Each Christmas it seems I see different aspects of the Jesus event. In the past I've been struck by the simple beauty of the somewhat anonymous birth of the Savior of the world. I've been amazed by the bright glory of the Christmas Star, and its leading of the shepherds and wise men. I've been blown away by the pageantry of the heavenly host, and their dramatic announcement of the Messiah. But this year I've been struck by something completely different and unexpected.
This Christmas has been, for lack of a better word, ugly. The nice, clean picture of the Nativity, depicted serenely on Christmas cards and manicured lawns, is what most of us picture when we think of Jesus' birth. We think fondly of the winsome Christmas hymn "Away in a Manger", where we are told that "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." What a bunch of hooey!
The fact of the matter is that Jesus was born under the worst of circumstances. His mother, fresh off a seventy mile donkey ride, settled into childbirth within the lovely confines of a livestock kennel. The smell alone had to be nauseating. Then there's the blood, sweat and tears that accompany such an event (after witnessing the birth of 4 kids, I can testify that childbirth is no picnic). Finally, think about the fact that Jesus' first guests were shepherds. No heads of state thought this birth worthy of a visit, but a bunch of penniless (and, no doubt, smelly) shepherds descended on the stable like flies on, well, you know. This was definitely not a pretty sight.
I like this picture, ugly though it may be. It gives me comfort to know, in an age where important births are so gaudy and on parade (see baby TomKat, baby Brangelina, etc.), the birth of Jesus wasn't even worthy of an attempted Madonna adoption. Jesus came to us like he left us: ugly, bloody, and humble. In so doing, he proved that he is such a different kind of King. He defends the weak, empowers the lowly and embraces the humble. Thanks, Jesus, for showing up without bells and whistles. Your meager entrance is pure and real. It's a story I can believe in!