The Dirty Side of Christmas
I was a new kindergarten teacher on a field trip with my class. We had just stepped off the bus when one of my students got sick and came running to me covered in vomit. My reaction was swift. I shrieked and ran away from him, causing the rest of the class to do the same. Luckily, a parent sprung into action and came to the poor kid’s rescue as I gagged behind the bus.
So maybe I’m a bit of a germ-o-phobe. But I bet even non-germ-o-phobes will admit that some things are just plain gross, and throw-up is one of them.
When my son was a toddler, he would point to anything with the slightest speck and shout, “DIRTY!” Small crumbs on the table: “DIRTY!” The grain on our wood floor: “DIRTY!” A puppy with little brown spots: “DIRTY!” For him, dirty was a no-no.
On some level, I think we all believe that clean = good, dirty = bad. But is there ever an instance when dirty = good? When not sanitizing is a plus?
This past week, I listened to a group of three-year-olds sing a song about baby Jesus in the manger.
“Milk cow mooing, Donkey chewing.
Funny little place for a baby to stay.
Milk cow mooing, Donkey chewing.
Lay the baby Jesus in the soft, sweet hay.”
Wait a minute. Soft, sweet hay? I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my experience with hay is that it is pokey, itchy and makes me sneeze. It’s not a place I want to curl up and take a nap, much less place my newborn. Can you imagine the uproar if a hospital asked new parents to place their baby in a hay-filled bassinet surrounded by cows and donkeys?
That would not happen because it’s “DIRTY!”
But Jesus did it anyway.
He could have come into the world riding on a gleaming chariot with a theme song and a case of hand sanitizer. But He didn’t. He came into a broken, filthy world as an innocent baby and was placed in a bed of itchy, pokey hay surrounded by stinky farm animals.
From the moment He arrived, Jesus showed us that He was not afraid of getting dirty. He spent His time on earth walking through the stench of our sin, casting out demons, touching the untouchable, and drinking from the cup of the unclean. He restored a blind man’s sight with mud and spit (John 9:6). He held a dead girl’s hand and brought her back to life (Luke 8:54-55). He loved on the unlovely without reservation because He knew what it was like to be unwanted. “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). No sin was too offensive, no sickness too repulsive. There was nothing too vile for him to come near.
So He came.
He came to a woman with a soiled reputation and washed her clean with Living Water (John 4). He met a man haunted by demons and restored his mind and spirit (Luke 8:26-39). In front of a crowd of onlookers, He called forth a woman who had suffered from uncontrollable bleeding. Others saw her as unclean. Christ saw her as His own: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:25-34). Can you hear the tenderness in His voice?
“Daughter. Go in peace…”
Over and over again in the Gospel, Jesus goes to the sick, the hurting, the tormented and the offensive. He loves on them, touches them and frees them. Two thousand years later, He’s still at it. He promises, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
That doesn’t mean just morning, noon and night, day after day. It means even in the filthiest of messes and in places so dark it feels as if sin will swallow me whole. When I’m covered in the vomit of my own gross behavior, He doesn’t shriek and run away. He does the opposite. He calls for me to come to him, so he can clean me up. But I have to let Him. He loves me too much to hose me down from afar.
Even if you think your mess is too deep, too foul, too shameful, Jesus will not turn His back on you. He waits for you, hoping you will ask Him into the not-so-nice places of your heart. Not so He can condemn you, but so He can clean you.
He will lift you out of any slimy pit, place you on solid ground and give you a new song to sing (Psalm 40:2). He will wipe away your filth, clothe you in a glimmering robe of righteousness, and set you free so that you may go in peace.
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He will not leave. He will not strand you covered in puke at the side of a bus. Like that loving parent who came to my student’s rescue, Jesus comes to your rescue. He is your Savior. He is faithful. He is for you. Jesus Christ in you is your hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
Over the next few days as you pass by the countless sweet nativity scenes, take a moment to remember the dirty side of Christmas, then offer a prayer of thanks to the God who isn’t afraid to come into our filth and love us.
Taking It In:
- Have you ever looked back and been grossed out by your own behavior? An angry outburst? Giving in to temptation? Gossiping over and over again?
- Do you think Jesus distances Himself from you in those times? If so, imagine Him with arms open wide, ready to embrace you as he says, “Come to Me.”
Praying It Up:
Father, thank you that in our most foul moments, you don’t run from us. Help us to really know your grace, so that we will come to You, even when we are covered in the vomit of our sin. Thank you, Jesus that your blood has the power to wash us clean, every single time. Amen.
Sending It Out:
Just as Jesus entered our filth and loved on us, let’s humble ourselves and love on the unlovely, even the dirty, this Christmas.
by Michele de Miranda with Shabby Chic Ministries