At Christmas we often go to great lengths to try to make everything perfect. Exactly the right present for auntie Flo, new lights on our houses just a bit better than the family down the street, special little extras at our Christmas dinner to make it better than last year’s, a perfectly shaped Christmas tree… and, of course, perfectly planned Christmas services. But we only need to look at the news to see that reality is not always like that. So many people are living with suffering of one kind or another. Problems both far away and closer to home, sometimes in our own lives, tell us that our world is often, well, messy.
This points us to something very important about the original Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. It, too, was not entirely neat and tidy. Mary and Joseph had a very difficult journey to Bethlehem. They probably walked, or rode a donkey as tradition says, about 90 miles, with Mary heavily pregnant. There was not a warm welcome from the people of Bethlehem, and, of course Mary had to have her baby where the animals were. To cap it all, they then had to get out of Bethlehem and escape to Egypt as refugees. That all sounds very messy to me.
Two lessons then… If we find ourselves running round at home, dashing to the shops, trying to get everything right, and feeling rushed and tired, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. We’re allowed to not get it quite right, it’s absolutely OK to be messy, and who said that we always have to be happy – all the time?
Secondly, let’s take our cue from the Baby whose birth it is really all about. He could have chosen to be born in a luxurious palace or a bright shiny hospital. But he didn’t. He plunged straight into the chaotic world of human life, complete with its joys – and its problems. He set about trying to put it right, and that’s a challenge to all of us, to do likewise, to help lift each other’s burdens and clear up at least some of our world’s mess.
Have a happy, if messy, Christmas!
Fr Matthew (edited from this week’s Wednesday Word)