A Messy Christmas

Every Christmas morning when I was growing up, my family had a tradition while we opened presents. As each gift was unwrapped, the wrapping paper was fashioned into a ball to be held until the moment someone else least expected it. As soon as you had a clear shot…WHAM!  The wrapping paper war would begin. Long after opening presents, the battle would rage. Each time you thought it was over and let your guard down…WHACK!

It was loads of fun until it was over and we realized it was time to clean up the war zone we used to call a living room. Begrudgingly, we would pick up wrapping paper balls, broken ornaments, and every shredded piece of wrapping paper scattered throughout the room. Cleaning up the mess was the least fun part of this tradition.

Even if you’ve never started a wrapping paper war (which I highly recommend), I’m sure you’ve experienced a mess. And I’m also sure some of them are far messier than some wrapping paper.  

As you’re recounting the messiest experiences of your life, I’ll let you in on a little secret: the messiest part of my life is…me. And the messiest part of your life is…you.

Sin makes a huge mess in all of our lives.

But here’s the good news: the first Christmas was messier than any of us could imagine… but it was that mess that fixed ours.  

Jesus came into a mess.

Often times we lump little baby Jesus in with other “cute” Christmas characters, like Frosty, Ruldolph and every Who down in Whoville. But when Jesus came to earth, it was anything but cute. It was messy.

He came into a messy time. A time of civil unrest, under a vicious ruler, Herod the Great, who was so paranoid about losing his throne that he murdered anyone he felt was a threat. His “hit list” included two of his wives, three sons, his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, many prominent Jewish people in Judea, and soon after Jesus was born, all of the baby boys under age two. (Matthew 2:1-18)

He came into a messy place. Although Jesus was the king of all kings, he wasn’t born in a palace or to royalty. He was born in a lowly manger, to a poor carpenter and an unwed, teen mom. (Luke 2:1-7)

Jesus could have chosen to come into a better time in history, a more comfortable setting, or to a couple with better social status. Instead, he came into a mess, so that ultimately, he could rescue us.

Jesus came into our mess.

Just like he didn’t avoid the mess of the time, Jesus doesn’t avoid the mess of sin in our lives either. He came as a baby so that he could grow and experience humanity in all of its fullness. He knew what it was to have family, friends, and connection with God. And he also experienced loneliness, grief, disappointment, and pain.

Jesus walked through the human life so that when we face difficulty, we can trust that our God knows exactly what we are feeling.

But Jesus does something we can’t do. He lives the human life perfectly. And despite his flawless record, he’s brutally killed on our behalf. In fact, the Bible tells us that he actually takes on our mess.

“Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Here’s what that means: Jesus, the perfect one, made the craziest exchange in all of history. He took on our identity – messy sinner – and gave us his – child of God. Because of this exchange, we experience forgiveness, grace, joy, hope, and peace. And as we grow in relationship with Jesus, he helps us become more and more like him.

That is the best part about being in relationship with Jesus… you don’t just get a cleaned-up mess, you get a brand-new life. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Sure, life on this side of eternity will still have its share of messes, but each time you find yourself in the midst of one, pause, pray and remember that because of a messy Christmas long ago, your life doesn’t have to be a mess anymore.

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