It started innocently enough.
I was meandering through a store’s Christmas section when my eye was drawn to the most unique crèche. The stable/manger was crafted from beautiful blonde wood and the nativity figurines (also blonde, but why start now with historical accuracy) had this child-like, almost cartoonish, appearance to them.
As I picked it up for a closer look, it became quickly apparent that these were two separate pieces. And by “quickly apparent,” I more specifically mean that the nativity scene went flying through the air, careening toward the concrete industrial floor and ultimately smashing into a thousand tiny pieces.
The whole thing unfolded in slow motion before me. In fact, I did a mini “fly through the air” move to reach out and grab it, all the while yelling, “Noooooooooo!” (Think Marty McFly watching Doc being shot by the Libyans.)
I kneeled on the floor in utter disbelief. It was a nativity bloodbath. I quickly turned the sheep away so they didn’t have to witness their decapitated shepherd’s noggin bouncing down aisle four.
My palms started to sweat as I gathered up the pieces. Oh, dear God, I wondered what negative karma would come from such an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of the Holy Family? What bad juju could this Bethlehem massacre carry? And who is monitoring the store security camera and laughing at my expense right now? I sucked in my gut knowing this could be on YouTube before I even left the store.
As I gathered the sacred chards and anticipated a heavenly lightning strike, I texted a confession to my kids. My daughter Maddie hilariously analyzed the forensic evidence.
She was right. Looking past their mangled bodies, I saw they each shared a look of shock, as if they knew they would meet their demise in such a dramatic fashion.
I sullenly approached the register and explained to the cashier what happened. While offering to pay for the irreparably damaged goods, I launched into a whole soliloquy about the potential consequences on my afterlife, but she interrupted, saying, “It’s ok, ma’am, I’ll just add it to our damaged inventory.”
I sat in the car for a bit, trying to shake the feeling of impending doom while still laughing at “Y’all still want this myrrh?”
I pondered the duality of emotion this work of art elicited. The artist’s original motivation for having everyone admire the baby Jesus with such a look of astonishment or surprise was beautiful. How true it is for people of faith to look to the promise of salvation that was born of a tiny baby and say, “Oooh.”
And after my murderous actions, that same facial expression yields a totally different, yet profound meaning. How often, when we feel as though our lives have been broken into a million tiny pieces, do we exclaim a much different, “Oooh.”
And that is how a “cleanup in aisle four” reminded me of the foundation of my faith life and the promise of Advent.
Life can be messy. And painful. And exhausting.
And extraordinary. And blissful. And carefree.
During this holiday season, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that life is all of these things to all people…especially within the depths of our own hearts.
My faith provides a balance that moves me to focus on the untold promise and potential life holds as represented by the tiny baby Jesus. And it strengthens me through the realization that I will have my share of Good Fridays…times of loss and brokenness. My faith promises me that whether my “Oooh” is one of joy or sorrow, I am not alone.
Today, my prayer is for everyone feeling shattered and defeated and forlorn. My hope is that you can find strength in the promise of Advent…that the candles of faith, hope, love and peace bring a transformative “Oooh” into your heart and a confidence that light will follow this darkness.
Open your heart to gather strength from those who love you…those in heaven and on Earth. Find comfort through scripture, “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you.” (Isaiah 41:10)
You are not alone. And you are loved.