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Have a Very Messy Christmas!

Sometimes it seems that Christmas is the neat part of the Christ story…a tiny little baby come to earth in a package all tied up with a bow, but if you’ve ever had a baby you know that babies rarely come neatly packaged.

In our minds it can be easy to confuse the imagery of a pristine nativity set with the reality of caring for a newborn infant. With a real baby, there is crying, wetting, laughing, cooing, gurgling, and mewling…all addressed with love. Moments of great joy and great frustration occur, with a generous side of sleepless nights.

Photo by Aikomo Opeyemi on

With the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph had their hands full from the beginning. First, they dealt with an unexpected and rather inexplicable (at least to their peers) pregnancy, then they became new parents with all the associated joys and anxieties, and finally they fled to a foreign land to escape the wrath of a jealous king.

All these surprising parts make the birth story more rather than less memorable. It’s miraculous that a tiny baby could be born under such circumstances, survive, and grow up to have a major impact on the world thousands of years later.

The messiness of what must have actually occurred…the cleaning up of the blood and the placenta, the cutting of the umbilical cord, and nursing the baby Jesus for the first time…all those things make the birth more rather than less real. Those messy details are what allow us to recognize the part of this child that is sheer flesh, experiencing the same kind of complex realities that humans experience. So it comes as no surprise that during 2020, the year of the Great Pandemic (…the pandemic that hasn’t been really “great” at all – at least in experiential ways) we remember the birth of Jesus yet again. It’s especially fitting this year as most of us have wrestled in some way or another with deeply emotional issues, decisions, and experiences.

Image by Amy Elizabeth Quinn from

As we have lived through weeks and months filled with bad news, death, injustice, and roller coaster rides of emotion, we, like Mary and Joseph, have a birth to look forward to. Life-giving news in the midst of death-dealing stories brings hope…even if it is complicated.

What was God up to in sending Christ as a tiny, vulnerable baby to the world? I doubt if anyone living back then could have embraced the full answer – it had to play out step by step. Mary and Joseph knew more than most, but even they could not foresee the future. The incredible part of the whole story is the love with which God and Christ embraced humanity in all its messiness.

God is still at work in the world, despite the devastation we have seen this year. Sometimes God is busiest when life seems messiest. The birth of the Christ Child is a reminder that God is birthing new things in our midst all the time.

What signs of new life have you seen in 2020? How have God/Christ/Spirit been active in expanding your faith?

May you have a joy-filled Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus with all the messiness that 2020 has brought us. The Good News is that God walks with us through the chaos, and a tiny newborn baby named Jesus shines a light on our path. Image from Pixabay on

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