Anyone who comes into my office and observes the clutter leaves with the impression that I’m messy. That is unless their workspace looks similar. In this case, they’re likely to presume that there is a hidden order to the messiness that allows me to find what I need.
And this observation is partially correct but mostly wrong.
It started out with a degree of order. Each stack represented a different project with a priority that needed to wait until later. But over the past several years, some projects didn’t reach the top. And my desk became interlaced with stacks of future work.
One of my favorite lines from a Peanuts cartoon comes from the character Pigpen. Charlie Brown explains to Sally that some of the dust that sticks to their friend could be from ancient civilizations, such as Babylon. After which, Pigpen looks at Sally and says, “Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn’t it?”
Messiness often hides a less obvious order. Likewise, on the surface, we can appear put together, while inside, we’re more of a hot mess. Grandma’s wisdom comes to mind that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
On the surface, these insights may seem trivial and not relevant to the story of Christmas in general or the story of Jesus’ birth in specific. Dig into the layers a bit deeper, however, and you may catch a glimpse of what makes the news so good that angels proclaimed on the night of Jesus’ birth.
An ancient prophecy spells it out this way: A child is born to us! A Son is given to us! And He will be our Ruler. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The good news is what lies behind these titles that uniquely belong to Jesus Christ.
When we think of royalty, we’re likely to think about the distance between them and us. The royals of Great Britain make headlines regularly, and their daily lives are beyond reach for ordinary people. I can’t identify with the life of a prince.
But the prophecy of our Prince begins with naming a reality that still prevails today. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now the light is shining on them (Isaiah 9:2). So what is this great light that shines over us?
A child is born to us! A Son is given to us! And He will be our Ruler. He will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus often used parables to explain His role in our lives that featured ordinary people. For example, Jesus used the illustration of a shepherd searching for a lost sheep. “This is what it is like, “He explained. The shepherd searches for the lost sheep and celebrates its recovery. So when we’re feeling lost, we can be assured that Jesus hasn’t given up on us.
Mark tells a story about a time when a man with a dreaded skin disease came to Jesus for help. Leprosy was contagious, and infected persons were excluded from the community and left on their own to suffer. And the condi tion was apparent, leaving the victims scarred and their disease easily recognized.
The man got a bit aggressive with Jesus and even somewhat indignant. “You can heal me,” he complained, “but only if you really want to.” Didn’t this man know that Jesus was the very definition of compassion? Of course, Jesus wanted to heal the man, and it was rude for the man to challenge Jesus.
Challenged or not, we’re told that Jesus felt great compassion for the man. It apparently broke His heart to see a person suffering the way this man was obviously suffering. “I do want to heal you,” Jesus replied. And the man was healed with the appearance of leprosy disappearing as soon as Jesus touched him.
Jesus enters into the messiness of our lives. He doesn’t seem to worry whether there is some secret order that we use to cope with the chaos surrounding us. He doesn’t love us based on our outward appearance or how we feel inside. Whether our condition is obvious, even if we’re contagious, and when we appear put together but aren’t, Jesus knows the truth and shows compassion toward us.
Jesus was born, we’re told by Luke, in a stable where animals lived. Anyone who has been in a stable knows that it’s nothing like a hospital birthing center. Anyone who has ever cleaned a stable knows that the smells aren’t the odors you equate with sanitary spaces. Stables are messy places where animals sleep, eat, and poop.
His birth took place in a stable because there wasn’t room for His parents to stay in the main house. They took what was offered them. They settled with whatever they could afford. Surely Mary had never imagined something like this happening to her. It’s doubtful Joseph expected this was the best he could offer his bride-to-be.
That’s right! I didn’t mistype, and you read the facts. Mary and Joseph weren’t yet married, and Mary was pregnant, but Joseph wasn’t the father. Jesus entered into the messiness of life lived by most of us. Where resources are short, choices are few, and mistakes get made. Except, in this case, decisions that would ordinarily be judged as unfortunate and unwise became wonderful outcomes. God’s choices were on purpose and for a purpose.
Isn’t it amazing that this is how God chose to live among us? God chose a stable over a castle and poverty over wealth. And the power Jesus had to heal was generously given without cost and often without so much as a thank you. His humility was a trademark of His service.
This is the story beneath the surface of the coming of the Messiah. This is the ordering below the chaos that we see all around us. This is the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.
May the Christmas Season be a time of renewal for your soul, and may the New Year bring you abundant peace and joy. You are God’s beloved child.
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Content for this series is based in part on:
The Wonder of Christmas. An Advent worship series written and produced by © Skit Guys, 2022. Used with Permission.