Crystal. Olive wood from the holy land. Hand carved Bavarian. Faceless collectible figurines (I always will see if those are of Amish design…prices range from a dollar for an ornament at dollar tree to. Thousands. For a nativity scene. The choices are endless. One for every decor and budget. All carefully crafted to represent one of the most holy events known to man. The birth of Christ. Emmanuel, God with us. Who took on the humility of humanity and was born so that he would live, grow, teach us to live, then die so that we might live, fully now, and for eternity.
beautiful. But, every time I see a carefully crafted and lovingly placed nativity, I wonder if we’ve sanitized the reality of the manger and It’s full meaning.
First: it wasn’t a hand carved wooden crèche that could have been designed by Nate Berkus. It was most likely a cave, with all that entails. Dampness, dark. It was a cave for animal care, so I’m guessing that in addition to the Christ child, it also held noisy animals, along with they’re ummm “mess.”
I’m pretty sure “mess” is a much better descriptor of that first Christmas than Nativity or Crèche. Which just sound so fancy. Remember, this was like the shed behind a motel 6. There was no room for this pregnant teen and her betrothed at the inn. I wonder if word had gotten out about Joseph and his preggo bride? I wonder if there would have been room I had things been different. I wonder if it was a judgement to cast them to a barn to birth their illegitimate (by Jewish law) child.
Regardless, it was messy. Sheep, goats, maybe camels and certainly dung and hay. This is the reality of the nativity.
Then, there was the birth. Mary and Joseph had a miraculous conception but the bible describes a natural childbirth. Picture a teenaged (virgin) mom, a clueless dad surrounded by animal chaos trying to birth a baby sans doula, pediatrician or ob/gyn. I’m pretty sure the bible left out the graphic stuff. Like mucus plugs, breaking water, contractions without an epidural or Demerol, tearing in places no woman wants tears, pushing until blood vessels burst, then managing to cut the cord and clean up the mess that is a vernix and blood smeared baby not to mention the after birth.
Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths. Not cutely printed , star shaped organic cotton swaddlers sold at babies r us. These were rags. It was all that Mary and Joseph had to wrap him in. They laid him in a manger. A manger is a trough for holding animal feed. Could you imagine that being the best place to lay your newborn? I have dogs and cats. Their bowls get disgusting from spit and whatever else they get in there. I can’t imagine sheep goats or camels being much cleaner. I’m guessing it was much worse. I’m sure there was fresh hay. But still.
Not exactly the nativity scene we think of.
Jesus’ entry into this world was through the humility of mess and chaos.
Yet, every Christmas we sanitize that reality and try to create a perfect holy and jolly holiday. As if chaos and mess we’re never and should never be a part.
That mess, was holy. It was the process of God taking on flesh to dwell among us and bring us hope. That mess was a small part of Jesus becoming the high priest who understands our weaknesses and empathisizes with us, and our messes. All of them.
This year, I challenge you to join me in embracing the mess of the manger. Let’s let our own messy christmas’s remind us of the reality of that miraculous messy birth. And be thankful for it.
i long for a chaos free and nativity perfect Christmas- I try every year to create one. I make myself crazy doing so. I try to set a scene of peace and beauty, and end up with mess and chaos and feeling like a failure because I can’t replicate that nativity scene.
The truth is- Christmas has always been messy. Full of tax collectors causing inconvenient trips, drop in royalty (ok. For me my mom dropping in is royalty. Justsayin. Gotta clean for grandma.) dirty hay and inns Without room.
This year, let’s embrace the mess and let it remind us of the miracle of Christ’s messy birth. After all, that’s what it’s all about;)
Dear Lord, you know I’m a crazy perfectionist. You know I struggle to create an imagined perfect Christmas that never existed. Help me to embrace the mess and thank you for joining us in our messy humanity, all of it. Thank you for being a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Thank you for coming through the manger to get to the cross. I love you lord, amen. Ps: lord? If you could just make my pets stop reminding me of the animal mess in the manger- I’d be ok with that. Amen