St. Francis knew Christmas was a squalid affair, despite efforts in his day — and ours — to sanitize it. It was about heaven breaking into a broken world, about God becoming a baby who spit up, wrapped in swaddling cloths that were often poopy. Christ wasn’t afraid to be smelly. And that reality is what we are waiting and preparing for, long after the pageants are over, the cookies have been eaten and the only reminders of the Christmas tree are needles in the rug.
Jennifer Hevelone-Harper is a professor of history at Gordon College in Wenham. She and her family live in Ipswich.