The group of cross-cultural kids invited us to see a nativity drama they had practiced. We followed the children down the path toward a very small authentic Bangladeshi barn—complete with authentic smells. It was big enough for the few children acting, a cow, several small noisy animals, and a few uncomfortable spectators. It was hot and musty and dark.
The cow lowing and the chickens clucking were quite distracting. I had never thought of that all those years when I had sung, “The cattle are lowing” in the song, “Away in a Manger.” I wanted to be sitting in an air-conditioned church, watching a clean, music-filled presentation of this wondrous event.
As I stood there, sweating and wishing I could leave, the children told the old, old story of Mary and Joseph and a Baby. In a barn. A real barn, complete with animals and authentic smells. A real couple, who had just traveled a long and difficult journey, and who had probably not had a bath since they arrived. A woman who delivered a baby into this raw arena, and who laid Him to rest in a feeding trough stuffed with hay—not because it sounded like a quaint idea for future tree ornaments, but because there was no bed for her baby.
It was not the comfortable, clean, well-packaged scene I had seen reenacted time and again. It was raw life. Real life. God leaving all the glories of Heaven to come and dwell among us in the lowliest, humblest, smelliest circumstances.
That day I realized that what made it wondrous was not how comfortable it was, or how heavenly it felt. Just the opposite. It was how real and everyday and earthly it was.
That was the point.
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory). John 1:14 KJV
This Christmas, I have the gift of celebrating without the help of a Christian culture, without all the extras we have added to help us feel more Christmassy. I did not see that as a gift before, but I do now, after my trip to the hot, smelly, musty barn—one very much like the first place my Savior came—when He came to earth for me.
Question to consider: How have you experienced the “the gift of celebrating without the help of a Christian culture”?