I am writing this in the family room of my home.
My home is undeniably not decorated for Christmas.
Unless you count the little baubles that got left up last year.
(When I noticed them in June they made me laugh…why put them away then?)
I was pondering the mystery of how calm I am about this
when the Christmas story came to mind.
The stable was probably not decorated.
No trendy barn lights.
No colorful wall hangings.
No pine scent.
No guest towels.
Because no one expected there to be guests in the barn.
At least not human guests.
And especially not the King of kings and Lord of lords kind of guests.
And then a really amazing thought came to mind
(inspired by the Holy Spirit, I have no doubt).
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her she would bear the Child of the Most High,
the angel did not say “and you will give birth far away from home, in a barn.”
When the angel visited Joseph, the angel did not say ‘…and you are to give him the
name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ and oh by the way the
birth will take place far away from here, in a barn.
I don’t know what Mary and Joseph were expecting about the actual birth,
but I’m fairly certain it didn’t happen the way they thought it might.
And I wonder how they felt.
Did either one of them think
“Oh my gosh how could we have let the Son of God be born in a barn?!”
Because that might be exactly what I would have thought.
But with our hindsight we can see that the barn played an important role.
How would the shepherds have been able to find a baby located in a customary
home? How many doors would they have needed to knock on? Shepherds were not
especially welcome… anywhere. But the barn? It’s a place familiar to shepherds and
all they had to do was to follow the star to the only barn that had a baby in it.
With our hindsight we can see that his lowly beginning
(might we even say desparate beginning?)
allows those whom the world calls untouchable, unworthy and unclean
to know a Savior who knows just how that feels.
And to understand that in spite of what the world may call them,
God Most High calls them child.
What I would have called a disaster
(giving birth to God’s Son in a barn),
God used as a tremendous blessing.
But we wouldn’t know any of that unless that part of the story was shared.
That’s one of the reasons I love God’s story so much — it doesn’t edit out the bad
and the ugly; God’s story actually highlights how God works in the midst of the bad
and the ugly to bring about good.*
Here’s what I’m trying to say:
I wonder if God wants to use the not-so-perfect places of our lives to bless others?
To make them know they are not alone.
To remind them that God adores them as His child
no matter their personal brokenness, family circumstances, children’s struggles,
mental health, financial status, employment status, overflowing to-do list or
(I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word but I’m going with it).
I wonder if sharing our own struggles with other people,
(appropriate sharing with trusted others)
is somehow an important part of God’s story.
I’m pretty sure it is.
How else would we experience the fullness of his love?
Most assuredly there are more critical things to ponder,
but for me, right this moment, I’m pondering how my home is undeniably not
decorated and I am not highly motivated to change that situation but I know I need
to but I don’t really have the time to because it feels like I’m so far behind in life
generally and in this season particularly but probably my kids will expect it and if
they ask why our tree is not up and my treasured decorations aren’t out
am I even allowed to say
“hey…do you want presents or a tree? ’cause unless I get some help around here you
might be lucky to get even one of those?”
(based on personal experience that’s a thought that needs to stay inside one’s head).
In the event that you are also pondering something like that,
know that you are not alone.
Take a deep breath with me.
God is with us, even now.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
* “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28)