God’s Beautiful Mess: A Christmas Meditation

Marcus Rudd

December 16, 2023Reynosa, Mexico

I recently rediscovered how much I love drawing with charcoal. It’s a traditional drawing medium, and it’s fun. It produces beautiful texture and above all it’s messy. Really messy. As you apply charcoal to paper, it turns to powder and gets everywhere.

One day when in college, a classmate asked a friend about me, “Why is that boy you talk to always so dirty?”

“Oh,” my friend replied, “He’s an art major.” No further explanation needed. I couldn’t hide it, and I love that.

Before even beginning to draw, I start by making a mess. I might black out a whole sheet of paper with charcoal before erasing it all out, leaving stains behind. The page then becomes dynamic, interesting, and beautiful in a unique way, a background worthy to be drawn on.

Recently I’ve begun to draw parallels between my beautifully soiled, formerly blank pages and the way God works through our lives. As Christians, we are still really, really messy. Not just with sin but with all our shortcomings, unmet goals, difficult relationships, and the effects of other people’s sin. We can never fully clean up our lives, no matter how hard we try. Only God can do that, but he’s not likely to take us back to a blank page.

When God met us on Earth, he did it in the messiest of ways. As if birth wasn’t messy enough, he was born in a barn, in a feeding trough, to a poor family, out of wedlock. And have you read his family lineage? Then he eagerly engaged in relationships, the messiest things of all. And stained with the consequences of our sin, not his own, he died a bloody death and paid for it all.

This Christmas season, as you reflect on Emmanuel, “God with us,” remember that he met us in our messiness. He may not choose to clean up your mess anytime soon, but he has come to reconcile it. Christ’s redemption means you don’t need to have it all together to be an effective witness. In fact, God may even use your mess as a beautiful, unique background on which he draws others to himself.

“Drawings from the Nativity” (Pen and ink over charcoal)