Thursday, December 10, 2015

Have a Messy Christmas

My favorite Christmas movie is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” starring Chevy Chase. It’s a picture of a messy, sloppy, Christmas where nothing seems to go right. Chase’s character Clark Griswold simply wants to have the perfect, old-fashioned family Christmas, but everything goes wrong. There is family drama. He has problems with his boss. His massive effort to hang Christmas lights at his home instead turns into a disaster, and even when he finally gets them working, his father-in-law reminds him that, “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.” His hopes for a perfect Christmas culminate with his redneck cousin Eddie kidnapping his boss and bringing a police SWAT team bursting into his home.
It’s not likely that any of you have ever had such a disastrous Christmas. But I think all of us can identify with Clark just a little bit. Who among us has not had high hopes for a Christmas celebration that were shot because of high drama in the family, or too many parties and not enough time, or too many gifts and not enough money? Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but unfortunately it rarely lives up the hype for many of us. The hustle and bustle, drama, and stress, can simply become too much. That one uncle says something that starts a big argument in the entire family. A sister decides that the best time to air a lifetime worth of grievances is just before you all join hands to pray over dinner. Or maybe you, in the stress of everything, blow up on your kids when they asked if they can go see the Christmas lights down the road for the 100th time. Whatever it is, almost all of us have been there at one time or another. Christmas is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
But why should we be surprised by that? There was pretty high drama that first Christmas evening. A very pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph came to Bethlehem, because that’s where all their family lived. But not only did their family not have a place for them – the innkeeper didn’t either. Jesus, the God the universe, the Savior of the world, ended up being born in a manger. Mary and Joseph were surrounded by cows and sheep and dirt and manure and blood and afterbirth. This was certainly no "Silent Night." It was likely not how either of them expected the Messiah to be born. It was the kind of Christmas that Clark Griswold could identify with. It’s probably the kind of Christmas you can identify with.
And this is exactly what we should have expected – it is the point of the incarnation. It’s the reason God became man. God stepped into our mess, and he was not shy about going in knee-deep. Jesus’ inglorious birth was simply a microcosm of what the rest of his life would be like. He had family issues. He had friends betray him. He lived in the middle of all kinds of drama. And he did it for us. Because God became a man, he can now identify with us. There is nothing that happens to us – no indignity too humbling, no problem too big, no issue to “issuey,” that Jesus cannot say with 100% confidence that he completely understands. He understands because he’s been there too. And that is one of the reasons that the good news of the gospel is truly good news.
Here’s the even better news though. Jesus is not content simply to step into our mess. He plans to fix our mess – completely, fully, and finally. The promise of the first Advent of Jesus is a Second Advent – when he will finally fix it all forever. His first coming was enough to save us, and because of that we can have peace in the midst of these storms we often see at Christmas. But his second coming promises that those storms will finally be destroyed. For the rest of eternity, we will celebrate the coming of Jesus, and it will be drama free, trouble free – sin free. And that is reason enough to bear whatever difficulty your crazy uncle or drama king sister might throw at you this Christmas. So have a messy Christmas – and count on the fact that one day it will all be worth it.