by Lee Hull Moses
There’s a moment on Christmas morning at our house in which everything looks lovely. The presents are arranged neatly under the tree. The lights are on. The living room is straightened up.
At our house, this moment lasts all of 12 seconds. We spend the rest of the day cleaning up wrapping up paper, salvaging tissue that can be re-used, moving boxes around, picking up Legos that got separated from the set, washing breakfast dishes, then lunch dishes, then dinner dishes. After those 12 seconds, it seems, everything is a mess.
Maybe your house, too?
The story Luke tells immediately after the birth of Jesus is about Mary and Joseph taking their new baby son up to the temple in Jerusalem for a ritual of dedication. There they meet Simeon, an old priest who has been promised that he’ll live to see the Messiah, and Anna, a prophet who has spend her life in the temple. When Simeon and Anna see the baby, they begin rejoicing and praising God — this is the one they had been waiting for.
Luke tells us this story to remind us that even though this baby is someone special, he’s growing up in a regular family, in the middle of regular life. The rite of dedication was one that all families would have done; Mary and Joseph aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary by bringing Jesus to the temple – they’re just going about life as usual with a new baby.
The way Luke tells the story, Jesus is quietly resting in Mary’s arms when they enter the temple. But if you’ve ever met a baby, you might imagine it a little differently. I imagine that they’re late leaving the house that day because Mary can’t find the outfit she really wants Jesus to wear for the ceremony. Then Joseph leaves the diaper bag at home and they had to go back for it. And then, just as they get to the door of the temple, the baby spits up all over that outfit and they have to do a last-minute wardrobe change.
Life with a baby is messy.
The thing is, life goes on after Christmas. After those 12 lovely seconds of holly jolly peaceful joy, life goes on, and it isn’t always pretty. Sometimes, it’s a downright mess.
There’s joy in the mess, of course. Delight in new toys and family togetherness and sweet little baby toes. But there’s also complicated family dynamics and too-high expectations and sadness and grief.
Mary and Joseph bring their beloved son, with all the mess of regular life, into the temple and Simeon and Anna rejoice. Because the good news is that God is with us – Emmanuel, God with us – right in the messy middle of life after Christmas.