Beauty Is Not Always Lovely
The way God entered into this world was not picturesque.
There was no Bavarian-style nativity scene with animals asleep on the hay, and a bright shining star overhead to illuminate the whole thing.
There were no brightly dressed shepherds all carrying uniform crooks.
There were no wise men from the East (they came much later).
The birthplace of Jesus was almost certainly a cave, hollowed out in the side of a Judean hillside. The manger would have been merely a large rock with a crevice carved into it. The shepherds would have been dirty, unkempt and probably illiterate.
And the parents of the Christ-child?
They were scared, homeless, first-time parents---far from home, no family to support them, chased by scandal... refugees, if you will, sent there due to the money-hungry whims of a power-drunk emperor.
The cave would have been strewn with bloody straw, the remnants of the travail of young Mary giving birth.
And into this bloody, dirty, dank place, surrounded by nobodies... God entered into the world as one of us.
There is something so beautiful about that, isn't there? Even more beautiful than all of the ways we have chosen to illustrate it since. Because this kind of beauty is more than skin deep.
The poet Robinson Jeffers once wrote: Beauty is not always lovely.
I love that. It perfectly captures the birth of the Christ, the moment when God became one of us, as William Blake put it, in order for us to "become as [God] is."
The beauty of the messiness, the earthiness, the human-ness of that moment is unmatched because it tells us just how intensely God knows what it is like to be us, to feel like us, to hurt, struggle, laugh, rejoice and mourn like us.
It's not lovely by any stretch of the imagination, but it is so very beautiful.
May you be struck today and every day during this season of Advent by the beautiful, earthy, intimate ways that God is constantly showing you just how much you are loved, cherished... and known.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.