are the best!

  15. Ainsley

    Very well said. I can honestly say that I do have everything done, and am not stressed out in anyway this year!! I let a few things go, like making handmade neighbour gifts (which always seem to get left to the last minute!), and am so much happier with all the time it has freed up to spend crafting and reading Christmas stories with the kids! I made a lot of gifts in November, so I didn’t completely go “store-bought”, but really, no one is going to think twice about the fact that I didn’t do it all…so why should I ? πŸ™‚

  16. Bryony Boxer

    So true. And yet each year there’s a part of me that tries to go for “perfect.” Thank you for the reminder! Merry Christmas.

  17. Alison @ Femita

    I see it happen everywhere around me. Friends, family and colleagues are so stressed out about Christmas and all obligations that come with it, instead of enjoying the holidays. I decided to do things differently this year and I’m happier with how it’s going every single day.

  18. Angela S.

    We’re enjoying relaxing this season too. The kids will make gingerbread houses this week, & I’ll make one type of Christmas cookie. We hope to drive around the city to see Christmas lights, but if it keeps raining, we’ll do it the week after Christmas. Having a calm, relaxed mom is my extra special gift this Christmas to my family!

  19. Melissa

    Thank you for this. As a full-time working mom of two very young children, I’m quickly learning that I can’t do it all. I have to keep telling myself — “I can’t be perfect” — and it makes me feel better. I’ve gotten a few things done that are important to me, including personalized christmas cards, homemade cookies and a beautiful tree. But, the presents and number of other things surrounding the holidays completely stress me out and make me wish it was all before I can enjoy it. Learning to live in the moment and appreciate what I have is not easy, but, to the extent I can come to terms with it, it will benefit me and those that I care about most.

  20. Living the Balanced Life

    I had cut way back and am basically done with any shopping, except for some candy for stockings. I wan’t planning a huge meal, even though all my kids and grandkids are going to be here, we all know it is about being together more than it is about the food! I did just get contacted by an aunt and uncle whom I don’t get to see very often saying they are going to be in town and would love to see us. I DO want to see them, it is just a kink in my “perfect” laid plans! I will get over it though, I am grateful I get to see them!

  21. andie

    living overseas away from the american culture of christmas has shown me how little i actually “need” to do. there were so many expectations i was putting on myself to make the perfect christmas memories (which lended itself to so much stress and busy-ness). this has been our slowest christmas season yet. we didn’t have christmas cookies every day and we have fewer presents, but we’ve been enjoying doing the jesse tree for the first time and hanging out by our christmas tree watching christmas movies. it’s been the best!

  22. Christie

    Such a great and very timely post. Thank you!

  23. Tammy

    Oh Tsh, you really made my day! I woke up this morning fully stressed about the endless list of things to do this week to make Christmas perfect for my kids starting the second my coffee cup was empty this morning. You have reminded me of what is important and now i think i will go sit with my kids and play with the pay-doh set they got at the Christmas gathering we attended yesterday instead! Thanks Tsh!

  24. Lisa

    “Do you remember that one Christmas when you were 8…” What a great reframe because no, of course not! And loved the end of your post too — how bizarre that we try to celebrate Christmas perfectly when Jesus’, whose birthday we celebrate, is so willing to forgive all our imperfection. I need to print this post out and put it in with my Christmas decor when I put it away next year so it will be one of the first things I see next December.

  25. Sarah

    “Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.”
    AMEN and thank you!!! I’m 36 weeks pregnant and had decided a while back that we just weren’t going to be capable of doing a whole lot. NO buying gifts, no christmas lights viewings, not a ton of baking. I had hoped to do an advent calendar, but that didn’t pan out – I was a little disappointed.
    Then it dawned on me – we are celebrating a very lowly, and humble, and simple birth! I just haven’t been able to get over that, this season, and it’s been weird to be surrounded by such extravagance and brilliance with such an awareness of our Savior’s modest and unassuming entrance into our world.
    Tsh, you are such a blessing!

