Mike Slaughter suggests that we read the Christmas story through a sanitized lens because we know what is going to happen in the end; This baby will grow up to become the Messiah, our redeemer who spends the last three years of His life as a rabble-rouser. Because we often view Jesus from the other end of calvary, it becomes easy to retell His story in a way that is more aesthetically pleasing for us. It's easy to make the ugliness of our stories appear beautiful when we are confident that the end will be favorable; but what happens to the story when you are not as sure?
From Mary and Joseph's perspective, they were not sure how this birthing-the-Messiah thing would work out. The angel Gabriel brings this bizzare message, and though both Mary and Joseph have some hesitation over it (depending on which of the Gospels you're reading), they accept the Word of the Lord which results in them facing ridicule and shame for nine months. What a challenge of their faith!
Remember: Mary and Joseph had not yet the privilege of knowing Jesus as risen savior like we do; their understanding of the birth of Jesus is not through the lens of Calvary. They were living in the moment! This experience, as I've suggested, was ugly, smelly, and quite oxymoronic considering the child being born would reign as king one day.
But, don't we do this in our lives as well? Don't we take the ugliest parts of ourselves and sanitize it, make it cleaner and more presentable to the public so that our story is better received? We shove down the shame, hide the hideous, remove the regretful to allow a more socially acceptable story to shine through—in hopes that those around us will accept us the way we've presented it.
We dress up the lies, twist how the story really went so that those around us will feel better about their own stories of fear, shame, and doubt. We reframe the circumstances behind an unexpected pregnancy to appease these social pressures of single parenthood. We reshape the story to explain how a divorce shattered a seemingly picture-perfect family. We reconstruct the tale we tell about a sudden foreclosure on a sprawling mansion after keeping up with the Jones' became just too much.
We are meticulous in repainting the picture to make it look presentable to the world. How useful could someone who has been rejected, broken, and born into a manger really be?
I think the Christmas story answers this lingering question—how useful can someone with a not-so-spectacular story be used to do great things? When we consider the realness of how Jesus was born, it allows for us to take a step back and consider the power of His birth. Jesus' birth story was not one of pristine privilege or dressed up dramatics. It was of some young and in-love folks agreeing to say "yes" to something beyond their understanding. It was a total commitment to follow through on their beliefs despite facing ridicule and having to birth their promise on top of hay full of animal feces. And despite all of those not-so-pleasurable things, Jesus' story lives on in the annals of history. And ours will too.
What stories have you sanitized to make others (or even yourself) feel better about? This Christmas, consider removing the rose-tinted glasses from your story—share it! I'm challenging myself to be and remain transparent, to tell my story as-is, no cleaning it up. The Christmas story is much more than gift giving and receiving—it is an opportunity for us to dig deeper into the realities of our story and use them to share the miracles in our own lives!
Reprinted with permission from urbanfaith.com. Alisha L. Gordon is a writer, social media maven, and published author. A second year student at The Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Alisha's work has focused on fusing faith and culture together to help people better understand how our faith can help shape the community at large. A former high school English teacher, Alisha uses teaching to help further the discussion of building the bridge between the Church and community. She's also the creator of What the Hell Happened to Me in Seminary, a blog that chronicles the lives and transformative stories of current seminary students and graduates. Follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook!
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