This year, more so than others, I have been moved by the idea that what we often seek and what Jesus offers creates a real tension in our lives.
We tend to prefer a festive, ornate, sanitized, emotionally pleasing, joyful Christmas. Though we are pretty sure there may be a glitch somewhere, we love to execute a plan and stick to it. We may calculate a trip to grandma's being exactly 103 miles that should take us no more than 96 minutes. Or we have a clearly orchestrated method of how we are to open presents (one at a time thanking the giver of the gift and acting like we mean it) for the fruitcake or knitted socks we received.
Have you noticed, pastors and church leaders even get a little wacky this time of year. They want the service to be moving and often wrestle with how much traditional and outside-the-box new to incorporate. Musicians, actors, pastors, and ushers better be on their game to make this a flawless Christmas service that will be remembered for the ages.
And yet, as you read the gospel of the conception, pregnancy and birth of the Messiah, it's anything but sanitized and without glitches. Mary heard from an angel and then tries to figure out a way to inform family and fiance she is "with child." Then she piles into a mini-van, er, on the back of a donkey to make the long trip to Bethlehem though she is 9 months pregnant.
And the birth. In a stable? Really? Stables are nasty, stinky places. Animal dung, flies, the smell and crudeness is all around you. And into that setting comes Jesus. Though songs try to convince us this was a small, quiet, adorable child, who doesn't cry, if you've ever been present or participated in the birth of a child, it's anything but quiet and clean.
And yet, this is how God chose to become Emmanuel...God with us. Into a strained, imperfect, unsettled world, He came. Into unfinished lives with lots of questions, He came. And into our imperfect, unfinished lives and world...He comes.
So if this Christmas doesn't quite go as planned this year, don't sweat it. Smile and thank God for the reminder. And thank Him for His Son...the Savior of the world. Have a blessed Christmas.