Dec. 24, 2018 Christmas Eve
Its always interesting to hear how young kids hear and interpret the story of Jesus birth. You probably heard it before…
The kid who asks the Sunday School teacher;
“Do we know the names of the other angels?”
“Why, we do know some, Johnny. The bible names Michael and Gabriel but doesn’t give us the name of all the angels.”
“You forgot Harold’s name.” The teacher gives him a puzzled look. “You know Hark, Harold the angel sings!”
Or the kid who was reciting the lines from the gospel of Luke for the Christmas pageant… he stretches on his toes to solemnly pronounce in the microphone: “And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in wadded up clothes and laid him in a manger.”
“Wadded up clothes,” isn’t that a picture? I can just picture a teenager’s bed room with that pile of clean and unclean laundry all mixed together piled off to a corner of the bed room and a baby placed neatly on top. Maybe you weren’t (aren’t) a messy teenager or never raised a messy teenager but you know what I’m talking about right?! You can just picture the mess of that room. Now with that picture in mind of the wadded up clothes top it off with a cute, innocent, adorable baby.
I’m sure we all have traditions that make our Christmas seem right. Those delightful cookies and breads, the eye-popping decorations, the gatherings, the matching PJ’s. We anticipate this holiday imagining how magical it will be if it all just comes out right. Yet, if you really read the story of Jesus’ birth you’ll see how so much of it didn’t go right. After walking over 150 miles there’s no room in the inn, the Wisemen get lost and go the worst person in the world to ask directions, Jesus is born in a barn not a temple, not a palace and laid in an oversized food bowl. What a mess and yet at Christmas we celebrate just this fact…God came to our mess.
Our mess, our wadded up clothes it’s something you don’t want to behold, nor do you want the out of town family to spy or the guests for the party to peer at. Somehow you want them to have that impression that you’ve got it all under control whether it’s the laundry that never ends or the child’s behavior that never bends- you’ve got this. But the Christian meaning of Christmas isn’t you’ve got this, its God’s got this, in fact God’s got you.
For serious faithful Christians Christmas isn’t about paying attention to the magical-ness of Christmas it’s about admitting the messiness of Christmas. God comes into our mess. Jesus on day one of his life is introduced to the randomness and roughness of life on earth. Born in a barn, laid in a manger and hunted by Herod is not a neat and tidy way to start life. Yet, despite that mess that doesn’t count him out.
God the Father introduces him to the kindness of strangers, first the shepherds a first century equivalent of a biker gang. They are rough and tumble people living on the outskirts of civilization who bring joy and good news to this young struggling couple. Then God the Father switches gears and goes to the other end of the social spectrum and invites Kings to bow and pay homage. All this good stuff in the middle of barn smells of manure and cattle and sheep and straw. All this happens in the midst of messiness. Its not clean its not tidy but it is holy because God is present.
That’s why we celebrate Christmas, not because life is neat and tidy but because God has come to us in his son life is holy. Its not just messy, now with Christ present in our lives, in our hearts, in our thoughts and minds life is holy. Despite the messiness of life with God… life, our lives, can be holy, special, meaningful, purpose filled, joyful in the midst of pain, peaceful in the midst of chaos because God is with us.
Without Christ in Christmas its just a mass, I like to pronounce it “It’s just a mess.” God is willing to be part of our mess, be in “wadded up clothes” in order to get close to us and care for us, to love us unconditionally, cherish us unceasingly, and save us eternally.
If you’re like me, this Christmas has probably been a mess in some way shape or form. But hopefully you have what I have, not just a Chrismess but a Christ-mess. God with your mess, in your mess, around and under the mess and that makes all the difference. God has let me see the kindness of strangers and friends and family despite the mess. God has helped me find the peace that can sleep in the midst of being placed in wadded up messes not just clothes.
Our world proclaims Christmas is about perfection- finding the perfect gift, having the perfect party, cooking the perfect dinner, baking the best cookies, having that perfect magical family gathering. The world can have that expectation and all its disappointment and pain. I prefer the Christian meaning of Christmas- Life’ a mess but its such a better mess with God.
Christ has come to earth, let earth receive her king. Merry Christmess. Amen.