‘GOD COMES INTO OUR MESSY LIFE’
For those of you who have, or used to have, an infant, you would understand when I say that it is near impossible to keep your house clean and tidy when you have such creature crawling in your house every day. My wife and I have a ten-month-old son and we love him to the moon and back. But sometimes I wonder whether or not I should one day send him bills for all the things in my house that he had either damaged, torn apart, put his marks on, or simply made a mess of. Seriously, there are times when I just want to give up cleaning up the mess in my house because it has become such a futile enterprise, knowing that for one thing that I clean up, he will mess five others.
This makes my wife and I very reluctant to invite people to come to our house. We want people to visit (and we have promised to invite people to come for a meal), but my wife and I are often embarrassed by the state of our house. Like most people, we want to make our guests feel as comfortable as possible during their time with us. But we somehow have the false expectation that our guests should leave our house with the false impression that, despite living under the same roof with a crawling infant, we still manage to live in a house that looks like a display home.
I guess this is not an unusual theme, especially for those of you who are hosting Christmas party or meal this year.
Fortunately for us, God is not fussy about whether or not our life is clean or tidy before God would come into our life. As a matter of fact, God comes to us in the midst of the messiness of our life.
This is the message that we hear this morning from our reading from the first letter to Titus. The letter proclaims that God saves us not because of our own good deeds, but because of God’s mercy. It is a gift that is manifested today in the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
We also hear the same message in our reading this morning from Luke’s Gospel. Luke, the author of the Gospel, located the Christmas story not in some fables, but in human history. He began the story of Jesus’ birth by placing it in one historical moment when Augustus was the Emperor of the Roman Empire and Quirinius was the governor of Syria. He located the story in real towns of Nazareth in Galilee and Bethlehem in Judea.
In other words, Jesus was born into the real world, in the midst of human history with all its complexities and messiness. For Luke, the story of Jesus’ birth was not some fairytales, but real story involving real people from the highest rank, like the Emperor and Governor, to the lowest of all, like the shepherds or a couple who sojourned as strangers (and the animals; let’s not forget the animals).
Indeed, if only we were there, we would not only see what Luke told in his Gospel; if we were there, we would also smell the smell of animals’ droppings in the place where Mary and Joseph laid their newborn; or the smell of the shepherds who were never really concerned about their personal hygiene; or the smell of Joseph and Mary’s body odour, exhausted by the long journey. If we were there, we could hear Jesus’ cry and Mary’s sigh of relief and the shepherds’ gasp of surprise. Jesus was born in the midst of real people and real places.
Before my wife and son joined me in Australia, I had time to prepare for their arrival. It wasn’t much, but I had the opportunity to look around for baby’s clothes, cot, toys, strollers, etc. I was also lucky to have generous people around me who gave me with the things that I was looking for. As the result, my house looked like a garage sale, but it was only temporary.
Mary and Joseph, on the other hand, didn’t have the same luxury. There was no IKEA or Best & Less or Baby Bunting in Nazareth or Bethlehem then. They couldn’t even find a place to rest and for Mary to give birth. What they could find was a dirty animal pen. But God came into their family nevertheless.
So, if there is one message that I can share with you this Christmas morning, it is this: God doesn’t wait for us to clean up our life before God comes into it. God comes to us, in Jesus Christ, in the midst of our messy, dirty life. Even more: God chooses to dwell in our life to transform it.
So, if you think today that you are not worthy to invite God into your life, to let God lead you to a better place, because your marriage has broken down; or you have abandoned your children or parents or siblings or friends; or you have been abusing substances or other people; or you have been abused yourself – physically or mentally; or you have been unable to find a job for a long period of time or to hold a job long enough; or you have been rejected by the people you deem important; or you have been dealing with addiction or depression; or you just feel that you don’t look good enough or feel good enough; or you have been thinking of harming yourself or even trying to harm yourself, think again. You don’t have to wait until your life looks like a display home before you can invite God as a guest in it. God will come into your life no matter what. The birth of Jesus Christ is the story about God who comes not into a perfect world, but into a broken one.
So, don’t wait any longer. Invite Christ now. Let him come to your home, to your family, to your workplace, to your private spaces, and let him guide you to the light.