I am thinking this month about Christmas. In our part of very rural Nigeria there are not really any reminders here that scream out, “Christmas is coming, you must hurry!”. In fact I doubt if most of the people I know will receive any gifts, but will spend time with the family that they are able to be with and eat rice, maybe foofoo, and cake if they are very fortunate. Dan and I will be together in our house enjoying a day where things will be a little slower. No tree, no presents, no Christmas cookies (I will make no-bake with oatmeal and cocoa) as Dan loves those and we have the supplies here to make them. No Ho Ho Mint Mocha or Fa lalala Latte this year. It is good, we are blessed. It is different this year and I want to share it with you. We feel like we have run a marathon for the last two years and our bodies and minds are saying, “Stop!”. With Dan being on crutches the last three weeks that has not helped our feeling of, “I need a vacation!”. The thing that blesses and encourages us is that We ARE doing what God has called us to do and we will plan a little better for some relaxation during our furlough time as we do not get any down time in Nigeria. We love being here, but we miss family, tradition, and friends. I don’t want any condolences please. We have chosen this, it is our choice and we have been and are blessed to be able to watch God work in the ways that we get to. But it is messy!
That brings me to Christmas, the day we celebrate when Jesus was born. I love art, I love old masters, Spanish, all kinds of art and architecture. I chose this picture because it is not as “clean” as a lot of nativity pictures. Jesus is next to the lamb, and everything has a cast of dirt on it to me. Now friends, if we really could see a picture of what things looked like after Jesus was born and “laid in the manger”. This is how I picture it after living in a developing country in the twenty-first century, now remember, we are speaking of the first century. This is what I envision, animals and the things that come with animals, urine, poop, smell, dirt floor or rock floor, hay (If you are not a farm person, hay is not soft, believe me!) no running water, no supplies, sweat, blood, pain, rats, mice, cockroaches, flies those are the givens, who knows what else?
Jesus came into this world that was a mess and it was all around Him! He came that we might have life and have it abundantly! The first visitors were the Shepherds who were watching their flocks at night. The sign that they found the right baby would be that he would be wrapped in “swaddling clothes”, I truly believe that it was baby clothes that Mary was given on their journey to Bethlehem. In that era and here in Nigeria currently most babies didn’t wear diapers or clothes. They were naked until they were potty trained. The richer people would have baby clothes, but not everyone. Of course the other sign would be that he was lying in a manger. A food trough full of hay, dried grass, maybe other animal food as well.
Jesus came into this world of sin and sorrow so that we may have hope and life. Is your world messy? I tell Dan all the time that life is messy and ministry is even messier. Some days I am amazed at how Satan can deceive and torture people and the lives that are hurt, damaged, and lost in the process. I am not a theologian by any stretch, I adhere to pre-school theology as this is the age of people I have ministered to most of my life. Pre-schoolers live in a world that is simple. Bad choices get bad consequences. Jesus can help you, He is your best friend if you ask Him to be. It is that simple! Life will still be messy, sometimes days will totally suck the life out of you, but you still have Jesus. He is THE answer. Consequences won’t go away, bad stuff will still happen, you may get discouraged occassionally, but He is there and He is helping you navigate through the mess, through the pain, through the hurt and to His loving arms of hope and healing. He is a Restorer!
Merry Christmas! My point for today is this: If you do not know Jesus, this Jesus of Christmas, this Jesus born in a mess to help people living in messes. This Jesus of Hope. Find a evangelical church this weekend and find out more or you can also send me a message. He loves you and so do I!