Fair enough, most of you reading this will think it is far too early in the year to be thinking about Christmas. It’s only March, after all. Still, there is much more to this story than an excuse to have young children dress in dish towels.
You see, aside from the Easter story (which we will look at a lot later), there is no better illustration of what Christianity is about. Last week, we ended on a strange statement: God became human, with all the limitations that suggests. Reading the few verses above, we see just how far He was willing to take this.
If you were going to be planting a Messiah on earth, where would you put them? Surely, in our age of social media and 24 hour news, we would drop Jesus into some rich family. Yep, that would be work. If Jesus was born into a life of agents and magazine covers, it would be so much easier for word to get out. Hello could cover the birth, OK could get the first interview with His parents and a few tabloids could debate His chances of sorting out the financial crisis.
Perhaps surprisingly, that isn’t what God had in mind. Actually, He did the unexpected. Rather than sending Jesus to a rich family, He had Him born in a fairly ordinary family from a little town in the middle of nowhere, off at the Eastern end of the Roman Empire (Luke 2: 4). Not only that but He didn’t even check to make sure that the prospective parents were married first.
Oops! Being pregnant outside of marriage in Israel at that time was simply not acceptable. Actually, it carried a mandatory death sentence. If Jesus was supposed to have a safe upbringing, this didn’t seem like one. Even when Jesus was born, God didn’t arrange for the standard publicity. Rather than call in a Roman version of Max Clifford (Maximus Cliffordius?) or Simon Cowell (Cephas Couellius?), God brought in a bunch of scruffy-looking shepherds, some Persian stargazers and, later on, an old man and an old woman. Pretty good, eh?
What as God up to in all of this? Perhaps, God was doing the unexpected to reveal more of what He is like. Maybe God was showing us that His Son was here to touch and change people on all levels of society. To people who were already sincerely looking for God, Jesus would be the fulfilment of all they had been hoping for, even if He would do that in an unexpected way. Even to God-seekers who weren’t of the same race and whose riches were impressive, Jesus would be the King they were looking for, even if they would find Him in a place that would have been unexpected. To the humble workers, the forgotten many, Israel’s version of the 99%, Jesus would be a saviour, someone born to set them free. Still, this freedom would not be the freedom they expected and would come in, you’ve guessed it, an unexpected way.
By coming as a humble child to humble parents, Jesus showed that He was not too proud to associated with ordinary people. Better than that, He showed that with God, the ordinary can become extraordinary. Next week, we will look at what all this means for our lives.