I went to the LCMS Christmas service this morning. The pastor’s main point was that Jesus comes into the midst of our messes.
Unfortunately, the pastor said, the tendency of Christendom and culture as it has been influenced by Christendom has been to distance the nativity of Jesus from human messiness. Shows about Christmas depict the holiday as ethereal. Nativity scenes are neat and tidy, with nothing out of place. Back in the second century CE, Justin Martyr claimed that Jesus was born in a cave, outside of town. The pastor speculated that this was because Justin wanted to present Jesus’s birth as mysterious, as occurring away from people. Some Christians went so far as to say that, since Jesus was sinless, the mother who bore him must have been sinless as well.
Matthew 1, by contrast, presents Jesus as a descendant of sinners. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, women with messy or controversial backgrounds, are listed in Jesus’s genealogy. Jesus comes into the midst of our messes. He entered human messiness in becoming a human being, even though he did not sin.
The pastor mentioned an archeological factoid: that the crib in which Jesus was born was made of stone. Jesus was born in a stone with a hole, and he rose from the dead after being buried in a stone with a hole.