A few years ago my brother and I were heading back to his pickup truck after a long day hunting. It had been a rainy weekend, and our boots and pants were caked with heavy mud. Our drive home was going to take a few hours, so we knew that we wanted to stop and grab a quick bite at a fast food restaurant on the way. But we were filthy, even too filthy for a fast food restaurant! So we kicked off our boots and changed our clothes out there in the field by the truck. We cleaned ourselves up so we wouldn’t be embarrassed buying a cheeseburger and fries.
Symbolically, I think we feel the same tension in life. Maybe we want to impress someone, or we want to have a good reputation in our town. We put on our suits and ties for the Christmas Eve services, and we tell our kids that they better sit still and not embarrass us. We hope others don’t know that we fought in the car on the way or that things aren’t as peaceful and serene as our Christmas card.
That’s the funny thing about Christmas though. All around us we’re told that we need to clean ourselves up and put our best foot forward. But when Christ came to Earth, he wasn’t born in a fancy palace or majestic temple. He was born in a stable next to cows and sheep. He was wrapped in spare rags not majestic fabrics. And God the Father could have sent invitations to his son’s birthday to anyone in the world. Yet, on the very first night Jesus came in to the world the rich, powerful, and clean cut weren’t on the guest list. The wise men even had to wait a couple of years.
Who did God invite to meet his son? A handful of stinky shepherds. These hired hands slept under the stars, worked under the boiling sun, and were considered to be untrustworthy.
It’s not the clean and seemingly altogether that Jesus meets first. It’s those who are a mess and know it. It’s people like the shepherds that God came to save. It’s people who were tired of pretending that they are clean. It’s people like you and me. So this Christmas come to the manager as you are. Meet the Savior who is the only one who can clean our hearts.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14 (NIV)