When we talk about Christmas, or sing about it in carols, we always use peaceful and charming words—idyllic, really—to tell the story about how Jesus came into the world. It’s nice how our memory heals the reality of a situation… For us, looking back at that moment we see a peaceful, happy and really joyful scene. And it is—but maybe not so much for Mary and Joseph when they were going through it. Instead of being what we would consider an ideal setting for the birth of any one of our own children, it was God bringing good to a very wrong situation.
We’ve heard it all before about what a risk Mary took with her “yes,” we hear in the Gospel about how Joseph wasn’t sure what to do with the info he’d been given about the condition his brand new bride was in, we know there was no room at the inn, and how the holy couple had to make a crazy long journey at the very end of Mary’s pregnancy. I’ve been pregnant, and I can’t think of anything that would make me take a long ride on a donkey right before giving birth. When you put all of that together, and add in the turmoil of the time, it’s a terrible story—except that it’s how God chose to enter into the terrible circumstances of the human condition. Then, it’s a really cool story…
God chose to make His entrance into our experience by really entering into our experience. He spared no discomfort, no humility in sharing truly the lowest of humanity experiences every day. It’s all there in the story, but we overlook it in our “Silent Nights” and our “O, Come All Ye Faithfuls.” We sanitize the manger in our minds and scrub away the indignity of a child being born in a stable because that would be too much to bear for any one of us in our antiseptic society. But, it was just right for God. God gets up to his elbows in the muck of humanity. He digs right in to the ugliness that we make out of the beauty He gave us so that He can make it beautiful again.
Jesus told us that He is the “light in the darkness,” coming to us at the darkest time of the year to bring gradual, but spreading light. That Light is in the darkness—not near it—right smack in the middle of it. Jesus came to brighten with his Presence what is otherwise dark—to get into it and change it. This is what we celebrate in Christmas—our loving God who allows Himself to be immersed in the filthy funk of a sinful world so that we could experience the redemption of it. As followers of Christ, we do the same; we don’t avoid the unpleasantness that life offers (good luck trying!). We get in the trenches and spread that Light, offer that redemption--that mercy--that we received first so that, with our Savior, we can “sleep in heavenly peace,” too.