A Christmas Devotional: He Came Into Our Messiness

Text: Luke 2:1-20

“They shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” —Matthew 1:23

A dirty, messy stable. It’s hardly the place I would’ve picked to have the Messiah born. Yet this was the nativity in which God chose to bring forth His incarnate Son on a mission to save the world—the unlikely nativity of a wooden manger surrounded by the smells of animal dung and soiled hay. It was a place of lowly estate, not very fitting for the birth of a king. And this is where an exhausted and very overwhelmed young pregnant woman, chosen by God, goes into labor.

Our nativity scenes are much more sanitized than that first one in Bethlehem. Ours are quite cleaned up, draped with fresh garland and glistening with untainted tinsel. Joseph and Mary look peculiarly calm and at ease, hardly worn and frazzled like they just gave birth to a baby in a cluttered barn. In doing our best to tidy up the Christmas nativity, we often miss the real point of that very first manger scene.

Christmas tells the story of a God who wasn’t afraid of our mess—one who dwells close to the lowly (Isaiah 57:15), the destitute (Psalm 72:12-13), and the weary (Matthew 11:28-30). This story, stripped down from all the glitter and gloss—the real story—gives us reason for hope.

The story of Christmas is that God is “with us” in all the chaos and mess of this human experience (Matthew 1:22-23). If God can make His abode in a noisy, smelly barn, then He can set up residence in my messy heart. He’s not intimidated by my brokenness. God entered the chaos. He came near. He brought calm to two very frightened new parents, who trusted God when they didn’t fully understand what He was up to.

God is always near. Even in loss, hardship, sickness, and suffering. Regardless of what you faced this year, you were never alone. Ever!

God is “with us” in the mess. That’s why it’s quite okay if Christmas isn’t perfect this year. It’s okay if your family photo doesn’t look like the cover of a magazine. It’s okay if the cat pulls the tree down. It’s okay if the cookies get a little burnt or the living room doesn’t have the perfect fragrance of cloves and cinnamon. This year let the wrapping paper stay on the floor a little longer. Don’t stress over the dirty dishes or the kitchen being a bit disorderly. Not that I’m advocating deliberate unkemptness or laziness, it’s just okay to loosen up from the need to make everything perfect.

Jesus isn’t asking us to clean up everything in our lives for him, he simply asks us to make room for him. He’s not all impressed with a decorated façade; he’s just looking for open hearts and open homes. Make room for the Savior. Make room for hope, forgiveness, love, reconciliation, repentance, and healing. Make room for new life and the expectancy of what God is bringing into your future.

Make room for the King.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, come into our mess. We invite you into our brokenness, the chaos, and the crowdedness of our lives. We make room for you in the endless clutter of trying to get it all right and perfect. Instead of trying to manage Christmas, help us to experience Christmas. Come, Lord Jesus, just as you did so many years ago in a smelly, messy Bethlehem stable. Grant us the privilege of hearing the cry of new life, seeing a star lighting our way, and receiving the hope that Immanuel has come—GOD WITH US. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. Share a memorable gift-opening moment from your childhood.
  2. Have you ever had an embarrassing Christmas experience? Explain.
  3. Why is there so much pressure to make Christmas perfect?
  4. What is your personal takeaway from this Christmas devotion?
  5. How will you and your family practically make room for Jesus this Christmas?

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