This ain’t no pretty Christian story.


I grew up finding delicacy in feeding troughs.

In stories where wise men lined up perfectly in a row and they didn’t emerge until “We Three Kings” began with the drums. Where bed sheets upon the heads of hungry children itching for candy canes. And Jesus, he was plastic. Pearly, perfect plastic.

My Christmas story was rigid. Scripted. Leaving no air for error. My Christmas story was Act 1 meets Act 2, communion, go home, open presents, and forget there ever was a crying soul in a manger that night.

Growing up and into a classical Christmas story that has been tied with the twine of “Christianity,” the tender cracks and imperfections exposed themselves as I got up closer. As I dug in deeper. As I questioned God and His realness. As I wondered, why would you ever come to save us in this way?

Mary, she was a judged woman. And Joseph was a proud man, ready to abandon his fiancee for her crime of infidelity. The feeding trough was filthy, a lowly space for animals to drop their waste and heavy bodies. The baby, he was screaming. The night was cold. And the two must have wondered, as they shivered and prayed and waited on their savior, where is the miracle in all of this?

 

A messy, little story with no edits made along the way.

Not the kind of thing fit to be tied pretty and bound into story books for the eyes of sleepless children.  But isn’t that much of life? Isn’t much of this whole me-standing-beside-you thing  just a bunch of clutter and chaos and the coming of great light? Hope. A finally silent night after endless hours of hot tears pouring through.

And then a miracle–in a broken, tired, heaving world–a miracle. A baby and the birth of God’s most beautiful characteristic yet: His ache to save us. To take heavy loads off from our shoulders. To deliver us. To give us a kingdom in a poverty-stricken existence. To say unto us, with His birth into flesh, “Hey, you messed up yesterday. And you, yea, you’ll mess it up tomorrow. But I kind of, sort of, absolutely love you with every ounce of my being.  And nothing you ever do, bad or good, could change that. And I needed a way to prove this to you. So I sent something to you, a gift of sorts, to take away your blame. And your guilt. And your shame. And your anxiety. And your suffering.

So would you take it? Would you take the gift from me?”

I feel sort of silly (I can admit that best) telling people that I think my God came into the world through a 14-year-old virgin, and kings bowed down to him, and He learned the skins of poverty, and he preached but never lavished in the riches of kings, and he died in the most embarrassing of ways. At the age of 33. With folks spitting upon Him. And he, crying. Crying all the while.

What kind of God is that? A lowly, pathetic attempt of a God? Or is it a God that knew, before the whole story even found beginning in a manger, that the only way to bring deliverance to a hungry, hungry people was to deliver himself out into a world in the fleshiest, messiest, most imperfect of manners. No royalty, just poverty. And the whole thing upside down. And that it would take pain, and atrocity, and little to no resolve while treading on this broken earth, to bring a love to us so great that it never learned no limits. Never needed training wheels. Came real & raw & bulging just to envelope a broken thing like me. Maybe that is the act of a God who never sought to prove his ranking, his status, or his capability. Just his love. Just His Love.

 

This ain’t no pretty Christian story.

Not prim. Not pixy. Not perfect.

Not the manger. Nor the virgin. Not the myrrh.

Not made for the ears of Christians alone. Not merely for the ones used to bending their knees and bowing their heads.

This is a story for anyone, and any heart, who has ever needed a savior. Someone to swoop in and convince you with a confidence that you are not alone and that just. you. wait, because even through the unfavorable odds– a virgin, a bitter fiance, no shelter, no crib–the miracle arrives. And the music sweeps in. And the fog of the night clears. And a star shines so bright that it hypnotizes men to leave their fields & flock to follow.

No, this ain’t story for weak hearts and Christian knees.

This is a story, a Christmas story, for any soul that ever needed to know that God can make really beautiful things out of messes. And that He remembered us enough to come down and prove it so.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “This ain’t no pretty Christian story.

  1. Hello Hannah. I’ve recently discovered your work and was so inspired. Even wrote a blog post about you on The Brave Discussion. Keep up the great work and Happy Christmas. Hope there are ways we can work together in 2013

  2. Laura

    To be honest, I am just now beginning to see just how much God loves me (and you; and you; and you!!!). And that He loves us like no love we have ever know. No love that I have ever known. And to be honest (again…), I want my future children and anyone else who cares to listen to know this God. His beautiful, unprim (yet powerful and miraculous) story of love.

  3. Bill Holland

    Thanks Hannah, you have a great way with words and I enjoy your thoughts and expressions. Please keep it up!

  4. Oh, I think about this all the time. It makes me smile when I think about how loved He loves me and all of his children. It makes my mom feels secure. It’s so wonderful to feel His love, messy story and all.

  5. Ali

    Reblogged this on alabaster jar and commented:
    I love this post. The words creep into your heart, under your skin, and shake you to the core. Christmas isn’t a shiny and fancy and palatable holiday – it’s a reminder of a humble, painful, commonplace day. And Hannah Brencher captures that perfectly. I hope her words bless you as much as they blessed me.

    Happy Christmas Eve eve :)

  6. This is a refreshing view of the Christmas story. As time goes on, deeper study and meditation yields a much more realistic view of Christmas. Sure the smells and sounds of the first Christmas were anything but pleasant. And all of this was God’s elaborate effort to exhibit his love. As Wesley put it: “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man.”

  7. “He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.

    He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher.

    He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

    He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

    Twenty one centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.”

    I love that quote above. Made me think of your post.

  8. I feel like almost every time I read your writing, I get closer to understanding myself, and even God. You certainly do have a way with words and making one think about…well, everything that’s valuable to a human being.

  9. Pingback: Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week « pink-briefcase

  10. Andrew Kim

    Thank you for your courage, your faith, and the truth that you had spoken against what are now all these presents and decorations that covers and hides the true reason of why CHRISTmas is here. Bless you!

  11. Reblogged this on Tumbling After and commented:
    This is why I absolutely love Hannah Brencher, you guys.

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