By: Rev. Chris Gilmore
*This article was originally published at www.iamchrisgilmore.com.
Just look at the shreds of wrapping paper and the stacks of receipts. Look at the scattered stocking stuffers and the crumbs of quickly consumed cookies. Look at the half-eaten candy cane stuck to the carpet and the Pinterest fails and the exhausted in-laws. Messy.
But Christmas was messy long before any gifts were unwrapped, or mixing bowls were left in the sink.
Christmas has been messy from the very start.
Christmas is centered on a human birth. I’m not sure if you’ve ever witnessed one of those, but I can testify to this fact – they are quite messy. Messy with blood and amniotic fluids and tears and sweat and other, well, messes.
This is the way Christ comes into the world. This is the way God shows up. A messy miracle.
And the mess wasn’t contained to just the biology of it all. The mess included livestock’s sleeping quarters, which smell about as good as you might imagine.
Christ comes not into a sterile hospital room or even a well-prepped master bedroom. He comes into the equivalent of an oft used garage. Never mind the animal feed and draftiness and random goat or two.
And then the messy welcoming committee arrives. Not kings or princes or the head of the local chamber of commerce. Shepherds. Night shift shepherds at that.
Shepherds who likely hadn’t had a proper bath or used copious amounts of hand sanitizer in some time. Dirt under their fingernails, sheep poop on their sandals, long stained clothes. There is that smell again. What a mess.
And of course, there is the mess involving his parents. Mary says the child isn’t Joseph’s. Rumors swirl and the folks in town give knowing glances. “Who is the father?” the gossipers ask. Joseph plans to stay with Mary and raise this child as his own, despite laws and opinions suggesting otherwise. What a mess.
And then there is Herod. He fears the child so much that he will order all boys under the age of two to be killed. The heartache. Little Jesus and his family will flee their home and escape to Egypt to ensure his safety. The chaos and mess seem to never end.
Back then and still today, Christmas is messy. And that is good news.
Because our lives are often messy. And our world is often messy.
We make messes out of our relationships, messes out of our futures, messes out of our finances. Our faith gets messy, our pasts are messy. We have an incredible knack for messing things up.
We do what we don’t want to do. We don’t do what we do want to do. We are slow to learn our lessons. Quick to find new ways to blow it. Messy.
Rather than avoid the chaos, our God jumps right into it. Moves toward it. Enters the mess.
Rather than avoid it, because the mess is gross and God is above all that, a God whose holiness is rooted in love dives in after us.
To help us. To clean us up. To lift us out of our mess.
To forgive all the messes we have created. To heal all the messes that have been set upon us.
Christmas is messy. And grace is messy. And love is messy. People are messy.
And it is here in the mess, not above it, not once the mess is cleaned, right here in it, that Christ is found.
Here in the mess Christ comes, not to scold us for the messes we’ve made or keep a suspicious watch as we work to clean ourselves up.
He comes and stoops and washes and tends to needs and makes right what is wrong.
He enters the mess not to remind us of how bad we are, but to show us a better way. To lead us out of darkness and into light. He comes to the mess and offers us his presence, his tenderness, his understanding, his unmessiness.
So, when the mess is so bad that you don’t know where to begin the clean-up, remember Christ comes to messes.
When you buy the lie that you have to clean yourself up first, remember Jesus is deeply familiar with messy people and situations.
When you nervously wonder if perhaps you’ve missed a spot or left something untended, remember God is more concerned with the position of your heart than what you’ve stepped in.
When you feel unworthy or too dirty, remember Christmas is messy.
And that’s the point.
The love revealed at Christmas is intended for you and all your dirty, stinky, bloody messes. Joy to the whole messy world!