The wise men returned to Herod with the exciting news, and he was so overjoyed that he travelled to Bethlehem to give out gifts, decorate trees, share food, and sing songs as Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the season where everything is beautiful, peaceful, and perfect.
Not the Bible: The Ungospel of Matthew 2:12
In our sanitised versions of Christmas we have clear starry nights, clean stables, smiling Mary and Joseph and everything perfect.
We certainly don’t mention the massacre of the innocents. That’s just not suitable for our children’s stories.
But this sanitisation goes further – adverts tell us of perfect Christmases with the family gathered around the table laughing and smiling and no arguments at all.
It’s all beautiful.
It’s all lies.
It wasn’t beautiful. Since Joseph’s family came from Bethlehem he would have had relatives there. Why didn’t they have room for him? Because of the shame that he had brought on his family by getting Mary pregnant out of wedlock. (It must have been him otherwise he would have divorced her so he didn’t carry that shame).
So they were forced to shelter in a smelly stable full of animal dung. They had no midwife to help Mary give birth to their first baby. Jesus was then sleeping in a manager covered in animal saliva. And then they were running for their lives and living as a refugee before Jesus could walk. And all children of aged two and under were slaughtered by a power mad king in a scene reminiscent of Pharaoh’s massacre of Jewish boys back in Exodus.
If we listen to the lie of the world that everything is beautiful then when we experience reality which differs from this image we’ll think that we’re somehow “doing it wrong” and God is clearly not present.
The truth is that we’re not doing life wrong and we have a God who was and is in the mess. He’s in the family problems. He’s in the isolation. He’s in the helplessness. He’s in the pain. He’s in the lowest of circumstances.
God knows. He’s been there. And He’s here with us now.
Father open our eyes to see that even in the arguments, disagreements and stress of trying to live this so-called perfect season You are present and active and thrive in such circumstances. May we never disqualify ourselves from realising that You work in the mess. In Jesus’ name. Amen.