Here is an excellent post from the Traveller's Rest by my old mate Paul Leader:

Noisy Night

That time of year

Working in a store like Asda you realise how these companies just live from one event to another. Any opportunity for an extra sale is taken with both hands; Valentine’s Day, Easter, Summer, Back to School, Christmas. Of course living as a Christian in this environment brings it’s own conflicts of interest with this world of commerce and greed and yet in the middle of all the junk I often find hurting people and Jesus. There is so much in the Christmas season that grates with me; the blatant commercialism, many pagan roots, the fostering of greed. Yet at the same time I am a sucker for the stupid songs, the party atmosphere, seeing kids faces opening gifts, lights and being reminded about the incredible birth. I have gone through the “we should not celebrate it” phase and come out the other side enjoying the season (why should we always be killjoys?) with a cautionary approach of not being totally sucked into everything. You should hear my version of Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M when it is played on the radio at work! I am also aware of the incredible pain this time of year brings to so many people. This week I went to a Nativity play at my youngest sons school. As you can imagine having four boys I have sat through a few of these, especially when we had to do them in church as well. This year as I sat in the school hall I was touched in a fresh way and had my eyes open to the reality of what that night must have been like in some measure for that couple Mary and Joseph. I have always been aware that our Christmas hymns and carols have been no more reality that Jingle Bells. Silent Night, what a laugh. No crying he makes, you got to be kidding me. The holy serenity the scene is always given is such hogwash. Stick a nice halo over people’s heads and it looks wonderful in pictures and on cards. The reality would have been so much different.

Word made flesh

I am not drawn to the holiness but to the filth, the squaler. I am not drawn to the halo over the couple but to the pain and misunderstanding. The birth scene was not full of holy silence but full of the noise and hustle of a busy city, people pushing and shoving. Not a nice comfortable 5 star stable but a shit smelling cave full of animal dung and mess and a drinking trough as a bed. A mother screaming out in pain as contractions get more intense. A father still confused by what is going on. Yes in faith he took Mary to himself instead of secretly divorcing her because of the dream, but he was human. There must have been thoughts and doubts about it all, especially as the birth drew closer. There was no midwife on hand, Mary’s mother was not around to help, no gas and air to alleviate the pain. I’m sure like my wife does today there would have been a few harsh words whispered to Eve and blaming her for the intense stomach cramps and pain. The waters would have broke, there would have been blood, screams, pushing, the scream of ‘Joseph take it away’. Doubts about being able to cope as parents, will the child live, what will the baby look like? That moment of joy when the mother suckles the baby on her breast for the first time. I’m sure Mary would have wondered if the baby would be taken straight up to heaven away from her. But a screaming, pooping bundle of flesh and blood and afterbirth was born to her. I am not blown away by the holiness of the scene but the normality of the way the Son of God came into the world. The Son of Man. Contained in touchy, feely flesh. Not a silent night but a noisy night where the voice of God announcing ‘here I am’ gets lost in the sounds of the city. Only heard by a few on the margins, the shepherds. The Word became flesh. Real. A burping, farting, crying, smelly real baby. Now that is awesome.

Restoring Childlike wonder

Looking around at those other parents watching the nativity in school I realised that they would all be receiving a mixed message over the season.  A season where baby Jesus and Father Christmas sit together. A time of drunken parties and endless gorging. A time of spending and debt. Yet here they were watching their children telling the story of Jesus in a clarity that many preachers would waffle about over this time from pulpits. Open wide eyed because their children were involved. For a few moments maybe forgetting about that failing marriage, the pain of loss, the alcohol addiction, and finding the childlike wonder that they all once had. And the thought that Jesus gave up the so called holy scene to live amongst this. Life, normal life. The blood, the pain reality. He is part of the noisy night.

“It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labour of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labour of love.”

from Labour of Love by Andrew Peterson