I heard something on the radio today that really made think.
Look at the nativity scene above. A classic portrayal. Nativity scenes at Christmas are just like this one, with only slight variations. Sometimes Jesus is in the manger, other times he's been held like in this shot. Usually he is glowing in some sense, or surrounded by a halo of light. Sometimes there are more animals, or no animals. Other times the night sky is present, with stars. Or you might see more of the stable - sometimes there is a roof, other times not.
But you know what is always missing?
Think about it. Jesus was BORN in a STABLE. As I heard on the radio this morning "births are messy." Having just come through such an experience myself 5 months ago, I wholeheartedly agree. And I had pain meds, nurses, doctors, stitches, sterile equipment, a contractable bed, fresh linens, a private bathroom, and several sets of PJs!
Now obviously no one is going to set out a nativity scene on their mantel and cover it with goo. But seriously - these tidy little portrayals of serene Mary, glowing baby, and sweet animals has got to be far from the actual details of that cold, holy night.
I don't want people to be grossed out on Christmas. But I feel like these happy, peaceful, serene little nativity scenes take the reality out of how JESUS became MAN. It happened! And I can almost guarantee it wasn't nearly as easy as these nativity scenes make us think it was.
Of course I have no intentinos of trying to be sacriligious here, but work with me. Who else thinks Jesus was born screaming like other babies? Who else thinks Mary growled and grunted and sweated and cried and wished the epidural had been invented? Who else thinks the straw got quite messy that night? Who else thinks Mary had puffy, red-rimmed eyes along with that relieved smile when she held Jesus for the first time? Who else thinks Joseph was freaking out along with Mary? Who else thinks the animals brayed and mooed and hee-hahed and whinnyed at the invasion of their space?
Jesus was the real deal. He was God and became man. Holy, yes, and perfect - but still a man. He still entered the world the same way all of us did (only through a virgin birth). Maybe God cut Mary a break and gave her an easy delivery. But I'm kinda thinking He didn't. I bet Mary got stretch marks and had scary-strong contractions and everything else like other Moms. I really believe Jesus came just like the rest of us in that regard. But he came perfect into an imperfect world. He didn't slip easily from Heaven to earth - he came cold, hungry, and wet. His coming was truly a sacrifice - especially considering how He knew He was coming to die.
While I love nativity scenes and the reminder of what they represent, I'm going to try to view them a little differently this year, and truly remember the reality of the sacrifice of what Jesus did for us.