I don’t understand the birth of Jesus. I mean, I get the flow of the account. I know the characters. The details just seem backwards when I compare the realities of that first Christmas to my reality.
Start with Mary; an unwed teenage mother claiming that God is her baby’s father. Today we’d try to tie her down in a straight jacket and lock her in a nice padded room. Good Christian folks would lead the defamation of character charge with our fingers in our ears refusing to believe that an obvious sinful act could in any way be part of God’s perfect plan.
Then there’s the shepherds. Talk about the least of these! If garbage men or plumbers claimed to have seen angels singing in a field telling them to go worship a baby born in a barn I’d wonder about the potency of the drug they had smoked. I wouldn’t have given the benefit of the doubt to such an audacious story from the lower rung of the societal ladder.
And then there’s the entirely ridiculous idea of God becoming a baby in such a context. He was born in Bethlehem when the center of royalty and divinity was located in Jerusalem. He was born, seemingly illegitimately, into a lower-middle class carpenter’s family when he was expected to be some combination of a warrior/king/prophet/priest. His birth was heralded by the lowest common denominator of society which seems like a bad PR move if the story was going to have any credibility. And did I mention that God became a baby? Eternal to temporal. All powerful to completely dependent. You can’t be more diametrically opposite than God and a baby.
The whole account is worrisome for me, especially as I consider how I construct my life and ministry. I point the finger at those caught in sin and quip that God obviously isn’t in that. I don’t really cross paths with people who are on the fringes much less look for God to move among their midst in a way that impacts me. I’m afraid that I have constructed a framework in which I believe God works and that I have the potential to dismiss an authentic work of God because it is outside of my construction of how God operates.
The nativity narrative is disturbingly beautiful for all of these reasons and more. I’m humbled to serve a God who refuses to be figured out, who relentlessly pursues us, and who loves us enough to completely disregard our expectations of his activity because he has something better in mind.
Never lose the wonder in the routine.