Meet the Nativity is a time-traveling romantic comedy in which 21st- and 1st-century Christmases magically collide.
Meet Ruth, the stepmother. She 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.” But it’s not a wonderful time for Ruth. In fact, Christmas is quite difficult for her. And so she copes the only way she knows how—by taking control of her immediate circumstances (the house, the food, the decorations) and 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, and yet, for any number of reasons, it’s a particularly hard season. How do we cope? Perhaps we try to take control, order the chaos, “tidy things up a bit.” But it never works. We just end up feeling fed up, underappreciated, and surrounded by mess.
Joy in Chaos
But Ruth “meets the nativity,” and there she discovers a Christmas joy that invades our chaos. “That baby should not be here,” she cries, and she’s right. God the Son shouldn’t 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.
He belongs on a throne, not wriggling on straw in a cold and hostile world. But there he is.
“My hands are dirty,” she objects, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is 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.”
Messiah for Mess
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 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.