"It suddenly occurred to me that this was just the way it must have been for the real Holy Family, stuck away in a barn by people who didn't much care what happened to them. They couldn't have been very neat and tidy either, but more like this Mary and Joseph."
-excerpt from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
I'm not sure if you're familiar with the story, but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a truly unique Christmas story. The town "dirty kid" bullies come in and take over the local church Christmas pageant. There they are--huge warts and all, acting out the Christmas story. You've got Imogene as Mary threatening to clobber any Wise Man that got near Baby Jesus. Gladys as the Angel of the Lord screaming, "Hey, Unto you a Child is born!" while shoving shepherds down the aisle. Not what we'd typically think of when we picture the nativity.
When we think of the Nativity we picture this idyllic scene, but Mary gave birth in a stable. Traveling, weary and in labor just to give birth among the animals. Not quite so idyllic! There must have been a lot of mixed emotions surrounding those first "Christmases". Shepherds, angels, and wise men-all adding to the confusion and mystery. The wise men had been traveling for a very long time separated from their families and home country. The shepherds leaving their carefully watched flocks to go give tribute to the new King. The Holy Family's flight to Egypt. All the Israelite families who lost baby boys in Herod's frantic search for his usurper.
Joy mixed with grief...
There are so many of us that have a hard time around the holiday seasons. We are surrounded by the idyllic and can't seem to forget the reality. The reality that we've had losses and grief that can be overwhelming. We live in the tension of joy and grief. Some people tell you that's not okay....they are wrong. I'm here to reassure you that it fits right in with those first Christmases. Confusion and grief...mystery and mayhem. Joy and hope...fulfillment and peace.
Be encouraged! Through all those feelings that just don't seem like they go together, you can still feel the presence of that new born baby who came to the Earth as a mysterious gift-- full of hope and salvation.
Think past the idyllic and think about the reality of those first Christmas nights. Realize that it's much the same for us now...dirty, messy lives that are changed when they meet the real person of Jesus!
"After all, that was the whole point of Jesus...that he was born and lived...a real person."
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever