December 1, 2022

Leaning into the Mess this Advent


This year our family did something new when it came to decorating for Christmas. We have always had one artificial Christmas tree on which we hang all of the variety of ornaments that we have collected through the years. Everything from ceramic ones that the kids made in preschool with their pictures in the middle, to ones that represented their various interests over the year, and ones that we have collected on vacations. 

This year our daughter wanted to also have a “formal tree”, so we turned our artificial tree into a formal one, ordered matching ornaments and ribbon from Amazon, and decorated that tree with perfect symmetry (full disclosure, I had no part in that decoration for fear of messing it up). Then, in a separate room, we bought a real tree and hung our family ornaments and the lights (which have a few burnt-out bulbs). 

As I look at those two trees, it makes me think of the two different ways we present Christmas. On the one hand, we might decorate our churches with garland, trees, and lights that are perfectly, beautifully, and neatly strung. At the same time, we talk about a Christmas story that is anything but neat and tidy. Our Savior was born into a messy world, represented by the stable into which Jesus was born. Of course, there was the greater messiness of the spiritual brokenness of the world around him, perhaps most notably illustrated in Herod’s plot to kill Jesus.

I think about what version of ourselves we bring before Jesus and others within the body of Christ this Advent season. Do we feel the need to present a perfect, tidy, dare I say artificial, version of ourselves? Or will we let Jesus and others into the untidy parts of our lives – like our real tree that has ornaments that are mismatched, burned out lights, and a couple of holes not covered by branches. 

This year has brought some personal challenges for me (everything has and is working out fine). But I have often used the line you may have heard, “2020 wasn’t bad, but 2022, The Sequel, has been rough”. I had a health concern that was scary at first but turned out to be easily treatable. There are some challenges with my parents and extended family that are heartbreaking and yet out of my ability to control and fix. What I remember in this season, however, is that not only doesn’t Jesus enter into the messiness of my life, but also the joy of letting brothers and sisters walk with me in the messiness of the challenges I have faced.

Obviously, we all come into this season differently. No matter what you are facing, I pray that you have the incredible opportunity to minister to those who come to you in the midst of the challenges and chaos. I also pray that you have the opportunity to invite the Lord and His body, the church, into whatever mess you might be facing. I finally pray that we would all experience the light and love of Jesus this Advent season, knowing that God sent His only Son to earth out of his deep and unchanging love for us. Merry Christmas!

In Christ,


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