I wrote a blog about Christmas Eve that I managed to never post, so here it is!

Over the last few weeks, my church has been doing an advent series called “God in the mess.” Tonight, we had our Christmas Eve service in a stable, packed with rows of hay bales, Christmas lights, a sound system, and more people than would probably be sanctioned by the fire department. Probably about three quarters of the people there don’t regularly attend our church. 

I sat on the end of the bale of hay that sat a few members of my extended family, mostly my younger cousins. My aunt looked at me like I was crazy. “Who put you on baby duty?”

I laughed. “I just kind of sat here.” The kids all got costumes for the nativity story. My older cousin (10) had a puppy hat, the younger girl had bunny ears, and the boy had a full lion costume, a vest and attached furry hood. These younger cousins, the twins, have one volume setting: loud. Lishy wanted dinner, Bubba was growling and wanted everybody to know he was a lion.

A lot of the families were trying to get their little kids to sit still and stay quiet, but we didn’t come to a stable for a quiet service, or a polished service, or a pretty service. Like our sermon series, we came for a service that was messy–real. 

A real, messy service was exactly what we got. Barking dogs, screaming kids, beautiful carols, a couple of power outages, some nippy air, and a reminder that Christmas, really, is all about mess. God became an infant and allowed himself to be born in a stable, laid as a newborn in a feed trough. Nothing about that night, other than God Himself, was perfect. But it was real.

And singing O Holy Night smelling of horse manure with a little boy in a lion costume crawling all over me (who had a bit of his own manure) is just about as Christmassy as it gets. It was beautiful and gritty and real.