I hope you are expecting a mess for Christmas. I doubt you've put that on your gift list but I am pretty sure that all of us, in one way or another, will get a mess this year. This time of year is always chaotic. The malls are crowded with shoppers. Folks may not spend as much as usual but I suspect we'll all be working overtime to find the right gift at the lowest price.
The roads will be crazy, too. As I write this column there is a weather report calling for a 100 percent chance of snow tonight. Gary Lezak, my favorite Kansas City meteorologist, predicts, "The roads will be a mess."
Kitchens city-wide will be distressed, too. My wife is a marvelous cook, a wonderful baker, and an amazing chef. However, she literally destroys the kitchen every year at Christmas. Well, not literally but as the primary clean-up person I can tell you it is very messy!
I want to be very clear about something here: I am not complaining about ANY of this! I love the clutter of Christmas. I enjoy shopping with the crowds and the bargain hunters. The commute home in the snow will not be easy but it will feel adventurous. Our Christmas dinner will be wonderful and I'll feel like I was involved because I cleaned (and cleaned and cleaned and...) and helped along the way.
The real gift of Christmas comes in the middle of it all. I know that when things get too crazy, too overwhelming, we may begin to feel like God has abandoned us. When we are rushing to one more meeting, writing one more proposal, making one more sales call, worrying over the economy, trying to finish one more project, we may wonder, "Where is God?"
Virginia Hoch calls this question a "stable moment." What appear to be chaotic and congested times are really opportunities for God's presence to be made real in our lives. Hoch invites us to look inside the stable where Jesus is born. What do you see? A feeding trough, a collection of smelly animals and a new born child. Your coffee table manger scene may not present a big mess but if you have ever been present for the birth of a baby you know that it is a wild and crazy event. When we look at that ancient "stable moment" we will see that God was at work. The God moments in our lives come when we discover that however unpredictable, unmanageable and unimaginable our lives may be, God is actively at work in the world and in us.
This is the message of Christmas: there is no place, there is no situation, there is no pain that God cannot work within. In fact, in that place we may actually sense and feel God's presence most clearly.
Grace and Peace to you,