I had all kinds of thoughts about publishing a post this week with pictures of the pretty Christmas things around my home – the tree, the wreath on the door, our little penguin collection, and the advent calendar that our kids love. Maybe I would get a batch of cookies baked and take a picture of them, too.
But first, I would have to adjust the tree ornaments the kids have moved around. Pick up the ones that have dropped on the floor. Smooth out the tree skirt. Clean up the mish-mash of blankets, pillows, and teddy bears surrounding the tree. Push aside the dirty dishes to reveal the advent calendar sitting on the counter behind them. Glue together the decorations that have broken. And so on, and so on.
Which got me to thinking about something more interesting, to me, than those picture-perfect Christmas displays: the messes. Not awful kinds of messes, but the big, beautiful ones that come along with lives being lived. The messes that you see when you enter the home of a family that has young children. Gravel on the entrance floor. Dishes on the counter, and maybe the remnants of lunch. Toys scattered about. Small people dashing from room to room. Half-way completed craft projects shoved into corners. Pieces of laundry to trip over.
I get embarrassed when my house looks like that, if anyone unexpectedly drops by. However, if I walk into another person’s house, and it looks like that, I breathe a sigh of relief. Ah…they, too, are normal. I don’t think about how they should have picked up the mess before I dropped by. I marvel at the messes – at the stories the messes tell. The kinds of foods their children like (or don’t like), and the dishes they eat (or don’t eat) out of. The creativity displayed by their projects on-the-go. The powdering of flour and icing sugar on the floor, and the smell of cookies hanging in the air. What they had been doing outside, before their wet mittens and boots were hurriedly deposited at the door.
My son attends a weekly kids’ club at our church. I feel a little overwhelmed, when I walk into that room to pick him up. 8 year-old boys hardly ever stop moving, so the entire place seems to shift ceaselessly, like an anthill. The air is saturated with the smell of laundry soap and fabric softener, because the kids keep so busy that their bodies heat up and release the fragrances of their clothes. There are, er…other smells too – some not so pleasant.
And in the midst of it all, are the volunteer leaders. Adults in the mix of children, a couple at each table. They smile, and chat with the kids, and make sure they’re not causing too much trouble or getting hurt. They seem relaxed – tired, perhaps – but at home within the big, beautiful mess.
It makes me think of God. Isn’t that kind of how He is, in-amongst the big, beautiful mess of people He has created? Read through the Bible, and you will find things in there that would make most Sunday school teachers cringe. It is messy business, this thing He is doing. But He’s committed! So much so, that He made His home within the mess that we all are.
It’s not always pretty, or clean, or orderly. But it’s real, and amazing. It’s Christmas!
With the warmest of wishes for a big, messy, beautiful Christmas –