I’ve never heard either of my parents swear, but I have many memories of my mom, frustrated with a task, saying “I’m gonna swear.  I’m gonna swear! Close your ears kids!”                                                                                                                                                She never did, but she threatened to.  A lot.

There are some things that tempt a person to swear more than others. For me, the job of untangling Christmas lights brings out the worst in me.  I spent hours doing it this weekend, growling under my breath:

“I’m sure this must be a job people have to do in Hell.”

“If God really loved me I’d be rich enough to buy new lights every year.”

IMG_0597I was muttering, and resenting my husband who was off doing “spiritual” things, having “spiritual” conversations with colleagues, while I was relegated to “unspiritual” homey decorating chores.

As I glared and growled, and pulled and unknotted, and muttered some more I got to thinking about Mary (who had no lights to untangle btw) and how spiritual she felt during the 9 months that Jesus was being formed in her.

I doubt Mary walked around in a beautiful clean blue robe and a heavenly glow the way she’s depicted on Christmas cards.  Or all pure and white and shiny.IMG_8844How spiritual do backaches and morning sickness feel?

How holy did it seem to be dirt poor, traveling miles of countryside, sleeping in a stinky barn?

How sacred is the inconvenient?  The uncomfortable?  The thing that requires patience?

Jesus was being formed in Mary.  Her literal labor of love.

And I bet it just felt…hard.

And now, Jesus is being formed in us.  His character.  In us.  And it usually feels decidedly unspiritual.

But maybe anything is holy if we allow it to be. “Holy” just means set apart for God’s purposes.  The common made uncommon.

So the common stuff of our days…

Unreasonable bosses,

long lines,

being gossiped about,

not having enough money,

lonely nights without a date…

Maybe, if we enter in, and pay attention, those things actually have the potential to be more spiritual than hearing the most articulate exposition of scripture.  Because Jesus is being formed in us in the mess of life.

Lord, what might you want to form in me as I untangle lights?  What labor of love might I enter into this Christmas?

In what way have you recognized Jesus being formed in you through an “ordinary”, “unspiritual” experience recently?

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.IMG_2921


This is an edited version of a post from 2011.