The other day here just before Christmas, I was invited to a Christmas party for the 5 and 6 year olds in the school. The mothers all brought food and people brought some gifts for the kids. As the kids were arriving, the parents were preparing the food snacks to put on a big table in the center of the room for the kids. The kids were told to sit around the side of the room in chairs and wait. I was helping out, making a plate full of salchichas: basically, cut slices of hot dogs with toothpicks stuck in them.
As I was going along, first one little girl got curious, and we got to talking, and I invited her to help. Then another little boy, and then another, and then another little girl. Together we put the plate of salchichas together and when it was all done, we put it with the other plates made by the mothers. There, in the middle of all the nicely laid out snack foods, was a plate of messy hot dog slices and toothpicks in a mixed up array of chaos, thank you very much. And you know what, I was darn proud of it!
You see, if I wanted it to be done well, I’d do it myself. But I’d rather do it with the little ones, than do it well.
That’s how God is with us. God is perfect – if He wanted life lived well, He’d put us in our seat, and we’d never be near the table, helping out. We’d do nothing but watch and He’d do it perfectly, and that’s it. But that’s not what God wants. He doesn’t want life lived well. He can already do that. He wants all the mess and chaos that we bring it.
He wants life lived with us. Think, salchichas.
As you might be able to tell, I really like the Bible. I read and meditate on it a lot, carry it a lot with me. I have it in Hebrew and Greek, and I use the Bible to understand life like I’d always use a dictionary to understand people speaking Spanish. There are so many stories and passages, psalms and whatnot, I can never pick a favorite part. But if I really have to pick a favorite passage of the Bible, it would be 1 Timothy 5:23. if you open your Bible to that chapter, you would find Paul writing to Timothy about elderly people in the Christian community. And then, all of a sudden, in verse 23, there’s this: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” It makes no sense. What happened? Someone copying along the thousands of years of the Bible somehow copied a sidenote into the text. You know why I love it? I love it because it means the Bible wasn’t just miraculously written by God. It means God and humans are united now, a team, and all our human messes and mistakes come along with it. It means that the Incarnation is not just s story, it’s real.
The story of Christmas is the story of the Son of God being born from a mother. He didn’t come to wow us with power, how well He can do things, to show how life should be lived. Who can watch Jesus and then copy Him? No, Christmas is about Emmanuel: God with us. God came just to be with us, to be a part of our successes and failures, so that there’s a messy plate at His table with our fingerprints all over it.
If you look back at your year 2014, and you see a mess of a plate, don’t get discouraged, that’s not bad news. Only God Himself has a perfect plate. If you’ve got messes and chaos this past year, it means you haven’t been just sitting around watching, you’ve been participating in life.
And God is darn proud of it!
It was His delight to be among the children of men. (Prov.8:31).
Happy New Year and Solemnity of Mary Mother of God!