We often forget how awfully terrible the birth of Jesus was. When we look at our nativity scenes, with cheerful people adoringly staring at a smiling happy baby in a manger, we forget the mess:
The mess of politics that drove the young couple from their home nearly 100 miles away to an overcrowded town at the whim of tax policy.
The mess of a barn filled with animals, their offspring, and the stench of urine and dung, and the lack of a clean, hygienic place to lay down.
The mess of a birth, with the pain and worry about the baby’s health, the blood and the fluids, and nothing but straw and hay to sop it up.
The mess of a mother, exhausted, a father, dazed, both wondering if the baby they are holding, His red face contorted with tears, is truly what they believe Him to be.
The mess of a manger for a bed, with sheep pushing His swaddled body out of the way with their noses as they eat their dinner, angered by the little one’s intrusion.
The mess of strangers, smelling even more like the worst parts of sheep, arriving and jostling for a view of the newborn, while the young couple looks on with confusion and maybe a little bit of fear.
Christmas, at its heart, is messy. Before we cleaned it up for cards and carols, it was rooted in the mess. It was dirty and smelly. It was crowded and uncomfortable. It’s main characters weren’t saints, but a scared man and woman grappling with the fact that there, in the middle of the mess, was God. That’s what Christmas is really all about, after all: messy people in a messy world desperately needing someone to love them and save them right where they are, in the middle of the mess.
Wherever you are at today, Christmas is for you. Your life doesn’t need to be cleaned up and picture perfect. You don’t have to put on a smile or pretend like the world around you doesn’t stink, that your life isn’t freaking you out a bit. Like Mary and Joseph, you may be nervous or scared or worried or confused. That’s ok, my friend!
In the middle of their mess, He was there. In the middle of your mess, He is there, too. Sometimes we just need to look.