This guest post was written by Katie van Santen
How you think of the Christmas story may not have changed much since you were a child. The beautiful image of a pregnant lady on a donkey and a cosy stable full of smiling people snuggled up in clean hay.
The reality was quite different. The reality was an unplanned teenage pregnancy and a doubting fiancé. The reality was a politically-forced journey at just the wrong time. The reality was a husband who couldn’t provide shelter for his new family. The reality was smelly and dirty and bloody. The reality was mass infanticide and a refugee’s flight. The reality was Mary being told this child would pierce her soul.
It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t sparkly and wonderful… it was awful and squalid and confusing. It was everything going wrong for a couple who had been told this was God’s plan, who trusted Him to look after them.
But God chose weakness and failure to be the birthplace of the Light of the World. He took all that looked like it was going wrong, when it looked like it couldn’t get worse, but did… He used that darkness, that doubt, that fear, to speak the truth that darkness and doubt and fear aren’t failure, but can be the birthplace of the greatest victory.
Later, when Jesus had grown and lived, everything was going wrong for his followers who had been told this was God’s plan, who trusted him for all their hopes and future. God chose another place of weakness and failure to be the Salvation of the World. It all looked like it was going wrong when he was arrested, it looked like it couldn’t get any worse… then it did, when Jesus was nailed to a cross and died.
God used that darkness, that doubt, that fear, to speak the truth that darkness and doubt and fear aren’t failure, but can be the birthplace of the greatest victory.
In the New Year, the Christmas tree at the front of our church will be kept, stripped of its branches, and at Easter will become our cross. The cross will be empty, because a dead man isn’t good news. An empty cross, an empty grave, and a risen Christ proclaims that darkness is not the end of the story.
There is a dawn coming.
Katie van Santen lives in Plymouth with lots of lego and quite a few books. She is currently not a marine biologist or science teacher due to disability, but keeps herself busy studying theology, preaching, and Godmothering.