Yesterday at the Godly Play class Hickory Neck offers at The Kensington School, we finally got to tell the Epiphany story – the story of the magi visiting the Christ Child. As we reviewed the whole story of Advent and Christmas, out came all the figurines of prophets, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Angels, Shepherds, various animals, and wise men. Typically, the teacher tells the story quietly, using the figurines, and then we have the kids retell the story, taking turns with the figurines. And because the class has become so large, we usually have two sets of figurines so we can break into groups. I would never say the class is perfectly orderly, but it is much more measured than you might imagine with two- to five-year-olds.
But not yesterday. I’m not sure whether we, the leaders, were off our game, or the kids were still hyped up from returning from break, but the retelling portion of class was utter chaos. Taking turns fell apart, quiet redirecting failed miserably, and by the time we regrouped to close the class, there was a mass of wooden, sacred figures in a disordered pile. As we were making our way out, I looked at the pile sadly, grateful that they were all made out of sturdy wood and nothing more destructible, but somewhat disappointed to see such a holy mess.
But as I was thinking about the mess today, I was thinking perhaps my sadness at the chaos was my own “stuff,” having nothing to do with the success of the class. Too often, we like our Gospel stories neat and tidy. Too often we tell familiar scriptural stories expecting them to teach specific lessons. But when we are honest, we know that is not how the Good News works. The Good News upends worlds, upends social order, and upends our expectations. Engaging with Jesus is messy work, and sometimes, in the midst of trying to figure out our faith, we end up with a messy rubble in front of us.
I do not know what you are you struggling with today – what things you wish were under control but are actually a mess, or what things you have been expecting from God that just are not how you expected, or what chaos others are making in your life that makes you feel bereft. What I can tell you is that Christ is there, maybe a bit mired in the chaos too, but there nonetheless. And sometimes, the mess is just what you need to shake you up and see the movement of God in a new and fresh way. I suspect things will not turn out as you expect, but then, the Holy Spirit rarely works in ways we expect. Sending you prayers today, that you might see Christ in the chaos!