  26. Paula@Motherhood Outloud

    I loved your line about celebrating the One who came precisely because we cannot be perfect without Him! We are NOT sending out Christmas cards this year. At first I stressed and felt guilty, but adjusting to life with 3 kiddos has been enough to keep us very busy! I worried that my son would think we didn’t love him enough to send out a card his first Christmas (seriously?) or that our friends would think we had forgotten them, but now I’m okay with it. This is going to be a wonderfully imperfect Christmas : )

  27. pkzcass

    For the first time ever decade I didn’t change the ornaments on the tree after my boys decorated it. And since we had two places to choose from to attend on Christmas Eve, I let them choose. They’re 14 and 11, and I decided it’s finally time to let them have some say in how their holiday goes. It’s such a relief not to be stressing over these things and allowing others to make the decisions for once!

  28. Jenna

    I’m planning on letting go of family expectations this year. And hopefully just celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.

  29. Alicia Bayer

    EXACTLY. This is how we always do Christmas. The chaos is part of the charm, and our focus is on making memories instead of “shoulds.” πŸ™‚

  30. Lindsay Ferguson

    I love your last line there…”Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.” So well said! I need to remember this, maybe plaster it on my bulletin board or something. It’s seems with all the hussle and bussle sometimes we forget to just sit back and relax and enjoy it all. Also, with young children I’ve noticed when I try to do it all and there is too much going on they feel the stress and aren’t as happy as when things are peaceful and simple, just enjoying each other’s company. Doing a little christmas craft or watching a christmas movie have been some of our favorite, simple christmas activities this year.

    Now I better get back to baking my cakes for the Christmas party tonight and run to the store to pick up my last minute gifts! πŸ™‚ Ahh, it never ends!

  31. Life In A Pink Fibro

    This is great – permission to let go! Thanks.

  32. billi

    I actually let it all go! We were invited to some friends who have invited us many times, but I always hold that “I have to fix the dinner” and just invite them. Not this year. My DH and I decided to go and not worry about cooking at our house. It’s a big step for me, but I know I will enjoy myself! Hope you have a Merry Christmas!!

  33. Amy K

    Okay, I do think I love you. I cannot possibly express how much I needed to read this tonight. My older daughter celebrated her 5th birthday as we relocated to a new area and home due to my husband’s military retirement. In the effort to unearth ourselves from boxes while my husband has been traveling at least half the time, I haven’t done a fraction of what I wanted to do for the holidays. The lack of decor, cookies, parties, traditions, frivolity, even favorite music as my iPod has gone missing… it’s all weighed heavily on me as I’ve worried about missing the golden years of my daughters’ Christmas memories.

    Thank you so very much for bringing tears of relief by reminding me that the One who came that night is the same One whose grace can fill those memories regardless of my shortcomings.

  34. Mother of Pearl

    I didn’t do Christmas cards this year – not any. As soon as I decided that, it was like a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I just needed to remove something from my list.
    Our Christmas tree sat up for four days in the house with nothing on it – and then three days with only the lights. I really think I was the only one who cared in the least. The kids raved about having the tree up as it sat there bare.
    Excellent post – great reminder!

  35. TAbitha (From Single to Married)

    What a great reminder! I’ve spent the past week working hard (and I do mean working) because this year I’ve made most of my presents for family. But yesterday I mailed off the last package and I wrapped the last gift so now all I have to do it bake cookies for the neighbors and we’re all good! I’m looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the rest of the week and the season! Merry Christmas to you!

  36. Ginger

    I’ve been reading Romans and the line about ‘the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect’ fits with that perfectly!

    This year, I’ve done much more than I have in the past Christmases but I’m not stressing. In previous years, I wouldn’t even start projects because it wasn’t the perfect time or I felt like it wouldn’t end up perfect. This year, the boys climbed ladders and hung lights (scary and imperfect); we have a great tree, tons of presents (even though they are lots of small things instead of one or two big ones); I sent Christmas cards because I felt like that was special to me and the 11 year old has burned several batches of cookies (and I stopped complaining about him making a mess in the kitchen). We went out for dinner and planned to drive through a light display, but the restaurant was very busy and we wouldn’t get done in time, so we drove through for burgers and ate them while driving through the light show. Now THERE’s something to remember — festive dinner of Sonic burgers!

