Why This Year Can Have Real Hope

It’s an unlikely place to spend the final hours of the Christmas holidays.

The planet twinkles in the glow of lit trees circled with family. And this family works in the barn. Sows grunt, piglets root and nuzzle udders for milky warm. Snow falls soundlessly out there in the dark.

I am supposed to be feeding hungry sows, but the sounds mesmerize me:

were these the first earth sounds that reverberated in the Babe’s ear drums? From the lofty arias of the heavenly host to this, this snorting of beasts, this banging of feed troughs? And the smells: from the incense wafting through the celestial heights, to this air hanging thick with dung’s rank, dust’s heavy itch?

Hard to comprehend: God left kairos and entered into chronos through the means of a barn. Not to vaulted domes but to a cob-webbed, manure reeking barn, a barn where most folk would not step foot in without changing clothes, without covering nose from the offensive smells. But our God isn’t antiseptic, carefully avoiding dirt, grime, stink. Of all the places on this spinning orb, He intentionally decided to clothe himself as a naked baby and birth His virgin skin onto a mucking bed for animals.

He chose a barn as His entry point. He chooses our dirty places, our stinking places, the places that shame us, as His point of entry into our lives.

Funny how the lights celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, God with us, still illuminate this earth when we embark on a New Year, a new hope. A new us. Standing here, slopping hogs, it seems so clear:

such New Year hope is only plausible because of Christmas. Without the Babe who came to the barn, who didn’t hesitate to meet us in the rotting mess of our sin, the new year would only be a rehashing of the old year. But when we rip off that last calendar page and begin time with a clean slate, the Barn Babe is still new, stretching, waiting to grow up in us. The Christ Child enters our lives in the places where the flies buzz over refuse and dung and chooses to grow up within us right here.

The swaddled Babe murmurs, “Behold, I make all things new” –Rev. 21:5

I take Farmer Husband’s hand and we walk out of the barn and into the chill of Christmas night and out towards the New Year. Heavens seem warm, close, nailed up there with shimmering stars. Christmas night and the world seems hushed. Even the children walking in from the barn, whisper. Our orchard sleeps under its winter white blanket.

And I know: visions of New Year excellence will prove barren “for human efforts accomplish nothing” (John 6:63). Past year’s failed resolutions prove it: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

But this New Year birthing has good fruit hope because of Who was just birthed in the barn. Because the Barnyard God Babe will grow up in us, this God-with-us transforming the squalor of our lives into health and wholeness.

My New Year’s may still smell of the barn. Which is exactly why it has Hope.

©2009, Ann Voskamp

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