The Mess of Christmas

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Ever feel like your life is a mess?

Does regret over poor choices or wrong turns leave you fearing life will never become what it was meant to be? Has the grief of loss left you hopeless, feeling life will never return to what it once was?  Maybe you despair over the parts of life that were and are out of your control, reinforcing the idea that for you, life is simply unfair.

A Mess.  Relationally.  Financially. Emotionally.  Spiritually.  Just a Big. Fat. Mess.  Well friend, I have good news for you:  God loves The Mess.

God loves The Mess because it gives Him room to work.  It creates space for Him in our lives.  It is His stomping ground and where we are guaranteed to find Him.  We live with this false assumption that He prefers to dwell among the perfect, pristine, unblemished life, like the air brushed images we see in magazines.  He wants flawless beauty and perfection.  Wrong.

The only perfection God sees is in His Son; He’s never expected you to be perfect on your own.

But that is what we strive to present Him.  And when we fall short, we lose hope.  We throw up our hands and assume, “My life is too big of a mess for God.  He doesn’t want to deal with all my baggage; He wants good people who’ve done good things.  He doesn’t want a mess like me.”

Oh friend, nothing could be further from the truth.  I am here to proclaim that God loves you and He wants to redeem your Mess.  How do I know?  Because God purposely chose to send His Son from the perfection of heaven into a mess.

God the Father saw fit to send His only Son into the world in the messiest of ways.

Most people have at least heard parts of the Nativity story.  Virgin birth.  Shepherds.  A star.  But this season, as I find myself and many family and friends dealing with their own Mess, my eyes have been opened to The Mess surrounding the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of All Creation, could have been born to a queen, in a palace somewhere, with all the comforts He deserved.   That would’ve made sense, right?  Clearly, The Father didn’t want to make sense because sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense.

Reconsider with me, for a moment, a story that’s become way too familiar and comfortable for some of us.  Like our modern-day lives, it’s full of messes and drama and dysfunction.

  • Jesus early days were chaotic and transient.  First, he was born on the go, perhaps like some of you, who made your grand entrance into the back seat of a car on the way to the hospital.  Except Jesus was on the way to a barn.  Even worse.  Then, shortly after his birth, the angel told Joseph to flee to Egypt because “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13-15).  So, let’s sum this up:  Jesus was born in a barn in Bethlehem, then came a death threat that sent them fleeing in the night to Egypt, lived there for a while, then moved to Nazareth.  A mess.  Certainly not a good ad campaign for a Johnson & Johnson commercial.
  •  Jesus was an unplanned pregnancy for a teen mom.  An unprepared teenager was going to give birth to the Savior of the world.  I’ve blown this off with, “Yeah, but back then, they married young and had babies early,” somewhat negating the fact that this young girl gave birthIn a barn.  Ladies, those of you who’ve given birth, think about that for a sec.  An unexperienced teenage girl carried a full-term baby safely and delivered him naturally.  No hospital.  No drugs.  No doctor.  Not even the usual methods of help and pain relief common to the day were available to Mary as she labored in the barn.  I’m afraid a grandiose illusion of the nativity has clouded my mind’s eye, and I envision the scene a bit too nostalgically.  I find myself thinking that because Jesus was God in flesh, and because angels were singing and the star was shining, that his birth was somehow different.  Less painful; more spectacular.  But it wasn’t.  Mary labored Just. Like. Us.  Jesus was born Just. Like. Us.  Tears were shed.  Wails of agony kept time with the angels’ praises.  And it was messy.
  • Jesus’ earthly parents were messed up.  Mary and Joseph—not the ideal couple.  A teenage girl, probably forced into marriage, and Joseph, a common carpenter who had to believe this girl when she said she had conceived immaculately.  Really?  Who says that?  This was definitely a messy situation, a messy relationship.  Jesus’ life rested on these two characters.  God, The Director, would make a way for the Son, but keep in mind that He did not force anyone to assume their role.  Scripture clearly explains how it went down.  Jesus was perfect, yet willing.  Mary was afraid, yet humble.  Joseph was confused, yet obedient.  Mary and Joseph became outcasts in their own town; embarrassments to their families.  Thought to be lunatics or liars; perceived as disobedient, rebellious sinners.  According to custom, Joseph should’ve had Mary stoned to death.  Mary should’ve run away or told the angel no.  But they did neither.  Instead, they chose to walk head first into The Mess, together. Their lives were completely interrupted and messed up, yet, they accepted the situation as it was.  They chose to believe The Message, and one another, when everyone around them said not to.  They trusted God, together.  They lived through The Mess, together.  In a ball of emotions—fear, anticipation, hope—they believed that good would come out of The Mess, a Savior, just as the angel had told them.
  • Jesus’ birth made a mess of many families.  “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under…Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” (Matt. 2:16)  After Jesus’ birth, the mothers and fathers in Bethlehem saw their baby boys murdered right before their eyes.  I look at my 21-month-old baby boy and realize this would’ve been his fate.  If it were me seeing my son murdered at the hands of evil men, would I feel hopeful that The Messiah had just been born into the world?  Would I feel the joy of my salvation in Him?  I highly doubt it.  The Mess that ensued at the order of Herod rocked these families’ world.  “Weeping and great mourning…refusing to be comforted…”  Have you ever witnessed a mother who’s lost a child, who cannot be comforted?   I have and it’s the most painful, gut-wrenching feeling I’ve ever had.  Maybe you are that mother.  Maybe you know exactly how the mothers of Bethlehem felt that night.  You’ve lost all hope of ever having true joy; the news that The Savior is born is not comforting to you.  Christmas is not a time of celebration, but of sorrow.  Your heavenly Father knows.  He knows it all.  He’s seen and felt the pain you bear.  He knew how Herod would react.  He knew the lives that would be lost.  Yet, God sent His Son and allowed this tragedy so we could see that nothing is too painful, too broken for Him.  Amidst the death and mourning and sorrow, Jesus came—to bring life.