    I’m trying to enjoy the times and things we do and I’ve stopped waiting for the perfect time and opportunity because it’s never gonna happen. Sometimes, you’ve gotta just roll with it!

  37. Jessica Lyon

    I am ready, but I sure do love this reminder. I have been trying to make the most of every single day this Season, which has been really beautiful. For the first time ever we are spending Christmas Eve with some dear friends and their children and then our family is coming our way this year. We can’t wait. I think I am more excited as an adult than I was as a child. I love celebrating Jesus’ birthday with my little ones and my family.

  38. Alissa

    We aren’t wrapping gifts! We’re trying to keep the Santa thing low key anyway, and then some friends of mine all shared that when they were growing up, the gifts from Santa were never wrapped. Love it! So much less stressed compared to my (perfect) MIL’s strategy of having special “santa wrap” for each person.

  39. Sarah

    Hmmm. I didn’t send Christmas cards; we didn’t host any parties or dinners for Christmas (won’t till several days after Christmas); and decided to spend Christmas away from home and not bring any food! Cooking & baking is my favorite thing, but therefore it becomes the thing I want to get perfect. So I’ll leave the cooking-for-people till after the main holiday and spread the work out over 4 days too – just wonderful warm soup & make-ahead things – not a roast. And I think this year I am most genuinely interested in the happiness of the people more than the perfection of the photos.

  40. Beth Young

    Tsh, I loved this post!

  41. Rachel

    So the one thing that’s making me crazy this Christmas: mini marshmallows. The pastel ones. I SWEAR they used to taste like regular marshmallows that just happened to be various colors. Now they’re fruity! Strawberry, lemon, orange. Something like that. I don’t even want to use them because I think they’ll make my candies taste weird. I JUST WANT PLAIN OL’ VANILLA! Jeepers!

    So—that’s the only thing affecting my Christmas. And it’s not so much a source of stress as a petty annoyance. lol

    • Catherine Marie

      Whoa… thanks for the heads up on the marshmallows! I am guessing that would make the peanut-butter and marshmallow squares taste a little odd…. = )
      And yeah, as everyone else has said, GREAT POST. I am not vacuuming until the minute before my guests come over and then they’ll see me putting away the vacuum and think I’m such a hard worker. But in the meantime I am enjoying acting out the nativity story again and again with my three year old daughter. My 1.5 yr old son refuses to co-operate and just play Joseph, so that job is up to me. If I don’t do it, who will. And at this point I don’t care if my kids remember anything [I doubt they will] but I do care that they are doing meaningful stuff.

  42. zach

    I am not celebrating Christmas but my other friends does.
    The Xmas will be so phenomenal like usual.
    Merry Christmas guys πŸ™‚ have fun

  43. Nisha @Healthy Mom's Kitchen

    Tsh, I LOVE this post! I think when there is too much stress around the holidays, people overeat. I don’t have any Christmas decorations up, except for the holiday cards we’ve been getting in the mail and the 25 days of Christmas cards I have up for my husband. With small children, putting up the Christmas tree only to have it pulled down multiple times, just isn’t something I’m up for this year. We’re going to put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve as well as our stockings and leave them up for a couple days. We’ve been listening to and singing Christmas music, but we’re keeping it simple.

  44. jan

    We are trying something new this Christmas. We decided to skip gift-giving (except for the 2 year old grandchild) and are just going to spend the day enjoying being together.

    • Betsy

      I LOVE that idea. Eliminates stress and spending!

  45. Alan @ leopard bedding

    Great post. I think we should keep Christmas simple and let go too. We get caught up too easily in all the things we “should” be doing, and lose sight of what Christmas is all about. This year I asked for everyone to put in money for a single gift. It was much better – I got one thing I really wanted, rather than lots of stuff I didn’t want and didn’t know where I’d put it.

