A Thought on Christmas

As I sit in another Christmas Eve service, I am feeling rather empty. I enjoy singing familiar Christmas songs, but find little fulfillment in the rest. The message about the gospel is the same as ever, and I find myself wondering what I’m doing here.

I slouch down in my seat as I survey the surroundings of the ultra contemporary “family life center” as I pretend to listen to the pastor’s talk. My ears perk up as I hear him say, “The outside world thinks that God is love. These people think that they can do whatever they want and it does not matter because God will still love them.” Maybe that’s true for some people, but it seems that the people I encounter are overwhelmed with their sinfulness. They feel incapable of approaching a Holy God in their own wretchedness. It’s true, in our own humanity devoid of Christ, we are unable to be in God’s presence.

While a female singer sporting a sparkly black sweater belts out Chris Rice’s “Welcome to Our World”, my eyes survey each detail of the beautiful nativity scene backdrop that covers the entire stage. I notice that image of Baby Jesus being held by Mary. Not only is this baby Jesus terribly Caucasian, he is sporting a full head of hair (which is not entirely impossible, since I did have a full head of hair when I was born). The most unusual thing of all about this particular Baby Jesus is his sunburst halo which is almost as big as he is shooting off colors of yellow and orange. It almost appeared as though he was wearing a terribly absurb sultan’s hat. Mary is calmly holding the baby, looking very clean and mellow for a woman who has recently given birth. Joseph is a bit removed from the scene. He is content to stand off to the side amicably observing Mary and Jesus. Angels, shepherds, and the wise men are also depicted. Again, the backdrop is beautiful and creative, but it seems unapproachable. How could a sinner such as myself approach this holy baby?

In my mind, I see a red-faced infant held by a sweaty and weary young woman. In the background is a frantic new father doing whatever he can to keep his new son warm and aid his young wife. Perhaps he is laying down fresh straw for Mary to lie on while removing the straw dirtied from the messiness of childbirth. The smiling animals staring at the holy infant have disappeared. Instead, there is a cow chewing its cud, a donkey relieving its bladder, and a plethora of other animals making various noises to indicate that they would like an early meal. The scene is not only unsanitary, but it smells from the refuse of the animals.

Jesus’ first visitors were not shepherds wearing bright-colored clothes cuddling clean white lambs. These were dirty, smelly undershepherds. These men were the lowest in the low class of shepherding! Imagine their flock of sheep following closely behind their masters, fleece dirtied and stinking from being in the muddy fields for months. Mary and Joseph were most likely also in rags, as was their child wrapped in strips of cloth used to preserve the dead.

This is my scene. Not one that removes Jesus’ holiness, but one which restores his humanity. This is my Jesus who accepts me in my tattered robes as I wreak from the stench of sin. I like pretty pictures of the nativity at Christmas time, but nothing can replace the beauty in the simplicity of his birth. Jesus set aside his heavenly glory to dwell with humanity. It is his humility in these circumstances that astounds me.

He didn’t have the royal birth meant for a king. The beauty of Christ’s birth was not in God’s packaging; it was contained in the miraculous gift of the infant Jesus. And it is because of this beautiful gift we can approach God as his children with the authority given to us through faith in Jesus. Merry Christmas!

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