This is the third (5 minute) episode of 2017 mini-series ‘Meet the Nativity’. If you haven’t watched the first two episodes, watch them here and here first. They’re very good. Underneath you’ll find the second, ‘Story behind Episode 3’ video, which we also recommend. His whole mission is to enter our mess.
Ruth, the stepmother, is another outsider at Christmas. Like Will, the boyfriend, she too feels estranged – from the heart of the family and from the joy she’s “meant” to feel at this most wonderful time of the year. It’s not a wonderful time for Ruth. In fact Christmas is particularly hard for her. And she copes the only way she knows how, by taking control of her immediate circumstances – the house, the food, the decorations – becoming a whirl of frenzied activity. She’s doing her best but feeling far from Christmas joy. Ruth’s story reflects the story of so many. We feel we need to be full of Christmas cheer yet, for any number of reasons, it may be a particularly hard season for us. How do we cope? Perhaps we try to take control, to order the chaos, to “tidy things up a bit.” It never works. We end up feeling fed up, under-appreciated and surrounded by mess. But Ruth ‘meets the nativity’, and there she discovers a Christmas joy that enters into our chaos. “That baby should not be here” she cries and she’s right. God the Son ought not to stoop to such circumstances. He belongs on a throne, not wriggling on straw in a cold and hostile world. But there he is. And he’s offered to Ruth. She objects: “My hands are dirty”, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s given anyway. And finally, as Ruth receives this ultimate Christmas gift, she is still. As she had exclaimed in exasperation to the vicar, now she says to Christ: “Welcome to the mess.” What mess? The mess of the stable, the mess of the world, the mess of our lives and hearts that can never be clean and tidy the way we might want. “Welcome to the mess” we say, and as the carol says: “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.” This Christmas, there’s one guest you don’t have to tidy up for. His whole mission is to enter our mess, to be received by dirty-handed failures like you and me, to take that dirt on himself on the cross and to offer us true peace. When we grasp this then we can finish the carol: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today, We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell. O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.