Untriumphantly: Let’s Be Ordinary!

This first week of Advent is the week of Hope!

Around this time, Emperor Augustus issued an order for a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This registration, the first of its kind, took place when Quirinius was governing in Syria. Everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. So Yosef, because he was a descendant of David, went up from the town of Natzeret in the Galil to the town of David, called Beit-Lechem, in Y’hudah, to be registered, with Miryam, to whom he was engaged, and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth; and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough, because there was no space for them in the living-quarters.

Luke 2:1-7 (CJB)

            This time of year, there is so much hype. As a mother, I feel it acutely. It is up to me to create some magical, memorable holiday for my family. If I fail, they’ll miss out on some magic that everyone else got to have. There is all of this pressure, and most of it, if I’m honest, comes from me. Yet, year after year, I find myself not really feeling it. I find it hard to “get into the Christmas spirit”. Why is this holiday so hard to really get into? Maybe because I’ve been going about it all wrong. 

            Look at the story we’re celebrating here in Luke. (I’ve given it to you in the Complete Jewish Bible translation to make it feel less familiar on purpose.) It all starts with a census. How boring is that? We then have a road trip. This isn’t some fantastic Instagram-worthy vacation. They’re going to a small town to visit family. Again—boring! Perhaps the start to a Hallmark Christmas movie, even when they find no place to stay, but the giving birth to a baby and putting him in a feeding trough definitely veers off the Hallmark movie path. Where is the drama? This isn’t even a memorable birth story! Babies are born every day, and the only “out of the ordinary” thing about this birth is that feeding trough bit—since we don’t usually put our babies in feeding troughs. (Though it does sound hipster to make a crib from a feeding trough.) There is no tinsel. There is no pomp. There isn’t even really much drama. This is just an ordinary kind of story. 

            So with an ordinary kind of story, why has the holiday become so bloated? Why all the pressure to make magic?  I get it. This isn’t just any baby—this is the Word-made-flesh. This isn’t just any birth story—this is the story of God-with-us. But God interjected himself into his masterpiece in such a common, ordinary way. 250 babies are born every minute! That is pretty common! 

            This Advent, I’m issuing a challenge to you and to me. Let’s be ordinary! Let’s not fret about the perfect decoration for the tree. Whatever is in the box is okay. Let’s not wring our hands over those perfect gifts. We give what we give. Let’s not try for magic. Let’s try for ordinary! Let’s try for an ordinary family spending time together reading this ordinary story of a Baby born with the animals who saves us now and tomorrow. Let’s stop trying to make the holiday into something fantastic. Let’s just let it be ordinary and see if God doesn’t speak to us through the simple. I have a feeling we’ll find more meaning in the manger without all the pressure, the sparkly, and the drama. 

Today’s song: A Stick, A Carrot, and A String by mewithoutYou

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