December 21, 2013

the inconvenience of christmas

Yes, this is yet another introspective Christmas post. Brace yourselves.

I have (obviously) been thinking a lot about all that goes into Christmas. And, if we were all quite honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that this holiday is extremely inconvenient.

In the midst of getting stuck in traffic, absurdly long lines at Costco, thinking of gifts to buy, putting up a bunch of ribbon and lights and an entire tree in our homes only to take it all down a month later- we begin to lose sight of why we are putting all this effort in and going to such great lengths. Can't we just bake a cake on the 25th, sing "Happy birthday Jesus" and be done with it?

Let's look at how convenient it was for Mary: She got married, and then an angel came to her and explained that she would have a painless birth of a non-colicky baby boy in an elegant suite at the Heathman, with multitude of medical professionals surrounding her... right?

Oh, wait, let's look at what really happened.

First of all, Mary wasn't married. It may be more acceptable in our culture, but in those days we know that this was a little more than an inconvenience. This was something that society ridiculed Mary and her husband-to-be for, and I'm sure it didn't end when she had the baby.

So then, let's look at the birth and the time leading up. Ladies who have been pregnant, we all know what we want to do at 9+ months: we want to lie on the couch until the labor begins. Would we want to be traveling long distances on the back of a donkey? I think not. And what about the labor and delivery? How about in a barn, surrounded by animals? I am so surprised by how many of James' Christmas books say that Mary and Joseph found a "warm, clean stable". I actually had to go check my Bible. Nothing about "warm" or "clean" in there. Truthfully, I doubt the inn-keeper, in the madness of people coming from all over and needing places to stay, thought to go turn on the space heater and throw in some clean hay just in case someone were to give birth in his barn that night.

The circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth were exceptionally inconvenient for his parents. They had to travel, the delivery took place in a pile of hay surrounded by livestock, and then some men who had been sleeping out in the fields wandered in, saying they had been told to come check out the newborn baby. How frustrating and annoying for Mary and Joseph, right? God tells them that they are going to have a baby and then He seemingly makes it as difficult as possible on them. And what does Mary do?

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." 
Luke 2:19

Do you suppose Mary began to put the pieces together? The Lamb of God was born in a stable, where sheep are kept. The Lamb of God was visited by shepherds.

These inconveniences all had a purpose: to bring a Savior into the world and to reveal His identity as the Lamb.

So as we battle the parking lot of the mall, and plug in all the twinkle lights again, and stay up late making cookie dough and wrapping gifts, may we look to it not as an inconvenience, but may we treasure this time in our hearts- the time to celebrate the Savior's birth and to reveal His identity as the Lamb to the world around us.

Happy five days 'til Christmas!

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