The mystery of God taking on flesh, is astounding enough. But there is another unexpected gem of Christmas: mess.
“We sanitize Christmas when we only present a picture-perfect, storybook rendition of what took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago…The straw in the manger is fresh and clean. There’s no umbilical cord to cut and no blood. It’s a “silent night.” The surroundings are strangely free from the pungent odor of manure. Joseph and Mary are calm, cool, and collected. Everyone gets a good night’s sleep. There’s no controversy or gossip surrounding the birth. It’s a pleasant, appealing way to think about Christmas, but obscures the foulness, uncertainty, and sin that Jesus was born into. We forget that rather than coming for the put-together, well-to-do, and self-sufficient, Jesus identified with the rejected, the slandered, the helpless, and the poor.”
Jesus came to live in the world He created, a world of beauty and delight. But it was also a world broken by sin, an uncomfortable world.
Along with the fragrance of warm bread, there was the stench of rotting flesh.
The sweetness of honey came with painful stings.
Along with soft sheep’s wool, there were cold nights sleeping on scratchy straw.
And as if that wasn’t enough,
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do– yet He did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
Physical discomfort, the emotional pain of loss and betrayal, the spiritual suffering of temptation–these were all part of the life of Jesus. They make the birth we celebrate not a weak, watered-down present but a precious gift of love.