Amidst the warm glow of festive lights and sparkling tinsel, there’s a more gritty reality to the Christmas story. The drawing below by artist Charlie Mackesy makes the point well. While Heaven greeted the birth of Christ with adoration, earth’s response was generally apathetic, even antagonistic.
Yet as most of humanity slept, angelic beings could not contain their joy as they recognised the sheer magnitude of what had just taken place. They knew that Jesus wasn’t merely born to be king – but He was born AS King (Luke 2:11-14). That night, over isolated middle eastern farmland, the atmosphere above was bursting with the magnificence of heavenly song, and music the like of which the world had never heard. Yet still, underneath the majestic chorus was a neglected barn, putrid with animal stench, filfthy, dirty, cold, dark, lonely. It was here that the Son of God was born. The greatest miracle happened in a graceless mess.
Surely there’s a lesson to be learned here? Christmas teaches us that there is no mess in this life which God is not willing to enter. This is grace in all it’s glory – gritty, humble, real, pure, authentic.
Interestingly, the first to visit Jesus were simple shepherds, not wise kings. Some theologians estimate that the wise men didn’t actually visit Jesus until between one and two years after his birth. Funny isn’t it….common agricultural workers saw Jesus first, the kind of people society would have looked down upon. God takes delight in inviting those the world has given up on to encounter him, even involving them in his story. There is certainly nothing elitist about the advent story. This was God in the flesh, coming to do life with ordinary, every day people.
The Christmas narrative is one which goes far beyond mere sentiment. It shows us what love looks like. It reminds us that however gloomy circumstances might be, where there is God there is always hope. Have a wonder filled Christmas season!
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