I don’t always see Jesus.
Sometimes, Jesus’s light can look a whole lot like darkness.
Sometimes, I don’t know where to look. Sometimes, I get tired looking. Sometimes, I hear mind-numbing quiet when I pray and think the walls must be laughing at me, talking to an empty room.
I have gone searching on my own in dark corners and am confused when I wind up even more lost and afraid.
Sometimes, the light is hard to see. Other times, I turn my eyes away from Jesus and then get angry when He seems absent.
I wonder how Mary felt – I think it probably wasn’t as romantic as the movies portray it, or as easy as the three-minute Christmas story that we read before opening presents.
I’ve never been pregnant, but something tells me that riding on a donkey for days when you’re about ready to have a baby, following the government’s orders, isn’t when you suddenly start praising God, seeing Him at work. Giving birth away from your family and friends doesn’t seem like the time when you begin loudly rejoicing.
A few years ago, I struggled with some strong anxiety and spent my days either completely depending on God, or angry at Him. Wondering why hadn’t He fixed my situation, stopped the panic attacks, helped me get out of bed?
I used to picture Mary as a beautiful, gentle, always-at-peace woman who quietly gave birth while petting a lamb. But I wonder if Mary was angry at God.
He had disrupted her culture’s norms by giving her a baby outside of marriage. A strange angel had abruptly visited her. And now her government was demanding she, a woman that most doctors won’t let sit on a plane, travel outside, on an animal, with a man she barely knew, to a town overflowing with strangers. So overflowing, in fact, that she ended up without a bed, a warm meal, or privacy.
If I was Mary, I wouldn’t be praising God.
Maybe she was at peace. I don’t think it makes her less of a strong woman to wonder if she was struggling, perhaps wondering where on earth God was now, after giving her this baby and seeming to disappear.
We, of course, know the whole story. We can quickly glance ahead to Jesus’s life of ministry and know that God was at work all along, that maybe Mary looked back and realized that God was very much with her on that journey, in that stable.
But before the angels sang and the shepherds visited, I wonder if she lost hope. If the light was not very visible. Or maybe she closed her eyes, unwilling to let any bit of light in, too bitter to trust God.
What is beautiful, to me, about this picture of a very-human Mary, is that Jesus still came. Not to a worry-free mom who had lots of money, a supportive family and a happy marriage. But to a young woman in a strange place, scared and confused.
Jesus still came for Mary, as she gave birth under injustice and in turmoil.
Jesus still came for me as I was overcome with un-ending fears, scared and yet too angry to let God in.
Jesus still came. Not because we are perfect or put together. He came knowing we’d be stuck in a stable, stuck in a job, stuck in injustice, stuck alone, stuck angry, weary, afraid.
I don’t think Jesus came despite these things. I think He came because of these things. Because of us.
Repeat the sounding joy.