“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen, To hear sleigh bells in the snow…”
–Bing Crosby, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
One of my friends turned to me the other day and said exactly what I have been feeling the past week. It was something to the effect of:
“I was so excited it was Christmas time, but then I started thinking about all that could go wrong–what if this person isn’t happy, what if this doesn’t work out, etc. And I began to wonder if I was trying to project these impossible expectations on my family for the perfect Christmas… Am I being too cynical or just realistic?”
I looked at her like “you took the words right out of my mouth,” and then I told her she was completely normal (unless it’s that we both are strange?). I went on to explain that after Thanksgiving, I too was counting down the days until we could go home for the Holidays. But then, I began to think of all the things we had to do, all the family dynamics that could come up, preparing to travel to two different states, etc.–and suddenly my Christmas excitement turned into panic.
Talking about all the possibly bad “what ifs” of Christmas, got me wondering about what God intended Christmas to be. I began to imagine the night Jesus was born.
Every year, Churches and families put up beautiful Nativity sets, depicting the birth of Jesus, in a small stable in Bethlehem. They are wonderful, and I love putting up the one my parents gave us when we got married. But, they don’t tell the full story: An attractively carved or sculpted Mary kneels beside Jesus, looking at Him as if He magically appeared–not like she just went through painful labor to give birth to Him. And a regal Joseph solemnly stands over them–as if helping Mary through labor was a breeze. Then, just as carefully crafted, the Wise Men show up in the Nativity scene bearing their gifts–when they actually found Him sometime later. The real picture and story was more rough around the edges.
The night of Jesus’ birth, must have been frightening. Joseph had to bring a very pregnant Mary to the town of Bethlehem for a census that was being taken. Luke 2:5 says that Mary was pledged to marry Joseph–so they weren’t actually married yet. Here was this young couple with barely a relationship or friendship in place, traveling a long distance together. Then at some point on the way, Mary began to go into labor. She was probably in her early teens, and scared. They were in a place where they knew no one. Joseph probably felt desperate to find a safe place for her to give birth, but the town inn was full. The only place left was a very humbly stable–a place where animals were kept.
Joseph probably cleaned out a stall for Mary to give birth in, and then he helped her through child birth–alone. Mary didn’t have her mother by her side. There were no doctors, no nurses, no hospital equipment, and scripture doesn’t even mention a midwife! Here were two everyday, imperfect people in a much less than perfect situation, and into the chaos arrived a baby. But not just any baby–a capital “P,” Perfect baby–the Son of God.
Perfection entered into Imperfection.
Wholeness entered into Brokenness.
The Prince of Peace entered into the chaos of a small stable.
Emmanuel (Literally, “God With-Us”), joined us in our broken world.
What must have began as a scary, painful night for Mary and Joseph, ended with the very presence of God, in baby form, wrapped tightly in His manger bed.
As I thought all of this through, and about all my concerns over “what could happen” this Christmas, I was reminded that Jesus entered into the imperfection of that night in Bethlehem so that He could enter into the brokenness of our lives when we ask Him. He came into the world then, so that He can be present to us now.
If you are like me and you are worried about having a broken Christmas, remember that it is no more imperfect than the first Christmas. And join me in asking Jesus to enter into our chaos, enter into our family dynamics, enter into our stress, and bring His Peace into all of our celebrations.
Linking up today with Emily Wieranga…