If the story weren’t so ridiculous, I don’t think I would have believed it.
I have been the skeptic, and maybe too often, the cynic. I see the holes. But this story? The one about a King born in a manure-caked stable? It was the absurdity of the story that I found most convincing.
In journalism, one of my crusty old profs taught me this: “If your mother says she loves you, double-check it.”
I’ve always been able to smell a rat. And it first, that seemed like a curse, all this second-guessing of every fact and every story, and every shred of Gospel truth.
I used to think my doubt was like a cancer, like a tumor eating away at whatever shred of faith I had in the more sanitized Christmas-card version of the story. I hated my doubts, and the way they seemed to ruthlessly wring the faith out of my soul, leaving me like an old dishrag.
But, as it turns out, my doubt was a gift, I tell you. A real gift, maybe like a compass, orienting me back to the absurdity of the real story, the dirty and messy story.
Take a look again: the story of Christ’s birth looks like a public-relations disaster. I mean, if the writers really wanted us to believe this, they could have polished it up. They could have told us a real whopper, you know? To make sure we’d believe? They could have written that a Savior came to a palace, strutting down a red carpet, under some spotlights and flashing bulbs. CNN could have carried it live. That would have been the logical place to start.
But a barn? Really? Yeah. That’s it. It’s a messy, dark story for a messy, dark world.
You can’t make this stuff up. It’s a dirty, dark, manure-reeking, no-room-for-you-in-the-inn story. It’s God-incarnate, birthed in a stable, in a feeding trough, in a mess — in a stinking, animal-shuffling, watch-where-you-step mess.
And if it were polished up, this sin-darkened dishrag of a soul would have never believed it. Not for a minute. But that’s always been the thing about truth. Truth has always been stranger than fiction, and it has always been truer, and it has changed actual people who kneel in awe at the side of a manger.
And if you stay there long enough, then just watch what happens next: That boy, he’s going to grow up in the story, and he’s going to grow up in your very own life.
Photo of my friend Erica, taken in her barn earlier this week.