Hollywood would recast the Christmas story … A civilized person would sanitize it. No person, however poor, should be born in a cow stall. Hay on the floor. Animals on the hay. Don’t place the baby in a feed trough; the donkey’s nose has been there. Don’t wrap the newborn in rags. They smell like sheep. Speaking of smells, watch where you step.
“Because of Bethlehem Love is Born, Hope is Here” by Max Lucado, page 131
This describes my workplace. Perfectly.
I work with developmentally disabled adults. Some of them are not sanitary, and make it difficult for the rest of us to be sanitary. I won’t get too specific, except this one example: I drive some of these individuals in a wheelchair-accessible van. One individual I drive wets himself, through his clothes and adult Depends, and the bench seat where he sits. He does this a couple of times a week, at least.
It smells in there. I’m constantly cleaning it and spraying Lysol.
I can’t keep a full roll of paper towels in the van; he takes it apart and puts his hands all over it.
Jesus was born in a place like that.
Messy. Unsanitary. Possibly even unsafe.
At the day program where I work, washing my hands is not a simple chore.
This is real life. Some of these folks don’t know any better.
And I stay.
God came to me – and you – in a place just like this. He didn’t arrive in a climate-controlled hospital room like our three sons did, surrounded by nurses and doctors who made sure each was healthy before they sent him home.
Thank God for hospitals.
But Jesus never saw one, and I don’t work in one either.
You, like Joseph, knocked on the innkeeper’s door. But you were too late. Or too old, sick, dull, damaged, poor, or peculiar. You know the sound of a slamming door. So here you are in the grotto, always on the outskirts of activity, it seems.
I’ve been fired twice, relocated once (I quit first, though), and downsized once, all in the past 10 years. I’m hardly unique. Nobody works in the same job for an entire career anymore: My two oldest sons also have seen their jobs phased out – and neither is 30 years old yet.
Both have landed on their feet. One has landed his dream job; the other has a decent position, but still isn’t where he wants to be.
Both make more than they spend.
Because my wife has a good job, we do too. I provided for our family of five as our sons grew up, but those days are long gone.
I knocked on the innkeeper’s door, but I don’t have the passion, drive and self-promotion to thrive in today’s job market. Nor am I willing to relocate again. AARP asks me all the time about age-related job discrimination. Maybe that plays into it, or maybe it’s just me.
Old, dull, damaged, peculiar … especially peculiar. I don’t have the “presence” that employers are looking for. I don’t come across as enthusiastic with all these great ideas on how to improve your company.
I was a copy editor, for heaven’s sake. Behind the scenes. Making you look good. It’s never been about me.
Even newspaper executives don’t get that anymore, if they ever did.
So, my newspaper career is done.
And I’m in a smelly, unsanitary day program for developmentally disabled adults.
I’m glad I’m there.
Because, hopefully, I can make a difference.
You do your best to make the best of it, but try as you might, the roof still leaks, and the winter wind still sneaks through the holes you just can’t seem to fix. You’ve shivered through your share of cold nights.
And you wonder if God has a place for a person like you.
Find your answer in the Bethlehem stable.
I was looking for something to read the other day and found this Max Lucado book on the shelf. We received it as a gift for a monetary donation we made, obviously around the holidays, to a radio station we listen to.
I’m reading a Christmas book when it’s literally 90 degrees outside.
The timing is perfect.
Fifteen years ago, I didn’t dream about being where I am now. I had a great job in a wonderful town with great friends and plenty of community involvement.
Life happens, as we all know. Society has changed a lot in the past 15 years.
For all of us.
And not always for the better. Right?
Depends how you look at it.
I’ve met many wonderful people in the past decade or so since my life got bumpy. I’ve joined Facebook and LinkedIn, meeting new people and reconnecting with long-ago friends. I’m in a job that tests my patience sometimes, but that’s how I learn patience.
It really comes down to that: God loves us. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.
Let him love you. If God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. You might question his actions, decisions, or declarations. But you can never, ever question his zany, stunning, unquenchable affection.
This thought is timeless, for all people, for all seasons.
It’s why I get up a few minutes early every morning and spend a little time with God, just me and Him, before the day begins. Get right with God before punching in at work, before reading all your Facebook emotions, before doing yardwork or exercise or whatever else I’ll do today.
Start the day right, and the rest of the day has a better chance of turning out well.
Whatever that means. When something goes awry, there’s a lesson to be learned, a trial to endure or patience to reveal. God’s affection never wavers.
That’s the point of Christmas. And we don’t have to wait until December to experience it.