I love the idea of a Christ child. I think we all do. It’s romantic. It’s tragic and redemptive. We all love a good story of redemption; zero to hero; something from nothing; someone from no one. We display our nativity scenes with halos in place, and sheep laying by the sleeping child. A cow grazes, a star shines, and our Mary figurine looks nothing like a woman who just gave birth. I’m thankful for these reminders; my nativity scene; my angles; our donkey with a chipped ear and the wise man who stupidly lost his gift.
But it’s wasn’t fun. The real deal wasn’t fun at all. I think we are all guilty of underestimating the tragedy of the situation; the depths of desperation that night brought.
Years ago, I had a really bad night. Mom had a side business selling used Christian books. We were trying a new venue out for the first time. We woke up at the crack of dawn, drove several hours, and found our vendor table in a barn. It was a difficult day.
We had no customers for hours. Not one. It was almost as if no one at the festival knew how to read. Finally, a man browsed casually and book in hand, handed my mother fifty cents. She looked at him in question. We didn’t have any books for fifty cents. She flipped open the inside cover and there was the price 0.50; the price we had paid for it. Talk about absolutely infuriating. He walked away with a Bible for almost nothing.
Years later it’s whatever, but when you’re 9 years old and you’re trying to make enough to at least cover dinner, it’s unforgivable.
Things got worse. Signals were crossed about where we would sleep. We assumed we would stay at the camp in a cabin. But when we asked where we should unload our suitcases, the director shook his head. There was no room for us. Every bed was taken. After a day of trial by fire and no motel nearby, mom told me we would have to stay here; with the books; in the barn.
I threw, shall we say, a tantrum?
I pushed back at mom. I reminded her how hard work and no reward wasn’t supposed to be part of my childhood. Sleeping on a rusty bunk bed in a dingy barn was NOT acceptable. She was frustrated too, with good reason. She shouted back at me “Well, if it was good enough for Jesus, it can be good enough for you!”
She had me there.
I sucked my reply between my lips and tucked myself in.
I woke the next morning to see mom packing up the table. We were scheduled to be there a few more days, but it was clear, there was no point in staying. We were both relived to get home.
Little Lizzie caught a glimpse of 2 realities that trip.
One, even moms can be defeated by long hours and 50 cent sales.
And two, Jesus was born in a barn. It wasn’t fun for him. It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t smell good. There was nothing romantic about it. It was hard and laborious, trying, painstaking and demoralizing.
It wasn’t how any human would have planned it the inauguration of the Savior of the world. But it was the way God planned it. He had a reason for it to be that way; beyond Mary’s knowing or Joseph’s preparation.
It set the tone for all that he would do, and all that he did do. Yet, it was the least of what he did.
Christmas is the beginning of humility on display. The Creator of the universe wrapped himself in the flesh of that whom he created and entered the world in a fashion none of us would have chosen for ourselves.
Even in his birth, he showed us his great love; ever so much more, in his death.
I’ll be praying this week. Praying for me and for each of you.
Praying that Jesus will be made known to us in a new way.
Praying that we would quiet our spirits enough to hear his.
Praying that the tragedy of this celebratory season will not be lost on us.
It is a great tragedy with much to celebrate.
Our Savior was born into a humble life, only to die and yet he lives again.