If we were casting a movie about the birth of God, I can imagine brilliant colors and exquisite scenery, luxurious props and A-list names, swelling music and heart-warming images of the perfect birth and the perfect moment. I would imagine actors who did as they should, animals that did not leave droppings, perfect weather conditions, and cooperation. I doubt that anyone would imagine a stable, back room, with live animals, hays and who knows what else everywhere. I doubt that anyone who imagines unknowns as the leads, or overworks as the supporting cast, and complexities around details as part of the story. That all just seems too messy for the birth of God.
There is a video circulating around the internet entitled an Accurate Nativity play. It depicts labor pains and medical truths about birth that the producers wonder if were associated with Mary’s birth of Jesus. It is unsettling and glaringly truthful. But truth be told, never has any birth been pristine. Never has any life transformed been without challenges and discomfort.
It seems that messiness and miracles are intrinsically wrapped together. God redeems our messiness every time we offer it to God. With God, God’s word is never one dimensional. Each truth points us to another. With the reminder that birth is a complex miracle, we are reminded that God’s presence in each of our lives is a complex miracle. We, too, find ourselves in a world we cannot describe as pristine and lives that are mostly likely not described as simple and clear.
As a culture, we are seeking to find wisdom about fear and messiness, miracles and hope. This Christmas season, we experience at least two camps of Christmas movies: those who got excited about the Peanuts movies and those who got excited about the Star Wars movie. And these two groups are not so far apart from one another. Peanuts celebrates its 50th anniversary this year since the beginning of the comic strips by Charles Schultz that shaped our American culture. Schultz all along infused his belief and faith in to the comics. The high point for him of the Christmas special was the moment when Linus dropped his blanket and recited the words of Luke 2, beginning with “Do not be afraid” as the angels proclaimed God’s good news of a great joy to the shepherds.
Not to be left out, Star Wars came roaring into the theaters last week. With lines and fans selling out theaters and increasing energy around the continuing story of battle between good and evil, Star Wars also got play in churches this Christmas. Again words of wisdom from one of the key characters: Yoda saying “Fear leads to hate, hate leads to anger, and anger leads to the Dark Side.”
If I cock my head to the side, I can also hear the words of the prophet spoke encouragement to the people who had walked in darkness, that they had seen a great light, in the encouragement of Yoda and voice of Linus. The prophet Isaiah speaks hope to the people of God who wondered if they might be eliminated by oppressors. The realistic fear of God’s people at multiple points in history. God’s people who have sometimes emphasized our messiness over God’s miracles. But when we are most honest, we realize that there is messiness.
• For each of us who have experienced illness at Christmas
• For each of us who have been alone when we would rather gather with others at Christmas
• For each of us who live with anxiety and fear.
• For each of us who have celebrated Christmas under the heavy concerns for ourselves or our loved ones.
• For each of us who have felt the angst of a world in conflict with itself in multiple locations
This has been a season of messiness for leaders of our Christian faith, speaking more out of fear and messiness, than hope and miracles. It was a delight to hear the honesty and hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke with his Christmas message: “Christmas is revolutionary for us as Christians… Jesus showed us the infinitely surprising ways that we can love each other. For me it’s about responding to the love we’re given by God at Christmas by offering it to those who might be feeling like they are on the margins, just like Jesus and his family were. We’re called to be people who don’t accept narratives that seek to divide us as communities – wherever we hear them – because we have a better narrative: that God poured out his love for us by sending his son to be with us in a world of fear and danger. We have the capacity to share that risk-taking love with whoever we discover is our neighbor – not just this Christmas, but always ”.1
The incarnation of Christ is the reminder that the birth of Jesus into the world is an invitation to have the presence of the Living God in our lives. God’s gift to us tonight and always is God with us. God has not left us in our messiness. It is indeed into that very messiness that Jesus brings hope and healing, peace and salvation. We do not need to just imagine that miracles will come out of messes; this has been God’s pattern and promise. God come closes enough to touch. God sends angels to announce here in the messiness and redeem messiness into miracles.
Tonight, may you receive the gift that God has offered you. The gift of incarnation, God in the flesh, with you, in the midst of the messes of life in order to redeem them miraculously for God’s great plan, the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord, thanks be to God, Amen.