The Wonder of Christmas - the Birth
Have you ever had all your plans laid out, felt convinced you knew exactly what should happen, where it should happen and when it should happen? Then, everything turns out totally different from your plans; maybe exact opposite from your dreams.
Last week we saw the announcement to Mary and the Love of God that poured through that situation that allowed her to love God back with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. This week, however, we come to the messy part that I’m sure was not in Mary’s plans. It would have been easy, even normal, for Mary to think that she would give birth in a nice place, at a momentous time, in in spectacular circumstances. But the world now knows that was not at all what God had in mind!
Today’s video reminds us in a fresh way that what happened on the first Christmas when Jesus was born looks a lot more like that messy barn than the clean little manger in our Nativity scenes that sit in our homes and offices and are depicted in the Christmas cards. Jesus did come to get messy. And the birth that took place in that messy barn on the outskirts of Bethlehem was anything but a clean and sanitary sight.
I remember well being in a sterile birthing room when our children were born. I remember the miracle of childbirth comes with sights, sounds, smells, and different sensations that can be described at times as a bit messy. There is a clean-up process that always takes place when a baby makes their arrival. But, no matter how sanitized and scrubbed everyone in the room may be, before it’s all said and done, there will be some beautiful mess that accompanies that precious baby.
We are not told that Mary or Joseph knew ahead of time that this momentous event, the Birth of one described in
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
would be so messy! I would feel heartbroken; like I let God down over such a big disaster as not finding a room for the night for my pregnant wife. Then, I let God down again by letting His Son be born in a barn! Ouch! I can imagine the shame so vividly
Making Matters Worse
Making Matters Worse
Now think of the narrative at hand from Luke 2.1-20. Who got invited into the middle of the birth mess when Jesus was born? Joseph, of course, helped Mary through the birth, but also the shepherds also came in for a sticky beak shortly after the baby Jesus arrived.
If one word was used to describe shepherds in the first century, it would undoubtedly be “messy.” The shepherds were the roughnecks and the wrong kind of crowd who were anything but sanitized and saintly. Shepherds were unwashed, unkept and all-around messy people with messy lives. Despite all this, the angels invited them to visit the manger, where the long-awaited Messiah was finally born.
If the messy shepherds were invited by God to see the newborn King Jesus, then a precedent was set for all who may have some mess in our own lives. This precedent means we can also be close and drawing near to Jesus as we open our lives to the Wonder of Christmas. Our imperfect and sometimes messy lives do not disqualify us as people who can come to Jesus! He is the one who came to get messy. And He invites us to draw near to Him this Christmas. The writer of Hebrews says it like this:
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In other words, Jesus invites us to come close even before we clean up our lives. He was tempted to get tangled up in the same kinds of sinful messes we find ourselves in, but He never let the mess invade His perfect life. He knows where we are and how to get us out of our messes.
The Apostle Paul writes about this extensively in his various letters. In Romans he talks about how Jesus came to save us from our mess. Paul writes:
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
We were in a big mess with God because we chose sin over God. Sin had entangled us and messed everything up. However, God loved us so much that even while we were in a big sinful-mess, Christ came from heaven to earth and was born so that He could live as an example of godliness, and ultimately He could one day die in our place on the cross. This ultimate act of love took can take care of the sin mess running rampant in our lives. He made a way back to wholeness, and singlehandedly cleaned up our mess once and for all.
Eugene Peterson says it like this: “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us—he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
This is part of the wonder of Christmas that started at the birth in Bethlehem and culminated on the cross at Calvary. Jesus loved us so much that He chose to come close in the middle of our mess.
It is part of the wonder of Christmas to realize Jesus is not afraid of our messy spirituality. What is true about many of our lives is that messy spirituality is an accurate description of the Christianity most of us live and few of us admit. However, it is such a relief when we realize the truth that Jesus is not repelled by our lives no matter what kind of mess they may be in or how inadequate we may feel this Christmas.
No amount of mess can discourage Jesus from loving us fully. He came into a messy situation because He knew that is where we live: right in the middle of a mess of sin. Regardless, He pursues us in the face of it all with love bigger than whatever mess we find ourselves in today.
Jesus asks the question found in
12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, was talking about pursuing the one sheep that was in a mess because it had wandered off. And He was pursuing that one with goodness and mercy in his heart and mind. This Christmas you and I just need to slow down long enough in our wanderings to change what we stare at and see His goodness and His mercy. Jesus continually gives people a fresh start in life when they trust Him.
Perhaps this Christmas, you just need a fresh start with Jesus. Maybe you need to go back to where it began in the Christmas story and remember that innocence in the form of a baby stepped into a mess to save us from the mess of our lives in this world.
Maybe, you have delt with that, but you still need something to hold onto this Christmas morning.
Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
What must have been going through her mind? What was she pondering? The trip, the stable rather than a room, the visit of strangers who had just seen angels – there are so many things she had to ponder. Perhaps it was just a blur and not how she thought her first hours of motherhood would play out. What a mess! What an unbelievable, unique, and holy mess.
Don’t let the media, or even friends and family press you into wanting something other than God’s design for you right now. Mary and Joseph were exactly where God wanted them to be that night. It was a mess, it was not what they had probably envisioned, but it was where God wanted them.
Yes, the wonder of Christmas is about the special delivery that would one day lead to our special delivery when Jesus would grow up from the baby born in Bethlehem into a man who lived a perfect life and went all the way from the manger to the cross to deliver us from the mess of our sin.
All who admit the mess that their sin has caused, who believe in this special delivery of the Saviour named Jesus, and who call on His name as the one who is our deliverer can have a fresh start this Christmas with Jesus. Jesus is the Saviour who meets us in our mess because that is the reason He was born; He came to get messy.
1. Have you asked Jesus to save you from your sin and from the mess in your life?
2. Are we as willing for God to change our ideas about what is best as we are for Him to call us favoured?
3. How can we express to God today that we are happy to submit to His plans for our lives over our expectations of what would be best?