At the hospital this year we used a sketch based on the carol Silent Night. It pointed out that with all those animals around it was unlikely to be quiet! It struck me listening to the story again this morning, that the stable was also unlikely to be clean – unlike the straw in our church where the animals were stuffed not real! I wonder if we would have an image of a less sanitised God if we thought about Jesus being born amongst piles of dung? I wonder if we thought of our God being comfortable amongst such surroundings?
This is a forerunner of the God I need in my life today, a God comfortable to live within the crap life brings. This is the kind of God I need Jesus to grow into, someone who stays close to their roots. I need a God who knows what it is to live in a family where life does not always go to plan. This is the hope for all of us, in whatever kind of poverty we find ourselves. For some the poverty is material, for others it may be emotional or spiritual or social and there is often not an instant solution. As God’s people we can seek to get alongside those who are experiencing such poverty and perhaps bring a glimmer of hope that life may be different in the future.
Theologians have reflected that the Magi brought gifts that reflected the status and journey Jesus was going to have. As a joke, I think it might have been more simple, they brought sensible gifts – the myrrh was to take away the terrible smell in the stable, but it was still full of crap! While scholars may dispute exactly when and where Jesus was born and the Magi visited what is clear is that there was a lot of crap around the time of his birth and his early years when, as we heard in today’s gospel reading, Herod wanted to kill him.
I don’t want to sanitise my life to bring it to God, I want to be able to be real and share the crap as well as the joy and the beauty.