Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.”
– From Once in Royal David’s City,
text by Cecil Alexander.
Something tells me that Jesus’ birth and childhood were not the model of calm that this Victorian carol would have us believe. The one thing we know about his childhood is that he gave his parents a terrible fright by going to the temple in Jerusalem. We know that his parents were put in a social predicament by his miraculous origins.
Which is to say that we make a mistake if we assume that the purpose of the Incarnation, and our celebration of it, is to tie everything up in a neat little bow. God’s Son did not become human so that we could be mild and obedient children. To be placid is not the same as being holy. There are no easy ways to holiness, just as there was no easy way to the Resurrection.
We still crave the easy sanctity: if we all just said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”, then something we can’t quite name would be repaired in us. If we draw clear boundaries of who is and who is out of God’s favor we could reduce salvation to a set of check boxes, all simplicity and no mystery.
I for one can’t help myself, and want to dive into the mystery. God became human, forever validating what we are and what we suffer. He was born out in a barn surrounded by stinky animals, the sky exploded with singing angels and unexplained stars while shepherds looked up, befuddled, and gentile sorcerers took a hike. He suffered diaper rash and teething, his voice changed when he was a teenager and he annoyed his parents from time to time.
God did this, and it made a glorious mess. It still makes messes of our lives, when we can no longer follow the prescriptions of the world and realize we have to go where God leads us.
The peace that I have found in Christ is the peace of knowing that I am participating in God’s will for me. It is not the same as getting what I want all the time, or having everything figured out. In fact, sometimes it flies in the face of those very human desires for neatness and explanation.
So this Christmas I am embracing the mess. I will not lament another year of not understanding what God is working in my life. I will not be perturbed by the chaos of my schedule, of travel and balancing obligations. I can do this with confidence knowing that not only did God stir the pot a little bit by coming into the world, but God also redeemed the confusion by entering into it.