While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
This weekend is our Christmas pageant at our church, a moment of sacred chaos. As the children tell us the old, old story we know so well, we see a deeper truth. We see brought to life not only the words of Luke and Matthew. We see brought to life not only the heavenly angels fluttering, shepherds acting scared, Mary and Joseph nervously huddled around a plastic doll in a wooden manger. We will see all these truths and one more that is often unspoken: our children embody the mystery of Emmanuel: God with us, in the flesh. Our children speedily saying their lines or needing a cue from the director or singing off key...all of this less-than-perfect moments amplify the truth of Emmanuel: God with us, in the flesh.
Often times in church we get caught up in thinking everything has to go according to plans...usually our plans, thank you very much. Often times in church we want children to be seen, not heard. But life is messy. And God blessed that holy truth by being born in a cow shed, not some sterile hospital room. God blessed the holy truth of messiness by coming into the world in a little town of Bethlehem, when the temple was right there six miles away. God blessed the holy truth of messiness by entering our world and it was only noticed by a ragtag group of shepherds and foreigners from out of town.
How often in church do we miss God entering the holy mess of life? All the time. All the time at committee meetings and less than perfect worship and impassioned arguments over details. Don't get me wrong, details matter. Being faithful in small moments will help us in bigger moments. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the small stuff, we miss the great big audacious ways God is still speaking, creating and moving into our midst right now. Maybe not in a stable, but in that annoying family member. Maybe not in a manger, but in the customer service manager who is working long hours and now trying to explain a store policy he did not write, but has to enforce to you. Maybe not in a stable, but a holy chaos of a Christmas Pageant offered with hearts wide open from our children.
The story is always fresh because our children rotate roles and step into the sandals of another character. The story is always fresh because each year we hit a new speed bump that reminds us only God is perfect. The story is always fresh because you...yes YOU in the pews...are asked to open your hearts wide and embrace this holy day. I pray you will experience the deep truth of Emmanuel at church this weekend that offers a trace of grace and sets the tiny hairs on your arms on end.
With great hope, peace that surpasses understanding, and serendipitous joy ~