Christmas songs can be misleading. Like this one:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright.
Or this one:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
They’re beautiful songs, but they can also give the wrong impression of Jesus’ birth. That it was calm, bright, that the sky illuminated a perfectly content baby Jesus while some nearby cows mooed melodically.
I have a small nativity scene near the fireplace at home that paints the same kind of picture: a brightly clothed Mary and Joseph, with Mary looking lovingly at her sweet new baby, while an angel behind them smiles down on the beautiful, serene stable. Oh, and the star. There has to be a big, bright star.
But the first Christmas wasn’t like that.
After a rough journey through the desert on a donkey, a very pregnant (and very young) Mary was undoubtedly tired, uncomfortable and in a lot of pain, with no expert to deliver her first child. The stable, likely a dark cave full of animals, rodents and insects, surely could have used a good sweep and some Glade PlugIns. It wasn’t calm, it wasn’t bright, and baby Jesus probably wasn’t polished clean.
And yet, year after year, we see Christmas cards with the same perfect scene printed on the front.
Why is that?
Maybe we try to depict Christ’s birth as picturesque because that’s what we want our lives with Him to be like: happy and wonderful. We might want Him in our lives, but we don’t want things to get too messy.
But that’s what Jesus does; He shakes things up.
Sometimes He takes our neat, tidy lives and stretches us beyond our comfort zone. Sometimes He gives us things we didn’t ask for, or leads us somewhere we never thought of going before.
Just think about the disciples, all leading their own quiet lives when Jesus came along and, BAM!, their lives were changed forever. They went from no-name cowards who bickered with each other, denied knowing Christ and fled in fear when He was arrested, to dedicating their entire lives to Him and turning the world upside down with a life-saving message of God’s grace.
The night Jesus was born, I doubt Mary huddled in a dark corner of a smelly cave, thinking, Wow, what perfect timing!
If it were me, I’d probably have it out with God right then and there: Are you serious? I’m still not over that trek-through-the-desert-on-a-donkey thing.
But even though Mary had no clue what an incredible impact this moment would have, God did. There, in a dark stable, Christ came into the world—God in human flesh—a turning point in history and a Savior for millions around the world.
God’s timing might not look perfect from the outside, but we can be assured He sees the big picture and knows exactly what He’s doing. Even in our darkest, messiest moments, He’s there in our midst.