Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. What is your idea of the bare necessities needed for you to have a good travel experience? Do you love to go camping? Do you need a tent or camper? What do your accommodations need to provide you for a good stay? Must you have luxury linens and spa quality shampoo, or are you content with the basics of a Motel 6? Is breakfast provided and if so, does it need to have a “hot” option? Is cruising the only way to go?
I ask these questions as I reflect on an article I read regarding the unsanitized version of the Christmas story. The article reminded me that the first Christmas journey was one of long, difficult, messy days of travel.
Beginning with the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, and the announcement that she would conceive a child by the agency of the Holy Spirit, instead of the usual means of conception, the story of Jesus’ birth is complicated. It’s messy. Joseph feels betrayed. After all, they were engaged and she is pregnant and he knows he isn’t the father. She is an unwed mother and that just wasn’t supposed to happen to “nice” girls. Unlike today, when most people hardly blink an eye at a child born outside of marriage, in those days it was a huge deal.
Once Mary and Joseph iron out the wrinkles of their situation (with the help of divine intervention), the government requires them to take an unexpected trip to Bethlehem. It’s messy, walking or riding a donkey or sitting in a cart, making sure there is food, water and funds for necessities, worrying about thieves and strangers.
Bethlehem is overcrowded, and the presence of the Roman army is clearly felt as soldiers oversee the census process. Into this scene comes a travel-weary couple, seeking a place to rest. It’s obvious the mother is going to deliver her baby at any moment. The bare necessities are provided – shelter and food.
Imagine the smell of the animals in the stable, the scent of hay and manure, the noises of livestock eating. Our images of the Nativity are sanitized. Every portrayal is of a well-rested, healthy, relaxed mom, even though she’s just given birth. There are no stinking piles of freshly deposited excrement.
The wonderful part of this story isn’t the miracle of childbirth or the fact that Mary agreed to be Jesus’ mother or that Joseph stuck by her.
The miracle of Christmas is that God loved us enough to send Jesus, God’s own child, into our messy, disturbing, chaotic, imperfect world. What’s even more amazing is that Jesus still comes to us here with us in the world as it is in 2016 – giving us hope, peace, joy and love. No matter how messed up we are, whether we are hoarders or OCD neatniks, poor or rich, ill or healthy, Boomer or Millennials, LGBTQ or straight, male or female, city dweller or suburbanite, Christ comes to us. No matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, the Christ child comes to us. That is Good News.
Wishing you the blessings Christ brings. Merry Christmas.