Emmanuel- The God of our Mess
I spent the last two weeks on a farm in the outskirts of a small town in Wisconsin. Now prior to marrying my husband, about as close to a dairy farm that I got was the fact that I was actually a spokesperson for a milk campaign for 5 years. But lets be honest, the real farm life is a far cry from tour buses, concerts and a few milk trivia questions.
All week long, people kept asking me questions like, “Are you surviving? Are you ready to go home yet? Do you actually like the farming life?” And every time someone asked me one of those questions, I would secretly pat myself on the back and give myself a high five for being such an amazing wife who was willing to adapt to something I know my husband loves and cares for.
About midway through our trip, I found myself getting a little on the irritable side. Everyone was constantly coming into the house with cow crap falling off of their boots and it was impossible to keep anything clean. One of the worst culprits was, of course, my dear husband who just thrives on being as dirty as possible. But the worst of all was our highly energetic Australian Shepherd, who not only follows in my husband’s footsteps, but also takes it to an all-new level of gross. He would come bounding through the door of our bedroom covered in hay and fresh cow droppings and plant himself directly on my side of the bed where he would then begin to clean himself. Pleasant, right?
I say to my husband in my most amused and yet stern, wifely voice:
“Babe, I just have one request, one I think is rather reasonable. There is cow poop all over the place and I can’t control that. But there is just one spot that I am begging could be free of this delightful aroma; our bed. That is my one simple request.”
Later on in the week, I decided to record a version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and we stood out in the five-degree weather as wind blew my hair in what looked like a glamorous effect. Let’s be honest, it was freezing and I couldn’t feel my face. Once we got one take, we sprinted to the barn as fast as our lungs could handle to stand in front of the heater and defrost.
The next morning I wanted to get some extra footage to make it look more appealing so I was taking all kinds of snowy shots because they just seemed like the "Christmas vibe". I didn’t know what else to film so I went to my husband milking in the barn and asked him. He said, “You could film a calf in the snow or something. Does that have any relevance to the song?”
“Does that have any relevance to the song….”
All the sudden it hit me. Jesus was born in a BARN surrounded by these kinds animals. There is no more relevant a place for me to film a song about God being with us than right there on that farm! How is it that I had been there that long and hadn’t realized that?
That’s when I realized that we glamourize the Christmas story far too much with our felt board images of a pristine white cow sitting gently beside Jesus, and Mary and Joseph in their perfectly ironed blue and white robes. Even the shepherds who have been out in the fields all night are typically portrayed without a spot on them. And the wise men add a touch of royalty as they kneel in the straw presenting their gifts. (It is popularly theorized that the wise men didn’t even enter the picture until possibly years later.)
As a fresh waterfall of brown substance escaped from the cow next to me and I stood there in that barn looking at the cows caked in their own excrement, and my husband standing there tending to them also covered head to toe in… well lets just call it mud… I suddenly had a new revelation of what that first Christmas Eve looked like. And I remembered my own words to my husband a few days before… “I just have one simple, reasonable request, no cow poop in the bed.”
The very Son of God did not make that request when they schemed up the most epic Emmanuel story of all.
The bible says “she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” I believe there was no room for them in the inn because God never planned for his son to be born in the inn. I believe he wanted to make a very profound statement about the kind of God he is.
He is not a God who tells us to get our act together and then come to him, put on a smile and fake your happiness in the midst of pain so that no one doubts you are a good Christian. He is the God who entered into our mess, spent his first night sleeping in the midst of our crap and displayed his glory with a host of heavenly angels not to kings and princes, but to the dirty, bottom of society, shepherds.
God didn't write a perfect story full of flawlessly ironed robes, pristine stables, and cows that did nothing but moo in harmony with the angels. God's story is messy and that should give us hope; because our lives are messy too.
Let’s stop glamorizing the Christmas story and instead begin to boast in the true Emmanuel, God with us, right in the midst of our imperfection.
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