A silent night. All is calm. No crying he makes. The festive carols, living nativities, and pristine paintings on Christmas cards of a halo-ed Mary kneeling calmly by a sweetly sleeping babe on a rather neatly arranged bed of hay while everyone within a ten-foot radius dons a well-lit halo and solemn smile. Christmas as we imagine it. Christmas as we have been told. Serene. Pristine. Religious. And perfectly, improperly sanitized. Because Jesus didn’t come that way. Jesus didn’t tip-toe in with an other-worldly tranquility. No, Jesus came enshrouded in afterbirth. Evidence of pain survived, but proof of promises kept. God Himself. In a screaming, bloody mess.
Of course, such a notion sounds sacrilegious at first reading. “That’s my LORD and SAVIOR Jesus Christ you’re talking about here! Why, He’s the King of Kings! The spotless Lamb of God!” Yes. And yet He left Heaven and all things safe and sanctified, demolishing for a moment all limitations of Time and Space, to enter our time and our space with all of its limitations. Abandoning eternity for a sure-bet, painful rendezvous with humanity. Its hardships. Its hazards. Its hell. The whole of it.
Immanuel. God with us. Electing to enter our earthly existence in a most unexpected and completely illogical manner. Because it doesn’t make sense at all. God, the Creator of the Universe, the Orderer of every subatomic speck, the very source of all reason and science and logic and the original cause for every effect, shouldn’t stoop to such depths. But He did. Even though it is goes against all reason.
But it’s Who He Is. He shows up where there’s a mess. He comes on the scene when nothing makes sense. He arrives in chaos. He turns up when all is upside-down. And He comes in lowly conditions that defy the logical expectation that the King of All Kings should enter the scene as anything but a celebrated, respected regal figure with all the world at his feet. He comes.
Jesus comes in a mess. He comes through the virgin canal of a fragile, teenage girl whose reputation was as tattered as her threadbare clothes. He comes amidst the groans of a laboring young woman enduring contraction after hard-as-hell contraction. He comes hearing the screams of a mother in agony as his little, round head batters her tiny frame. He wriggles and writhes into our troposphere, enshrouded in afterbirth and squinting in the light. A bloody mess. Skin purpling. Gasping for air. He comes. God with us.
He comes, defying the seemingly impossible, forcing us to ask how in the finite world could a Limitless God ever reduce Himself to the body of an infant, binding His Eternal Self in sweat-prone skin and fragile flesh? And why? But “Nothing is impossible with God” wasn’t just a reassuring promise to a frightened fifteen-year-old who at least momentarily struggled to believe that God could bring new life from her untouched womb. Ironically but triumphantly, Nothing is Impossible for God offers the only logical explanation for Him entering our space, our time, our messes. For what seems impossible and nonsensical to us, is exactly Who He Is for us.
He comes. Not clothed with dignity or the regalia of a King, but naked and vulnerable and dependent. Like us. For even as that moments-old newborn gasped for air in a makeshift, messy shelter, we gasp just the same in our broken, fragile states. Waiting for Jesus to show up. To breathe life. To inhale our air and exhale His hope. And just as He inhaled His first breath as a bloody mess, He exhaled His last enshrouded the same. A bloody mess. He comes. In a mess. In our mess. For our mess. He comes.
Yet how we confuse the reality. We look for Him in the pristine chapels, the put-together people, the prosperous, the popular, the pretty, the poetic. We convince ourselves that His favor rests exclusively on the wealthy and well-to-do. That the successful have His certain, special touch. That the serene is where we should find Him. We fight against our present, pain-filled circumstances, yearning for Him to be found where we actually don’t even need Him.
And it’s funny that we are uncomfortable with pain, when our Savior entered through it. We look down upon those in unseemly circumstances, when His very mother delivered Him through them. And we weep in the midst of our loneliness, when Jesus was promised to reveal Himself amidst it.
But if Christmas teaches us nothing else at all, it’s that Jesus comes in the season of the broken spirit. He shows up when life is chaotic. He is there when nothing makes sense. He enters our lives even as the whole world exits. He chooses our presence when we need His the most. We feel Him in our heartache. We see Him in our darkness. And we encounter Him on the loneliest of roads in the scariest of places on the worst of the worst of our days.
He comes in our mess. He comes in yours. He comes in mine. And just as He did in that otherwise insignificant village of Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago, He chooses to enter our world in the seemingly unlikely in the middle of stress and pain and mess.
Jesus. God with us. Enshrouded in the blood of humanity. Coming in the basest of ways. Arriving in the most tenuous of times.
So, my fellow Reluctantly Messy Friends enshrouded in our own messy realities, may we take this most miraculous story we’ve been told our entire lives, the true tale of a Virgin birth that has been repeated countless times, and let us strip it of its sanitized serenity that was never meant to be infused in the first place. Let us stop singing about the First Noel with an air of sterility when the Savior of the World was born where cows lie and all the foulness that implies.
May we stop pining for a more fitting day to encounter Him, convincing ourselves that Jesus is waiting for us there when we will (supposedly) have it all together while failing to realize that HE.IS.ALREADY.HERE when we absolutely don’t.
May we yearn for Him in the here and now where He most assuredly already is. May we understand that our pain is His invitation.
Are you looking for Jesus in the worst of ways? Begging Him to come when it doesn’t seem possible? Dying for Him to show up? Yearning for Him to JUST. BE. NEAR? Me too.
But He is.
For Jesus comes. Joy. To our world. In our bloody, screaming mess.