And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a
manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
--Luke 2:7 NRSV
This verse has inspired untold thousands of Christmas cards, paintings, sculptures, TV commercials and Christmas pageants. We have portrayed it in such monumental ways that it is a bit difficult to remember how absurd it is. Sure, the image of mother and newborn child is always beautiful, but the Gospel of Luke asks us to believe that somehow the God of the universe is present in this newborn fragile infant born in a backwater village in the Roman empire. It’s a little crazy, right?
Sometimes it’s okay to think the promises of Christmastime are crazy. It can be difficult to believe the promises of “peace on earth” and “do not be afraid” in a world where thousands of people die each day of COVID-19. The serenity we imagine present at the nativity may look about as real life as a Hallmark Christmas movie; a feel-good escape but not how the world really works.
My family just watched again a movie that has become one of our go-to Christmas movie favorites: Daddy’s Home 2. Granted, in order to enjoy it, you’ve got to be okay with some foul language and also be able to enjoy Mel Gibson without remembering some of the awful things he has said and done, but it’s a hilarious comedy that actually has a good message about our pain-filled families. I won’t spoil too much by sharing that there’s a scene when this blended family of parents, step-parents, children, step-children, grandparents and step-grandparents attempt to do a live nativity together that ends up in a disaster. Their attempt to recreate the solemnity and peace of your typical nativity scene ends up in an over-the-top family fight. The scene is funny because we know life often looks more like a Will Farrell movie than a picture on a Christmas card.
Even though so many Christians act as if Christianity is perfectly reasonable, the story of Jesus Christ is utterly unreasonable—that’s what is so great about it! Despite appearances to the contrary, there is still good in the world, not just a sprinkle here and there but the ultimate good ness of the God of the universe who does everything to demonstrate that goodness to us, even taking the form of a helpless baby to prove the point. All the pain and difficulty of this world which seems so overwhelming isn’t the way this universe ultimately works. There really is a Creator behind it all, one who loves each one of us more than we can imagine or comprehend.
So, don’t worry if believing in the promises of Christmas seems crazy to you this year. You are in good company. There’s a good reason the Bible is full of people questioning what God is up to and wondering why God allows the pain we experience; life can be hard and believing in hope, peace, joy and love sometimes seems near impossible.
Sometimes we have to just embrace the craziness of it all in order to find what God is up to. So, go ahead send the cards, buy the presents, binge watch the cheesy Christmas movies and sing your favorite Christmas songs, just don’t be surprised if your cynicism turns to wonder and your crying turns to laughter and before you know it, believing the most powerful being in the universe became a helpless infant in order to show us how to love may not seem so crazy after all.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.