My kids were talking about Jesus at the dinner table the other night. Somehow Andreas got this idea that the baby Jesus is about to be born like, right now. This is how it went:
Andreas: I think we should go see the baby Jesus. It would be far though. It would take a long time.
Me: Really? Where do you think the baby Jesus is?
Andreas: In the desert.
Mateo: *I know where Jesus is!* (such a first born)
Me (to Mateo): Wait! I want to hear what Andreas says!
Andreas: We would have to drive far. And ride on a camel. But if it was bumpy (on the camel) then maybe the kids could get down and walk beside.
Olivier: I like Jesus.
Mateo: Jesus is in Heaven, Andreas!
Andreas: He is? Is Jesus in Heaven mommy?
Me: I don’t know the Sunday school answers to these questions. I never went to Sunday school. I don’t do g-rated answers to the Bible. Ask Daddy.
Glenn: Unfortunately half of the “Sunday school” answers aren’t totally Biblical.
Me: Yes, Jesus is in Heaven. Jesus was born a long time ago. He isn’t a baby anymore.
Andreas: The desert would be very hot.
Me (silently): Guess we’re off Jesus and onto the desert now.
I don’t know how Andreas missed the memo that Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus having been born – not that Jesus is actually being born right now. But I do kind of love that he heard the Christmas story and thought that it was something that’s about to happen. Jesus is being born and we should go! If only.
And isn’t that the way it goes with Jesus? We sort of get it but we sort of don’t. Growing up, I knew just enough about Jesus to not understand Him at all. My parents were both raised Catholic, I was baptized Catholic, I went to Catholic school in my early elementary school years. I knew my parents believed in God and I knew several Bible stories. I sort of believed in God but I didn’t think highly of the Father-Jesus-Holy Ghost version of “God” – because it sounded kind of ludicrous.
It is though. Ludicrous. Like the word. Not the rapper. I don’t personally know the rapper.
First we have Mary. Claiming an angel told her God was going to get her pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She was going to be a not yet wed, pregnant, teenager. When she agreed to that, she was essentially agreeing to living her life as a ruined woman – if her fiance didn’t have her stoned to death for adultery and let her live at all. Cue Joseph, who decides to call off their marriage, but wants to do it quietly without disgracing her. Why? Why did he do that? Honestly, I think he loved her. I think he wanted to protect her. And I think she broke his heart. After she had that angelic visitation she went to be with Elizabeth, who was expecting John the Baptist. It was likely she was gone long enough to come home just in time to be found pregnant and isn’t that just perfectly convenient? It looked bad. So God has to send an angel to Joseph in a dream and tell him that it’s not how it looks. It’s going to be alright. This is the hand of God at work.
Ludicrous. And they believed God anyway. I don’t think people were all that different in those times. I’m sure people talked. I’m sure the stories that Mary and Joseph told to explain themselves and their child Jesus got some sideways glances and know it all stares.
You know how I know that? My mother was 16 when she had me. She and my dad weren’t married and they didn’t get married until I was 18. (They say they were waiting till they were ready.) I was the oldest. My sisters are a year and 4 years younger than me. My mom was 20 years old with 3 kids and not married to our Dad. Yeah. I know how that looks. I know the kind of looks people give and the things they say. I remember other children telling me I was a bastard because my parents weren’t married when I was born. Asking why my mom didn’t have the same last name, and why is she so young?
Even when people are trying to be nice, they are rude. I remember when we first started going to church youth group, other students’ parents, and some leaders too, would make comments about how great it was that my sisters and I turned out so well given – you know – our background. Oh, but no offense. Your parents did such a great job. It’s just amazing they did it without being Christians and all.
Shut up. People in church need to just shut up. Myself included, a lot of the time. Do you know what it’s like to be raised by an unwed teenaged mother?
Neither do I.
I was raised by parents who loved me. And the way people talk about those unwed teenaged mothers make it sound like they are so covered in shame and bad morals that they cannot possibly make good decisions for their children, and that everybody in those situations is just ruined. I can’t really speak to that line of thinking because it certainly wasn’t true for us. My mom was no ruined anything. She’s my friggen hero. And God’s hand was in our lives, always. It wasn’t what it looked like, to people who didn’t know what they were looking at.
The first time someone pointed out to me that Jesus was also born to an unwed, probably teenaged mom I was all, “NO.WAY.” But then I discovered that, yeah, way. He really was.
Here in this Christmas story, we have a baby who shows up and it’s not what it seems. He wasn’t what anybody expected and His life and ministry were spent communicating in words, actions, and events – that the Kingdom of Heaven, if indeed there is such a thing, is not what it seems. We may have sort of an idea but we really don’t know. And Christmas comes every year in the church calendar to remind us that Jesus is being born and we should go right now!
The Kingdom of Heaven came to the creche, and we need to go back there – on a bumpy camel ride through the desert if that’s what it takes. Back to the manger and the miracles. There we find our stories intricately woven into this Jesus story that tells us that we too, are not what we seem. Our scarlet letters and the words people make them into to describe us and our lives. We’ve got it all wrong and He’s here. He’s born to show us the way to leave all that behind.
A way to the Kingdom of Heaven, that starts at the creche surrounded by blood and birth, and bleating animals, and ends at the cross, surrounded by blood and death, and people acting like bleating animals.
Christmas. It’s ludicrous. Every part of it. And yet. Come, let us adore Him. Christ. The Lord.
copyright (c) 2013 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved