My day…5:15am the alarm goes off and I make breakfast and lunch for kid one and then take said child to basketball practice before school. Back home by 6:15am to prepare kid two for school, assemble teacher Christmas gifts, and gather items that need returned to the store. As we walk out the door (for my second 20 min trip to school) I stare in wonderment at my kitchen which had been scrubbed and scoured the day before and now looks like a hot chocolate bomb went off (Mae’s Marvelous Molten Chocolate – homemade with love for her teachers.) I needed an oil change, had a Christmas “variety” show at the school to attend, an English Lit book that needed returned on this, the last day of school before break, and was sitting safely at home (we realized after we arrived at school.) I needed gas and a few random items from the grocery store and kid one and two were finished with school at 1pm and needed picked up (with forgotten book in tow.) Then, this evening, deep breath and off to the first in a string of Christmas events running now through Dec 27th. Fa-la-la-la-la and a partridge in a pear tree.
I read the following description of the first Christmas by Annie Dieselberg, CEO and Founder of NightLight, and feel that many of us can probably relate, at least in part. It’s messy, and stressful, filled with disappointment and discomfort and chaos. But then the most beautiful thing happens. Hope shows up right in the middle of it! God with us, in the flesh. In the mess, in the hurt, in the uncertainty, in the chaos of trying to manage the everyday and the holidays rolled up together…God with us! Hope showed up!
I realized long ago that few Christmases are actually idyllic. In fact the first Christmas was anything but picture perfect. Mary and Joseph did not stop at a midnight mass to ponder the coming of their Savior. The political climate was chaotic and oppressive. People were forced to return to their city of birth for the census and the dirt roads would have been crowded, dusty, and noisy. Personal transportation was a donkey not a car with air conditioning and there were no noise-reduction headphones. There was no fast food and no convenient rest areas with picnic tables and clean bathrooms. On top of all this, Mary was experiencing the discomfort of riding on a donkey with a huge belly while experiencing labor pains.
Arriving in Bethlehem was only a temporary relief to the weary travelers, as the inns were full. Since in those days people didn’t hide out in their hotel rooms watching TV and ordering pizza to eat in seclusion, they would have been gathering around fires to cook their food in community. Children would have been running around and parents would have been yelling after the children to behave. In the midst of this chaos, Joseph was under pressure to find a place immediately for his wife to give birth. Joseph is usually portrayed as calm through it all, but from my own experience and stories of others, few men are actually that calm when their wife is about to deliver their first child. Sure they were given a stable but that’s kind of like finally getting a hotel room only to find the bed uncomfortable, the carpet stained, mold on the walls, and the odor of the previous tenant still lingering – not even a 2 star hotel. Somehow we have spiritualized everything to look so idyllic. I can’t think of anything idyllic about going through labor in a stable surrounded by animals. Mary and Joseph’s moment for reflection and wonder probably only came after an intensive labor and after a visit by the Shepherds. There was little in this first Christmas that was quiet, beautiful, or private by worldly standards.
Jesus came in the midst of chaos and he came into community accessible to all. He didn’t come to bring us a picture perfect Christmas. He came in the flesh, bringing hope to a chaotic world desperately in need. He came to a world in political upheaval because hope of peace is needed in these moments. He came to broken communities because He is the hope for better relationships. He came in the dark night because He is the hope that light will shine and overcome the darkness. He came to our stressed and burdened lives because he is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
I love this real look at the first Christmas and I love that the Hope of the world is born into the Bethlehem version of our present day situation. God gets it and He sent His son right into the middle of it to shine a light that says, “This isn’t it. It may be harried and hurtful right now, but I promise you that if you trust in me, if you accept the gift of My Son, it will be better one day. This is not the end.”
The miracle of Christmas is in new life, new beginnings, right in the middle of real life.
Happy seventh (and sixth) day of Christmas!