The stink filled my room.
Before my feet hit the floor, I was already sick of myself, exhausted.
My list probably looked like yours and the only thing I wanted was to escape it. I could hide from the mounds of laundry and meters of wrapping, but found myself tucked in snug and smoldering with reminders of some relational junk.
Simply, my attitude stunk.
Breathe deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth. I heard my mother’s voice talking me through childhood nausea.
If I could get through this day, if I could just breathe through it, I hoped the bitterness,resentment, and imperfection would keep from puking all over my Christmas.
Did you get the memo? There shall be no mental or emotional meltdowns the Monday before Christmas.
Somewhere around the sixth time I slammed my snooze button, I remembered why we we do this to ourselves every year. It’s the nativity.
We all need it, but maybe not in the way that we think. Maybe it’s not really about the sweet story of a baby born in a manger after all.
We clean up our families and polish the house and wrap beautiful ribbons around packages we hope will delight. Romanticism takes over in the light of all things shiny and we picture sweet babies in fresh straw surrounded by pleasant faces on a silent night with one beautiful star shining bright.
But it’s a lie.
That shiny, fresh version of the nativity was never true in the first place.
We focus on the baby, how cute he must have been, how cozy we feel because that sweet little thing came to save us.
If that’s our focus, we’ve missed the point completely, because the nativity is unseemly, aberrant, and downright grotesque by anyone’s standards.
There’s nothing romantic or beautiful or sweet about it because it’s about the remedy for the stench that filled our earth.
Jesus, the son of a King, took his very first breath in a dung-filled stable. That deserves more of our attention than three verses of Silent Night while we try to keep our candles from dripping.
If there was no room in the inn, I’m assuming that the innkeeper didn’t have the cleaning detail spend much time in the barn.
It stunk in there. Reeked of urine, sweat, and feces, of discarded food left in the trough for the animals. Nobody ran for hot water or started a quick load so this prince of a baby would have fresh blankets with the scent of lavender. The stench that night, our stench, filled his nostrils as he became one of us.
One of Us.
Someday, in Us.
Joining us in our Ugly.
To be God In us, with us, the hope of Glory. (Colossians 1:27).
I could have laid there all morning with my list and mess. The odor would have drifted into the day and likely I would have emotionally massacred my children in the course of it. The entire day would have ended ugly and unproductive.
But he reminded me. The mess doesn’t preclude him.
That he made his first home and breathed his first breath in the middle of it, that nothing in our lives can repulse him. That he came not in spite of but because of the junk. Luke 10:10.
Nothing causes him to say, maybe later, how bout you do some disinfecting first.
Nothing about us is unlovable to him.
And absolutely everything changes when we ask him to Be With Us. It’s his presence that cleans up the mess.
He was born into our mess to eventually save us from it. We have to invite him into our mess before it starts to change, because it’s the gift of his presence that causes the odors in our lives to be filled with sweet fragrance. II Corinthians 2:15
Our lives are chaotic, but where he is there is peace.
Our hearts can’t see past our pain, but where he is there is hope.
Our love is almost always rooted in selfishness, but where he is there is love.
Our minds can’t make sense of the evil we see, but where he is there is understanding.
God is in the midst of everything that we are not, everything that we cannot, everything that, in our worst moments, we don’t want.
I want to hold my resentment, because it makes me right. I want to cradle my wounds, because they’re unjust, I want to shout my defenses, because I’ve been wronged. I want to set the whole world straight in my quest for having all of life as I desire it to be. And in my most dire moments, I don’t even want him to come.
I don’t think I’m alone in my pile of filth this Christmas. I’m betting you’ve got some junk lingering somewhere as well. If there’s a list formed in your mind or a shadow resting over your heart would you invite him into it?
Simply say come be with me in my mess. It’s what made that filthy stable worth it to him, the opportunity to be with us.
My youngest son woke up as I was finishing this post. He voice filled with excitement after I reminded him that he’d celebrate Christmas with a dear family friend later this afternoon. We talked about her home and dinner and the gifts they’d open and that snugly boy summed up everything I’ve tried to say here with this “mom, the best thing is, we get to be with her.”
He could see beyond the events of the day and you can too.
If we stop when we’re feeling overwhelmed and issue the invitation for God to come be in the middle of our Christmas, instead keeping him in our sanitary nativity scenes, we’ll experience a Christmas like no other.
May your week be filled with joy in spite of all the mess, friends. I hope you’ll come back here and tell us the story of how the impossible became tolerable (maybe even pleasant) as a result of asking God to join you this week.
Faith is contagious and you never know how your story could encourage someone else.