When I came to Hillhurst over a year ago for the first time I had closed the door on church.
Everywhere I had gone, while welcomed through the front door I quickly realized that certain things needed to be left outside, or hidden. Once inside it also became clear that only certain doors were open to me.
Eventually, I walked out and slammed that door behind me.
Many years ago I slammed the door on Christmas too. I’m a big door slammer in real life as well. There is something satisfying about a resounding “nope.” I’m done with all that.
Then 10 years ago Christmas took on a new meaning for me. You see, like Mary I was very pregnant. in fact, I was due Christmas Day. Christmas began to take on a new meaning for me and God with it.
I didn’t actually deliver until the New Year but one thing became very clear to me, that birth, like God, like Life, like Church is both sacred and messy. (and can involve a lot of waiting!)
Even as I began to open my heart to Christmas and God again It would take another 9 years before I found a church where I felt like my mess was not only okay but welcome.
The first Sunday I came to Hillhurst, Pride Sunday to be exact, I came as a favor to my sister. Sitting in the pew that day I had a full-blown panic attack.
It was messy. It also somehow felt sacred. I felt like I had walked through an open door that day and found a home where everyone was welcome, as they are.
As a nurse, I have had a front-row seat to birth. I have also given birth 3 times.
Although we touch on a stable smelling like animals we rarely talk about the mess of birth itself. There is blood there is amniotic fluid there is pain there is sweat. It’s Messy.
This Christmas I’m thinking a lot about why God would choose to come into this world that way.
While he may have been placed in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes, he also would have been put to Mary’s breast completely dependent on a woman for his very survival.
Yet, when I contemplate the raw parts of the Christmas story that is when it becomes relatable to me.
Was it truly a silent night? probably not. Birthing women are not quiet. If newborn babies are quiet it’s almost concerning. Joseph was probably the quiet one because he was ready to pass out. The animals sensing what was happening weren’t likely quiet either,
I have been to a lot of births and in a way, it’s just like the movies where all the noise blends into the background, all the chaos melts away and there’s this sacred moment of a baby taking their first breath.
It’s enough to make grown men and nursing students cry. and if I’m honest when I’m paying attention, I feel that moment too.
I felt that moment here at Hillhurst amidst that panic attack.
I realized that messy was welcome, that ALL of me was welcome in this place. My pain and scars, my shame, not as history but as my present.
The door that opened to me that day was discovering a place where there is a holy sense of peace despite the chaos.
Life has gone on. I still struggle with anxiety, deep shame that I am inadequate in every way.
My favourite part of Christmas now is the lighting of candles because it reminds me that even in the darkness our light of love-hope-peace-joy can burn on.
That it is the darkness that makes our lights ever more important.
So This Christmas I look beneath the surface of that Nativity picture and I see the message I believe God wants all of us to know, that he chose a messy vulnerable but oh so holy and sacred way of entering this world to show us that it is in and through our mess, our vulnerability, our unmentionables and that darkness that he chooses to teach us the things that are most important.
I’ll leave you with a verse from a beautiful song that has become my prayer.
“When you don’t know how to forgive.
When locked doors seem like the only way to live.
And you’ve got more questions than you can count.
Open your eyes, look all around
You aren’t alone, this is your home” -The Many