“It’s hard to believe it’s all real”, she said as we finished reading the nativity story yesterday morning.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s easy to understand why someone would have trouble believing the Messiah would come in the form of a baby, born in the filth and stench of a stable.
We’re thinkers in this home and I raise them to question. To dig. But also, to look for the hidden-good underneath and in between the folds of chaos.
Ever since their dad died, we’ve had to formulate a practice of this. A practice of looking for the good amidst all things. Some think this approach is a complete denial of reality. I’m here to tell you it’s not.
It’s not an escape from chaotic reality — it’s simply a hope-filled way to approach it.
In our world, sometimes the chaos looks like never-ending mountains of laundry and sometimes it looks like seasons of deep grief — especially during Christmas time. This year, the chaos looked like a pandemic that threatened to slam our household with death for a second time in the past three years.
My kids struggle with feeling different than most much of the time. You can imagine their relief when we read that in Mary’s world, her chaos looked like an innkeeper slamming the door in her full-term and far-from-home pregnant face, forcing her to find a barn to sleep in.
So back to this Messiah. This Immanuel supposedly born of a virgin, wrapped in rags and laying in a manger.
Thank God they didn’t ask me what a virgin was…
If he was in fact the savior, why did God choose to send him in this lowly way? Through the back door so-to-speak. So incognito, that only stars, angels and wisemen knew where to find him.
There does seem to be some manger-discrepancies here (pun-intended). I could see the wheels turning in their heads, as they licked syrup off their fingers.
Answers never come easy but maybe they were never meant too…
Could it be that the Creator chose to give us the gift of himself right smack-dab in the middle of the chaos so when we’re in the middle of ours, we’d know hope isn’t lost?
Could it be that He chose to reveal the location of himself using signs and wonders (like big stars in skies), so the brokenhearted looking for him through broken spectacles could see him more clearly?
So maybe the history books are off a bit and maybe the scholars aren’t always correct. Maybe the Ancient Alien theorists do make valid points and maybe the Christian creation account does parallel to many other world religion creation accounts. Maybe the translations have become jumbled over time and maybe there was a mean solider or two who held a sword to the scribe’s throat. Maybe the local church left you miffed and you’ll never go back. I’ve been there…
Maybe ALL the above is somehow part of “the mystery” we’re told about over and over in the scripture writings. What if God somehow used it ALL to set the stage for his incarnation?
The longer I live the more I realize there are hundreds of “maybes” and attempted answers to the “whys”. But maybe the maybes still don’t justify us washing our hands of it all (kind of like Pontius Pilot did) just because we don’t have a full, complete and accurately proven play-by-play that satisfies our own reasoning attempts.
So, what if you believe and what if you don’t?
What if we decided that we’re ok with Jesus being God? That we’re ok with entertaining (or maybe even accepting) that the Creator of all things, chose to send a human version of himself right down in the dirt and mess with us so when we’re dealing with our own dirty mess, we can still find him.
What if we remembered that Mary and Joseph understood ALL about government mandates, seeing as how they were mandated by Caesar Augustus to travel back to their hometown?
What if we remembered that a full-term, pregnant Mary rode a donkey for miles and days in order to obey the governors command and that Joseph was required to hang a “closed” sign in his carpentry shop window for compliance?
What if we remembered this journey they didn’t see coming was already being watched for by wisemen afar and this lowly birth so many find hard to believe, had already been predicted hundreds of years before?
What if this season, we decided to look past the masks and the mandates and instead looked for the manger hiding in this covered-up, coronavirus-exploded world?
What if we remembered that our current realities are simply just that — current? Not permanent.
What if today, this Monday before Christmas, we sat aside our phones, turned down the media and looked for the manger?
What if tonight we took our children outside like the Magi did and looked for the star? The one they call the Star of Bethlehem. The phenomenon they say hasn’t been seen since 1226 and pointed to the manger all those years ago.
And after this Christmas season is over, what if we decided to keep on looking for the manger despite all the “manger-discrepancies” and what if we found ourselves hopeful, hope-full and hope-filled?
So maybe things won’t go back to the “normal” we knew after this pandemic subsides. And maybe there will be major changes from it all. But don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t just quit. And above all, do not allow the changes made by COVID-19 to overshadow the “manger-changes” made by Christ.
Because after all, COVID-19 may be contagious but so is Hope.
Whether you believe or whether you don’t, hope isn’t gone. Hope isn’t hiding and hope isn’t masked.
Hope IS here.
Merry Christmas from our house to yours.