Growing up, we’d always go out to a Christmas tree farm to cut down a real tree. This meant wandering around for what seemed like hours trying to find the perfect tree. We’d mark the ones we liked with mittens, so we could come back later and decide. This meant we lost a lot of mittens.
One year, after picking a tree and getting it all decorated, we came home the next day to find that the tree had fallen over. There were broken ornaments everywhere! So, my dad got some rope, stood it back up, and tied it to the windows.
I’ll never forget that mess! It reminds me of how messy Christmas can be. Now that I have my own family, Christmas is still a mess. Trees drop their needles. Decorations, lights, and wrapping paper fill the house (some displayed nicely, some in piles in the corner). Our schedules are hectic, our bellies are filled with sweets, and our bank account is low.
Christmas is messy! But that’s OK, because the first Christmas was also messy, loud, and hectic. It likely was not a silent night. Mary’s delivery, the shepherds, the animals, the angels – it probably was quite chaotic and rambunctious.
Think about how messy and uncomfortable everything was leading to the birth of Jesus.
A young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant and plans to divorce her. Angels are sent to sort things out. The Roman government sends the young couple to Bethlehem. There’s no place for them to stay, so Mary gives birth in a stable. Jesus is placed in a feeding trough as a crib. Shepherds and wisemen stop by unannounced. Herod tries to kill the baby. They run for their lives to Egypt. What a mess!
Not exactly the calm, pristine entrance into the world you might image for the Messiah!
And yet, all these events unfolded exactly according to God’s plan. God has a plan behind the mess. What may seem disorganized, random, uncomfortable, and messy to us is part of the good, perfect, sovereign plan of God.
Ephesians 1 says that God has “a plan for the right time – to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him. In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will.”
And so, in the midst of your messy Christmas – and your messy life – have peace. God has a plan. He works all things according to the purpose of his will. Yes, life is messy and hard, but it is not haphazard.
This Christmas, in all likelihood, the house will be a mess, ornaments will break, the kids won’t sit still at the table, and you’ll run out of wrapping paper. And beyond that, we have to deal with family tension, financial strain, illness, and sin that still rages. But our God is good and loving. We can trust him, he has a plan, and he sent a Savior for us! Let’s remember what the angel said to the shepherds that first messy Christmas.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
– Luke 2:10-12