A Christmas Card (mess)age

By Donald Brazile

As the two sisters sat beneath the cool shade provided by the generous pecan tree, they both decided it was time to return to the fortune of their birth. Now that they were widows and just north of 80 years of age, each agreed that it was time to make the pilgrimage back to the old farm of their childhood to live out their remaining years.

 All the relatives felt that this was a poor decision and tried to discourage them. Through the years, the homestead had not received the care it needed and was literally falling apart. All of the farm machinery of memory past was rusted and useless. The old chicken coop and barn were barely standing. It was just too much upkeep for anyone, much less two ladies in their early 80s. However, the two sisters insisted, packed their belongings and headed to North Dakota.

Weeks passed. As November arrived to paint the landscape with shades of crimson and orange, one of their nephews came to visit them. After a few days, he couldn’t tolerate the living conditions any longer. He packed his belongings, and as he started to leave, he decided to take a picture of his two aunts so the other relatives could see the terrible conditions they were weathering.

With the ka-click of his camera, he forever captured the moment. There they stood, two sisters, bent and stiff with their images framed against the old, dilapidated farm for a backdrop. Upon returning to the city, the nephew sent them a copy and didn’t think any more about it.

Upon the first whisperings of the Christmas season, one chilly evening after work, the nephew tiredly walked down the driveway to check his mail and noticed an envelope from his aunts. Once inside, he opened it with anticipation and found that his aunts had used the picture he had taken of them for the cover of their personalized Christmas card. At the top of the cover, it said, “Merry Christmas,” and in bold black letters at the bottom, it said, “God is with us in our mess.”

That’s pretty much the story 

of the first Christmas, isn’t it?

Matthew records they would call His name Emmanuel, which means God with us. But upon further reading of his gospel, we find that the first Christmas was messy. Yet, God was with Mary and Joseph, and He promises to be with us wherever this Christmas finds us. As a matter of fact, all of the Christmas narratives remind us of the promise of His presence, with each scene sharing a message too deep for words.

 This Advent season, don’t waste energy attempting to explain it. Don’t tangle yourself up in questions about it. Don’t argue Christmastide, and don’t reduce its celebration to little more than exchanging gifts or family holiday trips. To do any of the above would be to miss altogether its message as well as its mystery.

Simply bask in the glory that God is with you and give thanks to the One who, according to Matthew’s gospel, not only loves you but also cares for you.

As the 25th of December approaches, revisit the nativity scene once more and be reminded, that, no matter what, no matter who, no matter where you are this Christmas, you have the gift of Christmas with you. God is in the present moment, active and always sovereign. This is the story of God with us. If there is any better news than this amidst our present (pandemic) mess, I fail to imagine what it might be.