Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas
The holidays are here and opportunities to host and have people in our home are fast approaching. Plans are being made, menus are being selected, and presents are being purchased and meticulously wrapped. Yet one critical aspect of all this Christmas preparation of hosting is to engage in a thorough, full-home cleaning tour. Now, I know some engage in this more intensely than others, but most—if not all—of us do some sort of cleaning before guests arrive in our home. We seek to polish up the mess of our daily living to provide the best experience possible for our family and friends.
Life is Messy
I recently saw a sign in a home goods store that read, “Sorry about the mess, but we live here.” As a dad of three young kids, I resonate deeply with that adage and will likely soon have that sign hanging conspicuously in the entryway of our home. While the motive for having a clean home for our guests is well-intended and sometimes necessary, I have often wondered what is it about us as humans that we tend to cover up or hide our mess. And while there are certain socially-appropriate norms for levels of cleanliness and neatness, what often lies beneath the surface of our proclivity to cover up messiness, whether it be in our homes or in our lives, is the insecurity that arises from our lack of control. But what if this Christmas, rather than avoiding or seeking to cover up the messiness of our lives, we leaned into it, embraced it, and invited Christ into it?
What if this Christmas, rather than avoiding or seeking to cover up the messiness of our lives, we leaned into it, embraced it, and invited Christ into it?
Christmas is Messy
The opening page of the New Testament begins with a masterful description of Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:1-16). In our Western world we tend to snooze or breeze over these portions of Scripture. The early Jewish historian, Josephus, states that “Jews kept extensive records to establish a person’s heritage, inheritance, legitimacy, and rights.” So as Matthew begins his glorious gospel with a long list of names, he is establishing from the get-go a historical context to announce the good news of God’s fulfillment of His covenant promises.
But here’s one important observation about Jesus’ genealogy:
It is really messy.
Good ol’ Webster defines messy as “a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition.” What an apt description of our state, helping us recognize that we need a savior! Matthew’s genealogy contains men, women, adulterers, idolaters, prostitutes, murderers, heroes, Jews and Gentiles, kings and peasants, pagans and prophets, and the faithful and the faithless. It is a brutally honest look at God’s relationship with His people throughout thousands of years of ups and downs, heartaches and victories, destruction and rebuilding, exile and return, brokenness and restoration.
Through it all God was in control, using every circumstance to fulfill His purposes for His glory. Christmas happens because God is faithful in keeping His promises and is sovereign over all of human history to fulfill them, despite our mess, sin, and brokenness. Jesus came from the most messed up family tree—and that gives us hope for our families. Matthew didn’t tidy up the lineage of Jesus in preparation for announcing His arrival. Rather, he pulled back the curtain and opened every door for all to see that out of a great mess would come our great Messiah.
Matthew didn’t tidy up the lineage of Jesus in preparation for announcing His arrival. Rather, he pulled back the curtain and opened every door for all to see that out of a great mess would come our great Messiah.
Making Space for Christ in Our Mess
Another noteworthy aspect of Jesus’ family tree is the numerous women mentioned. As one commentator said,
“These are the women introduced into the genealogy to prepare us for the climax of them all—Mary! Matthew could not have found a more amazing selection of women wherever he had looked within the pages of his Bible. Here at the outset of the Gospel, Matthew goes out of his way to show that the barriers between men and women are broken down: women share in the official genealogy of the Messiah alongside men.”
Also, the messiness of Jesus’ family tree continued all the way up until and through His birth: an unplanned pregnancy of teenage Mary, the societal and spiritual stigma of being pregnant before she was officially wed to Joseph, the humble environment in which Mary actually gave birth, and even needing to flee for their lives in the early stages of Jesus’ life.
I have often wanted to amend the lyrics of the well-known song from “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” to “have yourself a messy little Christmas.” For I have found that merriment and messiness are not always opposed to each other, and can often go hand-in-hand.
But Mary’s example of faith is one that we would do well to imitate and celebrate. As one pastor commented, “Her act of faith is not what redeems humanity, but her obedience is what made space for the Messiah to be born into this world.” Through our faith, you and I can also make space for the Messiah to be present in our mess.
Magnifying Christ in Our Mess
One of the most profound expressions of Mary’s faith and obedience comes from her choice to magnify God in the middle of her mess. While Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth—who was also pregnant with a prophet destined to prepare the way for the Messiah—she erupts in a humble hymn that confidently extols the revolutionary acts of the Lord. With worship in her soul and the Savior still in her womb, Mary proclaims a song that praises God for His holiness, mercy, and strength. Read the opening lines of one of the original Christmas songs:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49, ESV)
With worship in her soul and the Savior still in her womb, Mary proclaims a song that praises God for His holiness, mercy, and strength.
The angelic revelation of Gabriel was confirmed by her cousin…she would be blessed for believing that God would fulfill what the Lord had spoken to her. And when you put the revelation of God’s truth to melody, it has a way of magnifiying the Lord and manifesting His purposes in and through your life. Perhaps the best way to experience the truth of this magnificent song is to read it, listen to it, and pray it. Take a few moments and slowly read the full song in Luke 1:46-55, keeping in mind how you can magnify our Messiah in the midst of your life’s mess. Next, click HERE to listen to a modern-day rendition of the Magnificat. Finally, spend some time magnifying the Lord yourself in prayer.
When you put the revelation of God’s truth to melody, it has a way of magnifiying the Lord and manifesting His purposes in and through your life.
May the messiness of this Christmas season be a conduit of Christ’s mercy, strength, and help in our lives, and may it be the place where we, too, can “rejoice in God my Savior.” Have yourself a messy little Christmas!
Copyright © 2022 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved
 Green, M. (2001). The Message of Matthew: the Kingdom of Heaven (p. 58). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.