Immanuel, anyway

a psalm for Advent, in a time of chaos

It’s such a mess.

My desk is a mess. My car is a mess. My house is a mess. My life is a mess!
My *insert relevant context here* is a mess!
I want to clean it up,
so in I surge with good intentions,
armed with all the latest motivational brooms and dustpans,
but every time I think I’m making progress,
something else sneaks in and adds a whole ‘nother layer to the chaos.

And back to messy square one I go,
stumbling over fresh piles of disorder,
closing my eyes to the clutter,
cautiously cracking an eyelid to see if it’s really as bad as I feared
and finding
it’s not, actually…
It’s worse.

Frustration stomps and kicks its way into the middle, scattering collateral damage,
The siren song of hopelessness beckons,
Luring me to an undertow of despair;
But even as I limp into the stream
(because I stubbed my toe on mount misery, didn’t I)
I hear Your whisper:
I know all about mess

And I remember
A story of gloriously untidy beauty.
A baby born in a barn,
Blood and straw and sweat and pain
And life,

And I remember
How the story goes:
simple shepherds and noble adventurers,
all shades of the social spectrum come to gaze in wonder.
Mary meditating on all these strange and stranger things.
(She must have thought it was a bit of a mess, too. Couldn’t you at least find a midwife, Lord? Or the Judean equivalent of an epidural?)

And I remember
how the story goes on, detours and disruptions,
a desperate search for asylum, fleeing political manipulation and murder.
A steady maturing in obscurity, nobody special, just the local chippie, sawdust and calluses;
A strangely baptised tipping point, temptation, determination.
Three years a lifetime of God’s goodness revealed,
His Kingdom come, His will done
By a Holy Son
With human face, hands, feet, heart.

And again I hear Your whisper:

I know all about mess
I was born into it
Grew up in it
Travelled through it
Endured it
Carried it
Dispelled it
Transformed it

I know all about mess
And I want to hang out with you anyway
Please let me


I originally wrote this during Advent 2018 when life seemed to be more chaotic than usual (hindsight can be so hilarious…) Yet, it’s even more fitting in an Advent that must reconcile the most bewildering of years. More than ever I am grateful for the reminder, despite pandemic and pain and problems, that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us – anyway.