Having grown up in church, I have participated in my fair share of Christmas Programs.  I have been a sheep, a shepherd, Mary, an angel and a lead character in some Christmas-related play that never mentioned Jesus, Mary, Joseph or a stable.  I remember getting slips of paper with verses and/or lines typed on them.  My mission, if I accepted it, was to memorize said words and recite them clearly, loudly and meaningfully, right on cue, during our performance.  I have had my halo fall from my head, I have missed my cue, have watched young friends of mine forget their lines and once we all looked down at the manger and realized someone forgot Baby Jesus.  Oops….

While I remember well the admonishments of stage directors and choir leaders to “do a great job,” I also remember that, no matter what the end results, my parents and those of my friends were always pleased with our efforts and full of compliments and proud smiles.

As we prepared a couple weeks ago for your kids to sing during church, I remembered the looks on those adults’ faces and totally understood.  Most of us watch the efforts of little children to portray that night in song or action with the knowledge that they ARE little kids and the realization there is no way they can accurately show us the beauty, the perfection, the majesty of that dark night so many years ago.

Wait a second.

This week I began to think of what the birth of Jesus entailed and, I have to say, I believe it was a little less sparkly and magical than we typically imagine.

For those of you who have been pregnant…or married to someone pregnant, take a moment to think back to the time right before the birth of the awaited child.  The mom-to-be was calm, right?  I mean –  happy, open to last minute changes and not at all concerned about when or where her child would be born.  She was fine with being uncomfortable, would actually WELCOME a long ride on a donkey and a barn-like birthing room.

Speaking of the accommodations, think about the manger scenes from Christmases past.  Sweet and peaceful little stables with gentle animals, and serene parents-to-be.

Just one question.  Have you ever BEEN to a barn?  The smell.  The bugs. The animal…stuff.

And then there is the actual birth of a child.  There is nothing pristine about the process.  It is painful and scary and exciting and messy.  Very, very messy.

“But wait, Melinda,” you say.  “I get all that, but THIS is JESUS we’re talking about.  And the virgin Mary.  I don’t want to think about all the yucky stuff, the scratchy hay, the cold air, the pain and the mess.  I just want a pretty picture and a shining star and a silent night.”

But I believe if we try to pretend away the messiness, we miss out on something very important.

We miss what Jesus ACTUALLY did for us.  In a nutshell, he entered humanity’s mess.  Our mess.  Our sin and our failures and our disappointments and our fears.  He walked our Earth and that journey began in a very non-idyllic location.  In a very messy way.

What made that night so amazing, so wonder-full, was the absolute non-perfection of the moment.  For, if God came down and lived some sort of pretend life, a kind of “boy in a bubble” existence (okay, some of you may need to look up that reference…) what is the specialness in THAT?  When we see a powerful person here on earth go to a devastated place wearing a perfectly clean, monogramed jacket or perfectly white tennies and a cute sweater, most of us look and think, “That person may be looking AT the situation, but he/she is not actually IN the situation.”  We contrast the pretty attire and disconnected smiles with the ravaged clothes and faces of those around them and are usually not impressed.

God didn’t do that.  He didn’t visit our Earth in a half-hearted, pretentious way.  He came to live among us.  To sleep where we sleep.  Smell what we smell.  Mourn what we mourn.  And yet to remain at the same time a perfect lamb preparing for sacrifice.

He doesn’t expect our lives to be perfect or to look perfect.  One of the coolest things about God is, when we invite Him into our lives, He walks right into the muck and mire and mess and stays.  He also helps us clean up, of course, but He never waits for us to dust and mop and do the dishes before coming on in.

When your kids sang that Sunday, they may have missed a note, or a word or have been so distracted by bouncing, glowing balls that they forgot to sing altogether.  But as I looked around the room, you, their parents, were watching. And smiling.

Our Heavenly Father is watching us.

He sees our sin.

Our failures.

Our mess.

And, despite all of that, He too smiles.

In Christ,
Melinda Lamera