Luke 2: 4-7
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.
Psalm 86: 13
For great is your love towards me; you have delivered me from the depths….
If you look at the nativity scene on most of your Christmas cards you will probably see a beautiful, picture perfect image of the little baby Jesus in a crib, glowing a little bit with a huge star overhead, Mary looks tranquil and peaceful like she’s just been at the Bethlehem beauty spa all day getting massages and a makeover. There’s maybe a little sheep cuddling up to them at the side. It’s all so picture perfect.
The reality is however, that when Jesus was born there was nothing clean, neat or serene about it. It was a total mess. We have taken the Christmas story and we have domesticated and sanitised it to such an extent that it doesn’t even come close to what Mary and Joseph actually experienced 2000 years ago. I will say it again - it was a total mess. And yet in the middle of that mess, God did His greatest work; in the middle of that mess, God did His greatest miracle.
Think about it. Mary, a teenage girl, betrothed and pregnant, everyone assuming that she’s been unfaithful to poor Joseph. That’s messy.
There’s nowhere for them to stay in Bethlehem so the Son of God is born in what was probably a dark cave full of animals and filth. That’s messy.
A power-crazed and paranoid king gets word of a rival to the throne being born and sets out to eliminate him. As a result, his parents have to flee with their infant to Egypt. That’s messy.
In the middle of it all, I’m sure all Mary could see was the mess. Yet, in the middle of the mess God was doing his greatest work, hidden deep inside the mess was an incredible miracle.
When we find ourselves in the mess it’s hard to see anything but the mess. It’s all we think about, it consumes us, it exhausts us. Yet, we have a God who doesn’t mind the mess, He gets down into our mess, and in there He often does His greatest miracles.
When our little boy Elijah was about 2, I found myself getting really annoyed and frustrated because everything was always such a mess. I like a tidy house, but ours had toys and teddies and raisins thrown everywhere. I like a clean car, but ours had bits of snacks and odd socks and raisins everywhere. Where do these raisins come from? One day I was getting annoyed about all the mess, when I felt the God gently rebuke me. I sensed him say: “If you could have all the tidiness you want, a clean house and a clean car, but have no Elijah, would you take it?”
“Of course not”, was my immediate answer.
“Well then,” God said, “why don’t you stop complaining about the mess and instead give thanks for it, because the mess is a sign of new life?”
If you find yourself in a mess today, first of all, know that God is there with you. Ask yourself – what miracle might God be able to do in this mess? What new thing might God birth in the mess? How might He transform my heart? Set my life on a new path? Deepen my relationships? Help me to learn to trust? Grow and develop deeper roots?
If Christmas teaches us anything, it’s that God often does His greatest miracles in what look like our biggest messes.