When the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a Mess

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). —Matthew 1:23

The most wonderful time of the year can be quite a mess. I look around and recognize that there’s not a whole lot of “happy” left in the holidays. Shopping malls are chaotic. Road rage lurks around every bend. I even saw one of Santa’s elves beating up another elf. Tis the season for… stress, and in some instances the loss of our humanity. And this is just the external mess.

Internally, we may be struggling with our own mess: trying to maintain the illusion of a Christmas-card-perfect December while really feeling wrecked and exhausted inside, struggling with family or relationship tensions, dealing with financial strain, or failing to control our temper in such times of madness. Then we try to sing “Silent Night” while the choir of shame sings a completely different tune in the soul.

What do we do when the most wonderful time of the year gets so messy? We need to remember that God didn’t send baby Jesus into a warm and fuzzy illusion. He didn’t send the Savior into an insulated bubble of morality. He sent His Son into a stressed out and jacked up world—a very messy one filled with racial and religious hostility, sharp political discord, injustice on the streets, madness on the corners, and hopelessness in the hearts of everyday people.

To this tumultuous backdrop, the Gospel of Matthew loudly proclaims:

“’She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”
(Matthew 1:21-23)

God “with us” in the mess? Perhaps we have decorated the Christmas story and sanitized the nativity far too much to remember how incredibly messy was that real scene in Bethlehem. Jesus in the manger is the Mess-iah who entered the mess by divine design, spending his first night sleeping in quite possibly the dirtiest corner of that town. God wants you to know, beloved, that none of the dirt in your life intimidates Him. He is not a God demanding that you get your act together in order to be worthy of His visitation; rather He has demonstrated quite vividly that the mess cannot, and will not keep Him away. He loves you too much to leave you alone in the mess.

As Ann Spangler notes: “When our sins made it impossible for us to come to Him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making Himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin’s disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim.” He has not only invaded our mess—He has conquered it!

A Savior who isn’t intimidated by the mess will rescue you from any and every maddening situation. He will also rescue you from yourself this Christmas. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for invading our mess. You are not a distant Messiah, but one who is very near, deeply familiar with our struggle… our pain… and our despair. You are here. You are holy. You are awesome in power. And You are bigger than all of this. You want to rescue us again this Christmas. Save us from those feelings of being left to ourselves in all the madness. Let that revelation bring the joy back into Christmas—the happy back into the holidays. In Your name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What kind of madness have you witnessed during the holiday season? Why do people seem to lose it this time of year?
  2. Why do you think people are so stressed to make Christmas perfect?
  3. What is the significance of the name Immanuel? Why do you think God wanted that in the narrative of Christ’s birth?
  4. What is it that makes people feel they need to get it all together before coming to God?
  5. In what ways can God rescue you from yourself this Christmas?

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