Dec. 26, 2012
When the shepherds saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. – Luke 2:17-18
The first Christian missionaries were shepherds. While the whole “Some angels visited us, told us about the Christ child and we found him in a stable” might have sounded too good to be true, it was real. The shepherds were so impressed, so overjoyed, they could not keep the news to themselves. They had to tell others. And they did.
Grandson Waylan is 5. He is a wonderfully creative and imaginative little boy. (Like any grandparent speaking of their grandchildren, of course we are most impressed with our grandchildren.) Waylan loves to tell stories. Sometimes they are real and sometimes he gets creative. When I question a story, he assures me he is telling the truth. Quite often he is. But sometimes he likes to make up a story, usually in good fun. Sometimes I have to remind Grandpa that setting the example is important in helping Waylan respect the truth.
When the shepherds told others their story, were they believed? We have the answer. Everyone was simply amazed. While it seemed too good to be true, the story was true.
When I got up this morning, the house was a mess. Laundry from several days ago needed to be folded, the kitchen was littered with dirty and clean dishes and the last four days mail scattered the coffee table. Dry boot and shoe tracks splattered the kitchen floor. I was afraid to open the fridge, unsure what would come tumbling out.
The first Christmas was also messy. Nothing turned out as anticipated. While Jesus is asleep in the manger, an exhausted Mary is passed out. The animals don’t know where to eat for a baby has taken up residence in their feeding trough. As dawn approached, the shepherds returned to shuffling sheep, making sure all are accounted for. Joseph hesitantly shares the news with family members staying at his folk’s house. Were they awakened by the untimely smelly visitors now turned into missionaries?
Sometimes as we celebrate Christmas, it gets messy. Our houses get messy. We fail to get someone a gift or invite someone to a celebration or someone gets sick and plans are changed. In our attempts to celebrate, things rarely are clean.
If I am really honest with myself, I must confess that my soul is messy. As I sat behind the piano on Christmas Eve, I wondered if I would allow myself to really believe this story again. Could I truly expose myself to Emmanuel, God with me, as I have been struggling with my faith? Is God with me and our family as my mother-in-law had a harrowing morning in the ER yesterday? Despite the messes I seem to cultivate, can I look at the mess in the stable and believe?
I remember the shepherds. They believed and weren’t afraid to tell everyone they came in contact with. This convinces me that once again, I am ready to believe. I am ready to let Jesus crawl into the scary and difficult parts of my daily life and allow Jesus to see how my spirit needs new life again. Despite the mess my heart may be in, I long and desire for more trust, a deeper commitment and greater love of this messy story. Thank God for never giving up on messy stories or lives. Thank you God, for not giving up on me.
O Lord, even when my life is a mess, you love me just the way I am. Open up my heart and make more room in there for you. When life gets messy, help me not turn away from you but towards you. May this story be real for me again and again. Amen.