by Dave Griffiths
God does a lot of things – many of them seem strange to our admittedly limited perspective. Without a doubt, the single most unsettling, irrational thing He has ever done is to come to earth as a baby.
A baby is totally helpless, and, the birth – well there’s blood and sweat and mucous and screaming. The whole process is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s unseemly. It’s unsanitary. As much as we may not want to admit it, birth – for all it’s wonder and amazement – is a messy process, yet, this is how God chose to enter the world. He could have chosen any way He wanted, but He chose the ordinary way.
He could have chosen a major city with doctors, nurses or midwives and their sterilized equipment, and clean linen. Instead, He chose a barn with nothing but a carpenters rough and calloused hands to usher Him into the world. There were more animals than people looking on. It doesn’t make much sense to most people.
A young couple, unable to find a decent place to sleep, are forced to spend the night in a barn when she goes into labour. She wraps the baby boy in strips of cloth to keep Him warm and places Him in the feed trough. This story doesn’t make much sense to us.
Some shepherds were outside watching sheep, when God showed up with a message. Well shepherds were not highly regarded in those times. It wasn’t a very noble profession living with animals and constantly coming into touch with… animal stuff. Shepherds were considered unclean. An angel spoke to them: Fear not, I’ve got good news for everybody – even dirty shepherds like you. God is going to do something about the mess in this world. He’s sending someone. You can see Him now and here’s how you’ll know Him when you see Him. He’ll be wrapped in rags, lying in a feed trough, surrounded by stinky animals. When you see Him you’ll find Him in the middle of a big mess. Be careful where you stand, cows do their business standing up, often while eating.
Then reason this is good news to those shepherds then, and to us now, is that we’re all messed up people, and the world got a little bit messier today. We have messed up every area of life, relationships, finances, work, families, and the environment. There’s not a single place we haven’t managed to mess up.
The good news is that God is not afraid of your mess. It couldn’t be messier than His was. He was born in a mess – wrapped in rags – laid in a feed trough – and died in a mess – stripped of His rags, and hung on a cross. He had spent most of His time with messy people. We make Christmas very pretty but it actually wasn’t.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a more encouraging view that Jesus is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Saviour of the world. The mystery of the incarnation is utterly unique in the history of the world. Jesus has gone to amazing lengths to make it possible for us to have life in Him. We can have this life when we place our total faith and trust in Him.