  46. Annie

    We are all about embracing the imperfection this year! Our sweet Truth in Tinsel Advent homemade advent calendar hangs half opened, and with traveling this December, we still don’t have a tree… and I’ve joked so much about just decorating the ficus tree in our living room that my five year old has started hanging random items on it… Loved this today!

  47. Annette Osborne

    Thanks Tsh, exactly what I needed to hear:)

  48. Tammy

    Thank you Tsh. I have no other words. Thank you and God Bless your family this Christmas.

  49. Rita

    I am not making the Christmas cards I’d hoped to make. And it’s fine. And I am not stressing about the wallpaper half-removed from the kitchen, even though we’re having our Gingerbread house making party tomorrow. None of my friends or their kids are going to care about my funky kitchen. They’re going to care about the important stuff: Do we have enough candy to decorate the houses? (yes) Do you we have enough of my grandma’s spaghetti sauce? (yes) Do we have hot chocolate, mulled wine, and cream soda? (yes) Do we have enough nerf bullets for everyone when the boys bust out the nerf guns? (yes) It’s ALL good!

  50. megan

    Thank you so much Tsh, for this seires! I have been looking forward to a new post every friday!

  51. Betsy

    Thanks for this breath of fresh air, Tsh! I needed it. I can totally relate to wishing the holidays might hurry themselves up! I just wrote about that myself. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to embrace imperfection before New Year’s Eve rolls around.

  52. misslaureli

    This was exactly what I needed at the right moment. Thank you so much.

  53. Erin OK

    This year I’m not buying presents. None at all. It’s out of necessity, because we can’t afford it, but what a relief! Went to the mall just for Santa photos. And we’re baking cookies together as a family, and making photo gifts. And we have Christmas train rides and lit-up gardens plans with the grandparents, and three days in a row of Christmas celebration, with my mother-in-law, then my parents, then father-in-law. And my 19 month old squeals with delight whenever he sees christmas lights. This is my year to go small on spending and stress, and big on family and fun! yay!

  54. Cori

    Thank you! Such a good perspective! I don’t remember the things my mom had hoped to do that I never even knew about! ha ha! And I’m glad we’re not the only ones doubling up on Jesse Tree readings. After this weekend, we’ll have to triple up. πŸ™‚

  55. Tiff

    Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I needed this today.

  56. Ellen

    Our daughters’ main delight this year is the outdoor tree in the neighbors’ yard. They are loving our tree, etc, but they just LOVE that tree out there. It’s reminded me how simple it is to please them.

    Thankfully, I came from a very minimal Christmas tradition and my husband is very relaxed. So we have a wee tree and I put around decorations that can stay into January for a cozy home feel. We do some baking because the girls love to and the only gifts we do are stockings for the kids, which have a very low $ limit… and I’ve been picking things up through the year, so they are done. It is lovely and I am so enjoying the relaxed Christmas!

    My modified (read: fewer days) version of Truth in the Tinsel has been a huge delight this year as well. So simple.

  57. Michelle @ Find Your Balance

    I am not baking my usual torrent of Christmas cookies. Nope. I did last year while pregnant, knowing that this year I’d give myself a break and just enjoy my son, who is too young for cookies anyway πŸ™‚

  58. Evita Koepke

    I needed to hear this wonderful gem of wisdom today more than you know. What is it about becoming a mother that makes us think that anything less than perfection is unacceptable? I didn’t grow up that way, but I certainly put that pressure on myself on a daily basis…and especially at Christmas. Thank you for sharing this – it has released me.

  59. theresa ceniccola

    Thanks for this timely reminder to embrace imperfection! Why are we so hard on ourselves? I am a huge fan of the simple Christmas:-)

    I didn’t decorate my foyer this year…the garland is a pain to put up and the bows are smashed… so the boxes sat in my hallway for three weeks before I finally put them out for Goodwill and vowed to buy new ones next year!

    I’m not making as many cookies as usual this year – only the ones that the kids enjoy making with me (and eating!).

