I sat in my floor with the snowflake wrapping paper and scissors and tape spread out, carefully set the box on top of the paper, and began the first fold…and then I heard it.
Tap tap tap tap….
My favorite 5 year old footsteps running toward my door, and I knew without a doubt what was coming next. Big eyes and an eager smile popping into my room and an enthusiastic “What are you – OH!!! Can I help???”
And in one moment in time, I took a deep breath and blew it out, along with all my desires to do this my way, to do it with three folds and one piece of tape like those magical clerks at department stores can do it. I don’t even think they are real people. But you – you with your enthusiasm and your irrepressible desire to help – you are real.
So I chose you, and I chose super long pieces of tape and really funky creases and wrinkles and I chose a little bit of chaos and a really messily wrapped gift and I chose joy. I chose you.
Sometimes when I am plowing my way through the day I am struck by how untidy my life is. And I don’t just mean my house, because let’s be honest, that was rarely tidy even before you three came along. It’s my moments – they are just wrapped up in messiness. It’s a bowl of rice spilled on the floor, it’s the horrors of potty training, it’s muddy footprints on the floor, it’s one thing after another. It’s putting out quarrels and sorting through hurt feelings and dealing with attitudes and really bad judgment. It’s having little helpers in the kitchen which is such a beautiful notion until the flour gets knocked off the counter or the milk gets spilled.
In truth I sometimes desire to escape from the messiness. Expectations and dreams never include that part. Ideas of motherhood can be so sweet and tidy until you are in the trenches with the diapers and the spills and the disbelief over the fact that your kids thought it was a good idea to do a science experiment involving dish detergent, baking soda, vinegar, and BLACK PAINT on the coffee table.
But here’s the thing. The other day we were at church early for band practice and while you three were running around the sanctuary dancing to the music, Mr. Nick had to move the communion table to get to the wires for the sound system. There was a beautiful nativity set on the table, and to keep it from falling over when he moved the table Mr. Nick laid the Mary and Joseph figures down until he could get it back in place. My eyes moved from the nativity scene to you and back again, and all I could think was, This is so much more accurate.
The idealistic picture of the nativity is baby Jesus in the manger, with Mary and Joseph serenely kneeling beside Him, lifting their hands in meaningful – and very tidy – worship. But when I looked at the scene on the communion table, I saw Mary lying face down in the ground beside the manger, and I thought – Yep. That’s about right. I have had three babies myself and that is a very accurate depiction of what I felt like doing after childbirth. I feel you, girl. And Joseph – he was lying flat on his back – and I thought, Yep. Probably passed out from fear or trauma or exhaustion or all three.
Christmas, with all of its lights and music and nicely wrapped presents, did not have a tidy beginning. The Word – the God of order and life and harmony – emptied Himself, wrapped Himself in flesh, and entered into our world in the messiest way possible. Childbirth is already saturated with blood and sweat and pain, but in a barn? And to be laid in a feeding trough while Joseph cleaned Mary and knelt over her, desperately praying that she would be all right, that they would be all right?
This is how He chose to dwell among us. He knows our messiness – He lived our messiness. He entered into it and He grew up in it and He died in it. He overcame it. He is our compassionate High Priest because He lived it.
You are five years old and full of life and wonder. Messes, I think, do not bother you as much right now as they do me. But as you grow and life gets more complicated – as relationships become muddled and plans get thwarted and unexpected hardships arise – I want you to remember how Jesus came into the world. Because His name is Emmanuel – not God Far Removed From Us – but God With Us. Even and especially in our messiness.