I recently heard a really clever message in church about the spirit of Christmas as seen in the movie “Elf’. It isn’t typical to hear a message like that drawn out of the characters in a Christmas movie about an elf in New York. (If you haven’t seen it, the movie is worth a watch.) You may not see Jesus in it, but you will certainly see some noble and Christmasy themes. One theme that I haven’t often seen at Christmas is the theme of new life coming out of nasty surroundings.
Sure we see nativities at church with cute kids, a doll in a towel made up to look like baby Jesus, and maybe some cardboard animals, but you can’t bring the real thing from the manger scene into your church building. It would be filthy and it would stink; literally.
The manger (feeding trough for animals) was the bed for Jesus, the most unseemly place to put him. Really! I wouldn’t put anybody in there, never mind God’s son, but we often don’t think of the filth of it all because our nativity plays and our general church life, is all very sanitized.
Sanitizing things is what we do, we like it clean, neat, and proper.
I am as guilty of that as anyone, I like my stuff clean, and in its proper place, but it can be a really unspiritual and ungodly practice to ‘tidy up’ in some areas where God could be unveiling his best promises and purposes for us. Cleaning up for God isn’t necessarily the best idea and yet we do it so often, and at Christmas it is hard to resist doing it because, well, it’s Christmas; so let’s be nice, get along, give a bit of money (maybe) to The Salvation Army, and go to church at least once in December.
That is all clean up, sanitize, and put the best foot forward stuff.
It was pretty unsanitary for Jesus to be born among animals, yet it was our greatest gift swaddled in that maternity farm with all the sights, sounds, and smells it contained.
You just never know where God will surprise you from. He often does it in the nastiest of places.
It could be a place where you made the mess yourself or someone else could have made the mess that you find yourself in, it isn’t that important. God wants to use it as a place to birth something new for you but if you focus on the surroundings and all the foul sights and sounds, you may just miss the bundle of love wrapped up in middle of it all that is your greatest blessing yet.
Christmas season inevitably has challenges of all sorts, for lots of people and I want to encourage you to focus on the centerpiece of it all which is Jesus of course, and where He can be seen and found among your ‘animal farm’.
Imagine what those famous shepherds and wise men would have missed if they had focused on the surroundings of Jesus birth
Not to mention his Mum and Dad, who weren’t exactly fancy people. It’s easy for us to miss the activity of God in the places of our lives that just don’t look right.
You will probably find him humbly appearing in the middle of something, or somewhere that you’d rather not look.
He is nearer than you know to birth new blessings into your lives, so ask Him to help you see and receive them.