We have a box for the tree stuff. We have a bag for the tinsel. We have a box somewhere for all the lights (those that work and those that don’t). We have different boxes for these decorations and others for those. Each year – as we haul them down from the attic – we have to look through them all to see which is which.
And we have decorations that come down year after year, get looked at year after year, and get put back year after year. Usually a small child’s “small child” offering. That really ugly looking bit of something that was precious way back then. Still too precious to throw out – now too ugly to put up.
Today we open “The Immaculate Conception” box: Luke 1:26-38
Inside is our perfect wide-eyed Mary. And over there is the magnificent all-knowing Angel Gabriel. And in the bottom all scrunched up is that “too precious to throw away – too ugly to bring out” bit. The “baby making bit”. The corner of the box that is infused with bad choices:
Choice one: baby-making is a grunting, impregnating, sweaty kind of creation. Too close to “with consent or no consent”. Not for the children. Choice two: is a magic trick: – “Abracadabra – and now you are!” But how to explain from “that” to “that” in just seventeen days? That choice is too pantomime. So the obvious choice is … back in the box (again).
And yet I see and hear of miracles involving physical change. I know of some. I know of many more where God did not “fix it” and is forever blamed. I wonder why we like our miracles of healing out in the open – but not our miracle of conception.
Was Mary raped? Well everything I read says no. Everything I read says she willingly accepted the invitation to be Jesus’ mum. Everything I read says Joseph “got it” with a little divine joining of the dots. Which makes it a physical-change-miracle. Something to be celebrated rather than hidden away. And that is faith (just as dismissing the whole thing as a cruel fairy story of indoctrination is also “faith”).
But back to our own Christmas “ugly stuff” that never sees the light of day …
At one time each bit of ugly stuff did. At one time each was touched and caressed – dusted and straightened – given pride of place especially for a precious child who saw their creation given a pride of place year after year. And even now as we lift them out … look at them … put them back … It is not because they have lost their value – it is because that precious child has moved on in their own lives. It is because that “precious child” is now embarrassed to see their childish “stuff” given pride of place. It is because they mind.
Because we do have ugly stuff that goes up year after year. Ugly stuff without which the children feel Christmas is not complete – has something missing – is not quite right. And usually it is missing because my wife or I have looked at ”it” and thought: “Maybe this year they won’t notice.” Maybe this year they won’t miss this ugly thing. Maybe this year it can join the other precious ugly stuff.
In my own journey as a follower I am finding this year that I value the “ugly stuff” of God more and more. I see more and more that it is the “real stuff” – the precious stuff. Others don’t. But this is not a “bah humbug” post. This is a “live and let live” post.
This is my Christmas story – my Christmas journey – a different footfall – a different path – a different something to last year. This year I think this …
God does not mind like we “mind”.
I think God is quite happy to see all the twee. Quite happy to see the ugly bits caressed and straightened and put back in the box. Quite happy to hear someone call for the ugly bit without which their Christmas story is “not quite right”. And I am pretty confident that God does not mind that our Christmas Story evolved from a pagan “something or other”. That our preferred bible story has so many chronological holes it would sink without trace if it was a ship. In short – I think we “mind for God” what God does not mind at all.
And I ponder this (as an all year every day kind of thing) …
Does God mind a follower who prefers the “Christian nursery” like we mind a follower who prefers the “Christian nursery”? A follower who “never matures” (like a good Christian should). Who never “gets” the bible (like a good Christian should). A follower who never even notices the “ugly stuff” – who sees only the pretty stuff – the twee stuff – the stuff that we mind (on behalf of God). But most of all I wonder if we spend far too much time arguing about who has “got it” and who has not. Because isn’t Christmas a marvellous opportunity for finding/sharing/being …
A time for smiling at people we don’t know … connecting with those we never would … having a great big festive party with those we usually pass-by. And which includes the homeless, the vulnerable, the lonely, the poor … and every other category we get all “holy” over in this season of indulgence. All those WE mind (on behalf of God).
This year I think this festive season is an exquisite appetiser of real “love without condition”! Which leads me to this …
If we really do struggle to handle a very small dose of (almost) unconditional love in our lives once a year … if we really do mind (on behalf of God) how we each celebrate Christmas …
Why might that be?