What a great time of year this is! It is a time of splendor and wonder; a time renown for generosity and good cheer; a time of family and remembrance. And for the Christian, it is a time to celebrate that the long-awaited Messiah has indeed come, born of a virgin as was prophesied long ago.
But take a moment to give thought to that unique arrival of our Lord. His birth, long foretold and planned by God before the moment of creation itself, was most humble. Indeed, his place of birth was a first-century stable where he was surrounded by livestock. His first bed; a manger, full of hay, from which the cattle were to eat.
To say it simply, Jesus’ entrance to the world was messy. But what a holy mess it was.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that everything that is most real in life, from birth to death, is messy. Or at least I think he wrote something like that. I had the quote written down, but I couldn’t find it on my desk, so I can’t be sure.
As anyone who has ever cared for a child can attest, where there is life, there is mess. And where there is abundant, exuberant life, well you find messes in abundance as well. On the subjects of both Christmas and mess, Andy Rooney said that, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.” Parents, rightly focused, can join with Rooney in relishing in the glory that is a living room floor covered in wrapping paper, boxes and toys. And their joy comes because, in the heart of all that mess, are their children – gleefully celebrating the good gifts given by those who love them.
And so it is, I think, with church life. With our nursery bustling, with our membership growing, with our people serving, with our baptismal tank filling, with our small groups meeting, we are experiencing abundant life at First Baptist. Someone shout, “Amen”!
And with this abundant life, will come (not may, but will) mess. The mess includes things of a physical nature – just ask any of the numerous volunteers who cleaned up after this year’s HarvestFest, Harvest Home Dinner or Church Bazaar.
It also includes mess that can be made in other ways as well, from things as grand as putting into play new governance structures to things as minor as double booking a room in the church for two different groups.
As with our household the celebration around the Christmas tree, if we focus on the mess – we will miss relishing in the glory of the gleeful moments. Take time to look around at the people of our church, in particular those most young in the faith. See the joy in these children of God as they experience, perhaps for the first time, the true meaning of Christmas. Celebrate with them as they discover the gifts that God has given them.
And then look down and see, that among all the open boxes and colorful ribbons is a box with your own name on it. For our Heavenly Father certainly has good gifts for you to enjoy too. For before God, we are all children.
Luke 2:7 “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (ESV)