Each year my family waits with joyful anticipation for the Christmas Eve service at our church. Everyone is dressed up, some fancier than others, the service is bathed in candle light and all is beautiful. We hear the story of a teenage mother, giving birth for the first time, in a stable. We hear the words, in a stable, but we’re surrounded by beauty when we hear it, and I don’t think we stop to reflect on what it really must have been like for Mary.
It must have been filthy. The straw, if there was any, probably wasn’t fresh. Animals were eating, sleeping and doing all things that animals do as she labored. There was no bed, no clean sheets, certainly no ice chips and no hope at all of a meal delivered on a tray at the end. In all likelihood, things were a bit chaotic for Mary and Joseph, young and alone, far from home.
And yet, it was perfect. Emmanuel, God with us. Born into the mess, He is with us in the chaos of our daily lives. He came to be with us as we fumble about, trying our best, failing anyway, trying again with hopefully better results. God with us, the tired, the hungry, the poor, all of us invited to the table, no fancy dress required.
Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.