Were you born in a barn?

Dec 12 2011

You may recall that time last week when my son used his brother’s face as a door stop and I might’ve lost my cool for the teensiest, tiniest bit of time.

I looked straight my husband and said, “WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BABY?!”

And Greg said, “I JUST ASKED CAEL TO CLOSE THE BACK DOOR! It hit Cai in the head.”

And I said, “What were you thinking?? We don’t close doors around here! WE WERE ALL BORN IN A BARN! Geez!”

And then I had to apologize.

Later, though, when I quit my wallowing, I got to thinking about the barn.

I thought about all the times I’ve heard someone say, “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” And I thought about how nice it must be for them to live in a house where everything is immaculate. A house where you take off your shoes so you don’t track mud all over the pristine floors – unlike at my house, where I insist guests remain shod lest they step on one of many grotesque things on the ground. A house where there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. A house that smells like cinnamon buns and not like children’s bums.

Most of the time, I love the happy chaos of my house, and I realize that the dirty walls, the broken cabinets, and the sticky couch are an easy exchange to make for the privilege of raising people who carry my heart in their grimy, precious hands.

Other times, though, I wonder whether life is better on the other side of the barn door. You know, the one where people don’t act like they were born in a barn, where they keep their crap together, and where they don’t stop and think, “Oh good grief, have I even bathed my children this week?”

But then I remembered something that, to me, is a total game changer.

Because guess who was born in a barn? A real, dirty, grimy, nonglamorous barn?

Jesus. That’s who. Jesus was born in a barn full of pooping animals.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

‘Tis the season! The season of Christmas. The season of peppermint candy canes. The season of hot chocolate with whipped cream and red sprinkles. The season of wonder and wow. The season of big eyes and bright lights. The season of magic and anticipation. And, of course, the season of The Baby. The Baby who epitomizes everything that’s precious about waiting with pregnant expectation.

Now, I know that churchy people complain about the emphasis of gifts and Santa and trees and reindeer at Christmas, and I know why they do it; it comes from the best of places – the desire to put the emphasis of Christmas where it belongs, on the Christ child. And I tried on that Mom mantle for size – the displeasure at the sparkly periphery of the season – but it didn’t fit right; it itched and scratched in all the wrong places because I’m stuck somewhere in childhood myself, and I love every bit of the magic that comes along this time of the year. I love the Baby, and I love the periphery, too. I love talking about Christmas elves and waiting for the Christ child.

I wonder about the “extras” of Christmas – things like presents, Santa, and waking up far too early on Christmas morning. I wonder, rather than detract from our children’s understanding of Advent, if the fun and silly bits – even the make-believe bits – just might help our kids understand the Jesus story better.

See, I’m a mama who waited for my babies. Through the throes of miscarriages and infertility, down the long and winding paths of adoption and high-risk pregnancy, my journey to motherhood was scary and uncertain. I ache for young Mary and for every mother who has to choose faith and hope when all she can see is darkness. I understand to my core the expectation of Advent. I know that to wait for a baby is to feel pulses of adrenaline, surges of love, fear of failure, and hope for a family. And I know no greater joy than to have chubby arms wrap themselves around my neck and feel the hot, wet breath in my ear that whispers, “I wuhve you, Mama.” I have, in fact, long suspected that such moments are the very things that Mary pondered in her heart.

My children, though? They don’t know. They don’t understand.  They can’t comprehend what it means to wait with expectation for the Baby that will change Everything. Not yet. Not the same way a mama does. But my kids do have an innate ability – a gift – to understand magic. To have faith. To know that wonder is worth waiting for and that joy lies at the end of anticipation. My children are living fully in the present, in a whirlwind of Jesus and Santa Claus, lowing cattle and reindeer, the gifts of the Magi and the presents under the tree. And I believe this: Children who walk Christmas roads that are saturated with expectation of all kinds will forever long for Advent. For the Coming. They will be comforted, when childhood fantasies fade, that the bigger magic – the best magic – is really real. Because Emmanuel means God with us. And that, my friends, is the most powerful magic of all.

But it gets better. At least, better for me! Because God knew that to be with us meant inserting Jesus into the muck and the mire, right into the gooey, sticky center of life. It meant sending a baby – The Baby – to be born in a barn. And then, THEN God gave admission to the stinky shepherds right alongside the Kings… because God left that barn door all the way open.

As for me and my family, we choose the barn. The stinky, smelly barn, pregnant with joyful anticipation and doors that are always open.

Merry Christmas!

Beth

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“red doors to heaven” image credit pixomar at freedigitalimages.net