Perhaps no other holiday has such a wealth of poetry, music, and art associated with it. I think I could spend a month meditating on Christmas one liners…
A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices
Let Earth receive her King, Let every heart prepare Him room
Pleased with man, as man to dwell Jesus our Emmanuel
BUT, the songs about Mary are the ones that get me. Years ago, in the 1990s, my dad, a pastor, had me sing Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven during our church’s annual Christmas Eve Service.
Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
I’d stand there, struggling through that song, which is unfortunately smack dab in the awkward middle part of my range, while all eyes looked at me and I wondered what it would be like to be her - a teenager - pregnant, unmarried, God’s chosen vehicle for the King of the universe. How could it be?
And then years later, when I carried a life inside of me in 2009, I couldn’t shake what it must be like to give birth in a stable. What would it be like to travel full term on an animal, by dirt roads, full of uncertainty? Did Mary feel crazy-carrying God in her womb? Was she confident or embarrassed?
Last night, I put Andrew Peterson’s Labor of Love (sung by Jill Philips) on repeat.
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
The older I get, the less it escapes me that God brought his Son into an ordinary world by means of an ordinary girl. And the world did not have time or room for Him, but He still came. And He still chose her, an inconsequential teenage bride. He didn’t wait for her to marry Joseph. He didn’t wait until there was room in the inn or for the census to be over. All of those people who were waiting for a Messiah looked for pomp and circumstance and then they missed Him because His arrival was so… normal.
We are not very different in 2019 from the first century world Jesus came to. We’ll take our Christmas shiny and idyllic and with a side of Instagram bright. We get depressed when our season doesn’t look like a Hallmark movie. Our family spent the first week of December sick as dogs in a forced rest and quarantine, and I’m embarrassed about how unduly upset I got over it. We make the Christmas season about family and presents and somehow push our Savior to the back corner of our minds. To a dirty stable. We curate and control, but all along Jesus is here. Jesus, the God man, cloaked in flesh came to a grimy corner of the world to give us himself.
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin. Behold the Lamb of, the life and light of men.” Andrew Peterson
I wonder if God gave his Son such a humble beginning and such a short ministry so that we would never stop identifying with Him. Was Jesus’ family of origin rich and famous? No. Was He born in a designer birthing suite? No? Did He grow up privileged? No. Did people think He was crazy and delusional? Yes. Did people misunderstand Him all along? Yes. Was He socially savvy? No! Were His friends cool? No. Did His mom and brothers believe in Him? Not really. Besides being the very son of God, was he ordinary? Yes.
Jesus - a carpenters’ illegitimate son, born out of wedlock, in a messy manger, with a rag tag group of followers changed the world. Saved the World.
Let every heart prepare Him room. It doesn’t have to be shiny. It doesn’t have to be perfect or bright. It just has to be.
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
- Luke 2:4-12