You know the saying: A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind. Not a scientific fact. Just an excuse messy people use so they don’t have to clean their room, their desk, or their car. Albert Einstein had bad hair. It’s not proof he was a genius, just that he didn’t own a hairbrush or use hair gel. But good hair does not make anyone smart or an intellectual. Look at all the pretty people on TV. I rest my case. But we will present a well-groomed exterior to the world. We wash our faces, brush our teeth, and comb our hair. We use deodorant and put on clean clothes and shoes. A presentable exterior does build self-esteem. And generally, it gives a good impression. Yet only God can see into the soul and into the heart past everything everyone sees. Other people only get to see what we see in the mirror before we leave the house.
Also, cleanliness is next to godliness. That’s just a big bat obsessive-compulsives like to swing in defense of their love of uncluttered and disinfected spaces, usually against teenagers and creative types. Cleanliness and godliness might make sense because we like to associate God with order and sanity. But God is still able to draw beauty and profound mystery out of clutter and confusion. In Genesis we read the creation story: “The earth was a formless wasteland. Darkness covered the abyss and a mighty wind swept across the waters.” Imagine yourself surrounded by darkness, wind, and water. You sit in a fragile vessel helpless and terrified, tossed about at sea in a storm at night. Then God brought order and calm to the chaos, creating light, separating day and night. God created the sky separating the waters below from the waters above. And gathering the waters of the sea, God made dry land appear. Finding God in order, neatness, and efficiency makes perfect sense. Order, neatness, and efficiency remind us of wisdom and purpose. Usually, but not all the time.
Then God created human beings who can sometimes tend toward the messy and the chaotic. From way back in history till now, we have caused God much sorrow and heartache, from the disobedience of our first parents to the cruel inhumanities we have invented to settle our differences, and to exact justice on those who inflict indignity and suffering upon us. No matter how neat and tidy and logical we want to be, we are still more inclined toward chaos and confusion than we are toward order and sanity. Yet we need not despair. We know people who love to cook, artists, musicians, poets, actors, athletes, designers, architects, scientists, diplomats, and other geniuses of the highest caliber, who might leave a trail of destruction and mayhem in their wake. Possessing amazing talent and producing amazing works, they still leave dirty dishes in the sink, remnants and spare parts that need putting away, excitement and upheaval in the minds and hearts of many. Despite accomplishing great things and producing masterful works, they still require someone else to clean up the mess they leave behind.
And it is into this chaos that God periodically steps in, to bring order and calm, to make sense, and convey purpose. But God does not eliminate the chaos. Patiently and compassionately, God transforms the chaos so it does not overpower, devastate, or paralyze. God sent his only Son into this chaos to gain for us healing and redemption. God does not eliminate sin or evil. God transforms it so its power does not overwhelm.
We picture God working out the details of Jesus’ entrance into human history by being born a child like all of us. Did God anticipate the chaos and confusion this would generate? God chose a mother for his Son and freed her from the sin of Adam and Eve. And despite having no human father, the holy child would need a family to nurture him into maturity, to set him on the path to teach, heal, and suffer for sinful humanity. This intervention of God in human history created turmoil in the lives of Mary and Joseph. But God needed their cooperation to accomplish his grand design. In turn, the Holy Child became a sign of contradiction confronting the chaos of sin and death and establishing God’s dominion of everlasting peace. He would be rejected by many. But in that rejection would be our salvation.
This season of joyful expectation might still weigh us down with much chaos and clutter. We would prefer peaceful days and quiet evenings as we go about our business, reflecting on the mysteries of our faith, and celebrating with family and friends. Instead, we are bombarded with news of war and bad weather, school shootings, violence, hate mongering, porch pirates, and mayhem. We hear of crippling poverty, hunger, disease, neglect, and crime. And there in the midst of chaos, we mark the birth of a child whose coming was foretold by prophets for many generations. We look to this child to raise us from the chaos surrounding us, and himself take on our weakness, our turmoil, and our alienation. God does not eliminate chaos transforming it with patience and compassion instead. The promised child is Emmanuel—God with us. God is truly with us, in the turmoil of our lives, where we experience injustice, need, and neglect. And God invites us to participate in the work of transformation. “Do not be afraid,” the angel told Joseph in a dream. Rather, look and see God’s love amid the chaos around you. God will not permit it to overpower us. But with patience and compassion, God transforms it. As God’s Son set out on his human journey, he came among us as a child who one day became a teenager. And we all know how messy that journey can be. So, we can trust that God walks with us and alongside us amid the chaos and turmoil of our lives. “Do not be afraid.”
Rolo B Castillo © 2022