When I read this story without my rose-colored glasses, my heart is overwhelmed.  I simply cannot fathom the love The Father has for us. That He’d send His only Son, not just into the world, but into a Mess.  Purposely.

Jesus’ love for us is just as confounding.  He willingly left the perfection of heaven KNOWING it was going to be messy.  He gave up Glory to live an earthly, human, messed up life.  His early days were messy, and so were the days of His ministry.  He was homeless.  He was rejected.  He—GOD—was considered a liar and a blasphemer.  He was spit on.  He suffered a criminal’s death.

From start to finish, Jesus’ story was not merry.  His life was not comfortable.  Yet, He was HolyHe was God in fleshJesus lived a perfect life amidst the chaos and mess of humanity so He could know exactly how we feel living our lives.  He loves us that much.

We focus so much on His perfection and how we don’t measure up, we miss the fact that He chose to feel the feelings we feel.  He chose to deal with the day-to-day issues we deal with.  Hunger.  Sleep.  Work.  Temptation.  Emotions.  Death of loved ones.  Remember, He’s seen and felt the pain you bear.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet, He did not sin.”

~Hebrews 4:15

Maybe your life has been transient.  You weren’t born and raised in the two-story house with the white picket fence.  You were born into a messed up family with a less than ideal start.  Maybe you had a reluctant father or teen mother without a clue how to raise you.  Maybe you are that reluctant father or clueless mother.  Maybe your life has seen more than its fair share of sorrow.  Then today, it’s your turn to rejoice.  “A Savior has been born to YOU; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).  He was born in such a way that YOU can have hope.

Your story is messy; His story is messy.  He made it this way for you to see that He is not so far off that you cannot attain His love.  He loves your Mess, for it is in the stink of The Mess that He shines. His glory is bright and His sovereignty gleams against the backdrop of darkness.

He’s right in the middle of The Mess with you, just waiting to redeem you.  All you have to do is believe it.  Believe Him.  Believe He is who He says He is and that He loves you with an overwhelming, sloppy kind of love.  It’s everywhere. It’s overflowing. It exceeds all our expectations.

I don’t know what kind of hopelessness you may be feeling this Christmas, but know this:  Hopelessness is not of God and it is the exact opposite of what Christmas represents.  The Christmas story is more than just warm, fuzzy feelings about God and the head-knowledge of something He did thousands of years ago.  Christmas represents Hope amidst The Mess, and here’s why:  We serve a God who does not shy away from messes, but embraces them.

Jesus is not embarrassed by your Mess, so don’t you be, either.  Look at your Mess, for the first time maybe, and see Hope.  See what Mary and Joseph chose to see in their Mess—the possibility of what God could do with it. Stop trying to clean it up yourself; leave it to Him.  Allow God to use your Mess to create a story worth telling.  Then, when He redeems it, go tell it.

Tell the world what God has done with your Mess and allow Him to use it to further His kingdom.  He can do that.  No matter how messy your story may be, there’s someone out there whose Mess looks like yours and they’re dying to hear the Hope you’ve found.  As you share the story of your Mess, may your words be like that of Mary’s, as she proclaimed the Glory of hers:

“I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.  God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!  What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.  His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before Him.  He bared His arm and showed His strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts.  He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud.  The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold.  He embraced His chosen child, Israel; He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.  It’s exactly what He promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”

~ Luke 1:46-55

Praying you find Hope in The Mess of Christmas, friend.

Jessie

To read the story of Jesus’ birth for yourself, check out Luke 1:26-2:20.

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3 responses »

  1. I recently read a book that highlighted the difficulties of Mary being pregnant and unwed in society. It talked about how she tried to convince her mother and father, how she dealt with people losing trust in her, and how she had to go through the pain of being the scum of society after being one of the lovely, quintessential pure virgins. It was really heart wrenching even if it was only one person’s interpretation of that story. But your post reminded me of it. 🙂

    • Thanks for your input. After writing this, I became aware that Joseph wouldn’t even have been in the room with her during the birth, as it would have made him ceremonially unclean. Can you imagine birthing a child completely alone?

  2. Reblogged this on notmyownblog and commented:

    God must have shook His head when I wrote this 3 years ago. Not because it’s wrong, but because I had NO idea just how messy life was about to get. Even the family and friends I mentioned in this post have seen their messes grow exponentially messier over the past 3 years. Has yours?

    If your life is feeling messy this Christmas, I pray you feel the hope in these words and it becomes your own. I can attest to the dark, messy moments of sorrow and fear, but I can also say that’s where I see Him the clearest. He IS God with us. He is with us in our mess.

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