    I’m not stressing about packing for visiting family or figuring out every detail of every meal…

    What I AM doing this year (and I usually don’t make time for) is attending (NOT planning) my kids’ school parties. I don’t think I’ve ever taken off work to participate in them and my daughter asked me to be there this year…so, I’m letting go of all of the ‘end of year’ pressure at work and taking off for the parties!

    Feels good to know I’m not alone! Thanks:-))

  60. Stephenie

    Well, we are skipping staff parties this year, and I am GLAD. I don’t have to worry about getting something new to wear that no one has seen before. We don’t have to worry about chit-chatting to people we don’t really love and really have nothing in common with. Instead we can stay home, make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie in our jammies with our two charming daughters. Hurray!

  61. Bev

    Didn’t bake a single cookie – and it’s all good. Right when I decided we didn’t really need to bake cookies, the neighbors dropped by with a huge treat bag, full of cookies! I’ve enjoyed lights on the tree and garlands early in the morning and late at night; dropping off small gifts to neighbors, writing a Christmas letter, making a few calls to friends and family. Sometimes less is truly more.

  62. Victoria

    Well said.

  63. Jenn R.

    We didn’t get to everything either, and I’m ok with that. Enjoying the now. Merry Christmas Tsh!

  64. Archer

    Thank you for your words, seriously! We are moving in a few days, so our Christmas has been VERY different this year. Merry Christmas, Tsh!

  65. Laura@frontporchfoodie

    I am so grateful to read so many like minded sentiments.
    Did you know that if you squint your eyes, an imperfect Christmas tree looks perfect?

  66. Jamie

    I just read this today, the day after Christmas, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I second @ andie’s comments as we are living overseas in a place that doesn’t observe Christmas (or Christ for that matter!) and I want to make memories for my kiddos so they won’t feel like they missed out. However, more than family traditions, trees, gifts, cookies, etc. the importance lies in: ” It’s celebrating the One who saved us from our impossible need to be perfect.”
    Thank you for this reminder.

  67. Rachel

    WOW!! Beautiful post, and AMAZING quote, to start it ff, I absolutely love it. Thanks for sharing. And a very belated Merry chritsmas to you x

  68. Katy

    I haven’t wrapped husband’s gift yet! But he just fessed up to not buying me one.

    So I don’t feel so bad.

    And I don’t mind that he didn’t get me a gift. A surprise benefit of the simple life?

  69. Maggie

    Ah, yes, I think this post was meant for me. My son crawled into bed with us last night… and his pull-up leaked. This is sooo not how I envisioned Christmas Eve beginning. An extra load of sheets to do ASAP. Awesome.

    BUT, I will have clean sheets tonight and, let’s face it, I would have had some sort of laundry issue today regardless πŸ™‚

  70. Caroline Starr Rose

    Just a half hour ago, I asked my family if they were disappointed that I don’t bake during Christmas (or, honestly, at other times during the year). Nope. Hadn’t even entered their minds.

  71. Esther

    Thank you, with 3 kids under 5 I needed this!

  72. Shayne

    Love this! My mind has been in this place for the past few weeks, and the entire Christmas holiday has been more joy-filled because it is more simple. Thank you for your thoughts. πŸ™‚

  73. Sharon

    It’s Christmas Eve. Just (like 1 hour ago) finished up some shopping, my husband is at the grocery store while I type. We don’t have any cookies baked or even dinner made…and no cards sent out this year. It’s just not the year that I can do it “all”, thanks for reminding me that I am FREE from my need to be perfect. So encouraging!

  74. Nina

    I love this! Let’s see… this year, I DIDN’T vacuum the carpet before the party πŸ™‚ It’s okay it was still clean. And we still had a fun Christmas!

  75. Mare

    I came to this realization too, this year. Just relax. Christmas still comes, no matter if the food is perfect, the gifts are perfect, the house is perfect. I’m reminded of the Whos down in Who-ville. Christmas still came with nary a present. Every year I simplify more and more, b/c I want Christ to be the focus.

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