Singing Silent Night by candlelight at the midnight Christmas Eve service is one of my favorite events of the year. There is something about coming together in the dimly lit church singing “all is calm, all is bright,” and reflecting on the unconventional birth of our Savior that fills the deepest parts of my soul and reminds me of the glorious hope we have in Christ.
This week has been tough. It has been full of conversations with kids who are not looking forward to a peaceful, hope-filled Christmas, but are dealing with emotional, social, financial, and spiritual insecurity. The situations they go home to are anything but calm, and their futures do not feel very bright. They are feeling alone, over-burdened by difficult family situations, ill equipped to deal with the social environments they find themselves in online and in person, and lacking the tools and healthy examples to navigate through the world they find themselves in.
The interesting thing is that these kids know the Christmas Story. They attend schools where they participate in an annual Christmas Program retelling the story year after year. They have heard it over and over again….yet hope remains elusive.
It got me thinking. I know the problem isn’t the Christmas story. The Bible tells us in Hebrews that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” These kids have heard the word of Christ.
Maybe the problem is us. Maybe we have gotten comfortable. Maybe we have taken the easy road. Maybe we don’t want to get our hands dirty. It’s safer (for us) to simply share the words without investing in the relationship. Maybe we want to stay inside our clean, predictable church building and let Jesus do all of the work.
Yet we need to look at what really happened on the cold night in Bethlehem. Jesus wasn’t born in a pristine hospital room surrounded by medical professionals with sterile linens, he was born to a teenage girl in a messy, cold, dirty stable surrounded by smelly animals. And soon afterwards, he was pursued by evil people who wanted to kill Him. It was anything but clean and predictable.
God, in his omnipotence, could have saved us with simply a word or a wave of His hand, but he CHOSE to send his only son into the messy world where he would engage with and invest 30 years in messy, flawed people. What we may have forgotten is that He asks us to do the same. He tells us to go and make disciples. He does not tell us to wait for the disciples to come to us.
As I work with these children and their mothers every day, I am continually reminded that what they need most is to be in relationship with those who know the hope of the little baby whose birth we sing about by candlelight on Christmas Eve. But, in order for that to happen, we need to be willing to get a little messy…a little uncomfortable. We need to be willing to step outside the walls for the sake of another.