In preparing for our church’s Christmas Eve services, I’ve begun to ask the question: “Could it be that the controlled chaos of our pageant is more analogous to that very first Christmas night than the stately and peaceful services which typically accompany the remembrance of our Savior’s birth?” If you’ve not been to one of these pageant services, simply try to imagine the scene: a packed service with 450 people, 150 of whom are children of all ages; parents anxiously waiting to send their children to take their place among the nativity at just the right time (Will they go forward? Will they refuse? Will they pick their nose in front of the whole congregation?); families on their toes trying to catch a glimpse of the completed manger scene. Throw in a children’s sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and “Silent Night” (with its ripe combination of sleepy toddlers and lit candles), packing them all into an hour’s time, and you have a Christmas celebration that is both chaotic and beautiful in its own, unique way.
Christ Came Into The Chaos
To be sure, the late-night, candlelit services are a sublime and God-honoring way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is the pageant that most closely evokes the chaos that surely would have accompanied the night of Jesus’ birth. Indeed, the simple fact that a baby was born precludes this evening from being an altogether silent night, not to mention the setting, the shepherds arriving, the angel’s singing…! Couple this with the political upheaval and intrigue of King Herod and we realize that Jesus was born not into a night of peace and prosperity, but one of unrest and disarray – chaos if you will.
However, it is precisely because Jesus was born into chaos that we can say Christmas is good news. Let’s be honest, our lives are chaos. Even as we try to attend to our Advent reflections, family devotions, and personal disciplines, we are besought by caroling, parades, and parties; even as we seek out time with family and friends, we are burdened by the fragmenting of relationships and the stark finality of death; even as we pursue good cheer and eggnog-fueled sentimentality, we are confronted by a world that is steeped in darkness. Our lives and our world are engulfed in turmoil; some of it is glorious like the shepherds and Angels, and some of it is oppressive like Herod and Caesar. But it is into this world of both glorious and oppressive turmoil that our Prince of Peace does come and make his home. Indeed, that is the great promise of Christmas, that God himself has come to dwell among us so that our chaotic selves may receive “grace upon grace” (John 1:14-16).
Christ Desires To Come Into Your Chaos
Perhaps this is why the church has appropriated the peace and grace so clearly seen in her glorious Christmas Eve services – an earthly glimpse of the peace that is to come. And yet, it is also a refreshing thing to welcome Christ into the chaos, in many ways training us to do the same in our everyday, chaotic lives. Just as God formed a very good creation out of the chaos of nothingness in Genesis 1, so too did he send his Son to shine light into the chaos of darkness (John 1:5). Furthermore, this same Jesus will return to bring order and redemption to the chaos of this world.
This Christmas, many of us will exchange the grace and beauty of a candlelight service for the grace and beauty of watching Johnny whack his brother with his shepherd’s crook. As we do so, let us see this welcoming of Christ into the chaos of the pageant as a parable for our lives. We welcome the Prince of Peace into the messy turmoil of our hearts, the Light of the World into the darkness all around us, so that the peace and light of tomorrow may shine hopefully today.